“ The phrase that stuck with me is that good sight and true good vision are two different things.”
What was life like before vision therapy?
Sofia’s strabismus (eye turn) was evident from the first few months of her life, and she was one of those children who always seemed to be one of the last of her friends to reach each developmental milestone. However, she always got there, and she was never far enough behind for “experts” (doctors and Early Childhood Intervention) to be overly concerned. She was also very cautious, and with good reason: in her first five years, she went through alternate eye patching and three surgeries, and several different eyeglass prescriptions. Her perception of where things were changed often, sometimes daily!
Sofia also had some quirky traits. I wasn’t sure if they were personality quirks, or things would develop into bigger issues: as a baby, she seemed easily over stimulated, and later she had frequent stomach aches (but I had a “nervous stomach” as a little girl), she was quite a day dreamer—often tuning us out unless we made sure she was looking at us when we spoke, and she didn’t like to do things like puzzles. I had always planned on having good talks with her during car rides, but Sofia went into what we called her “car trance” or a nap every time she rode. As a Montessori trained teacher, I realized that her vision was slowing her down some, but I also knew that every child develops at her own pace, and I tried not to worry about it too much. I put her in dance classes, which seemed to help her gross motor skills, and she was a happy little girl. I was especially pleased when she started reading a bit earlier than some of her friends.
But then towards the end of her Kindergarten year, I started to notice that those friends had caught up to her and that she was actually falling behind. More distressing was that she had noticed that her friends could all read more than she could. I needed to intervene before this affected her perception of herself.
What is life like now that Sofia is in vision therapy?
The difference is amazing! There are no more complaints of stomach aches, we have wonderful conversations in and out of the car, and Sofia is reading chapter books! She is a second grader in a class of first through third graders. I volunteer in her classroom and I listen to the children read aloud and answer a list of questions once a week. Last year, most of the first graders participated in this, but Sofia was one of a very few who weren’t ready. There are two levels of books: the first one is used by first graders and a few second graders, and the second level by the more advanced second graders and all the third graders. This year, Sofia has skipped over the first level because her reading improved so rapidly! In fact, as a volunteer listener, I notice that her reading is more on par with the third graders in the class! In this early part of her second grade, she is also writing lengthy reports and is beginning to memorize her times tables. She really enjoyed drama camp over the summer, which required a lot of reading to memorize lines.
Best of all, Sofia is a happy, confident kid who loves school, learning, and her friends. This is not to say she doesn’t still have her challenges, but when she does, she has really come to understand—partly through vision therapy—that the way to work through challenges is to keep practicing and not give up. Dr. Smith and the therapist have helped us understand many details about the way her eyes and brain work, and the many skills that need work. We have tools now. The phrase that stuck with me is that good sight and true good vision are two different things. Sofia continues to work on developing stereovision, and on things like laterality and visual memory. Her vision is still changing, and as a result, she is still cautious about a lot of physical things (heights have suddenly become an issue), but we know we are on the right path. This process has been a financial sacrifice, but it has been the best money we ever spent and the best decision we have ever made for Sofia’s physical, mental and spiritual well-being.