This is a case study presented through the view of the mother.
I am Jeanette, proud mother to Brianna, age 12, and happy to share how vision therapy has helped my daughter see better and gain back her confidence in learning.
When our daughter Brianna was 1, we noticed her eyes would turn out.
We used to tell her to blink, and the eye turn would correct itself. We went to several doctors and specialists for advice, and at age 7, Bree underwent surgery to straighten her eyes. Two years later her eye turn returned. Her eye turn was hardly noticeable after the surgery, so we didn’t think it would cause Bree so many issues, but it did.
Being Called Names, Teased
Brianna knew from an early age that her eyes were not like most kids’ because we used to tell her to blink to fix her eye, though she seems perfectly fine with it, just annoyed that it kept turning out and she didn’t know.
Bree did start to become self-conscious when her eye turn came to photos. For a small period of time she didn’t want to look at people because they would often comment.
For years Bree found learning to be really hard for her. She would reread things over and over again, try and get them to make sense, but she couldn’t. Homework was just as hard, maybe even worse. She would come home and try her best, then she just didn’t want to do it. She’d tell us her eyes would hurt and she couldn’t look at the words on the page anymore.
Bree had confided, “I felt like there was something wrong with me. Why can’t I just be able to do my work like everyone else? Everyone would tell me, ‘Try harder. Look at the words and stop being lazy.’ I went to doctors, support classes, had tutors, and still I couldn’t get it. I felt like teachers were always mad at me and would tell me to hurry up.”
Bree also told me other kids would laugh at her and tease her for being dumb. She had felt so bad and didn’t want to go to school anymore. Of course as her Mum, I was crushed.
Brianna Finally Learned How to Read, But…
It was in year 1 when Brianna finally learned how to read. We were thrilled with this new chapter in our daughter’s life. However, our joy was short-lived.
Bree loved reading—until she had to explain what she read. She told me she knew what she was reading, but having to explain it was so hard.
Sometimes she would be able to tell people in words, but to write it down would take her forever that she would forget and would have to start again. Then she’d get in trouble for not doing her work and even be kept in at lunch time, which made things worse for her. Bree’s teachers tried to help her, but she just wanted to quit.
Worried about the Future
In year 5, Brianna thought she was doing better.
Bree had told us, “I was slow, but I was understanding some things in the class and almost everything in my support class. School was still hard, but I didn’t feel as dumb as I did before.”
During a parent-teacher interview, she heard her teachers telling me that she was only able to complete year 3 work without help.
I’ll never forget that day. Bree came home telling me she felt stupid. She said, “I thought I was getting better, and I really was trying hard. Am I even too dumb to repeat? How will I ever get anything if I can only do work that kids 2 years younger than me are doing? No one can find anything wrong with me, so I must just be dumb.” It was the first time she didn’t just not want to go to school, she didn’t want to do anything.
We were also worried for her future. We thought about her becoming an adult. How can she get a good job if it’s hard for her to learn like everyone else?
Giving Vision Therapy a Try
Then we heard about vision therapy. At this point, we were willing to try anything. While Brianna’s Dad and I were hopeful, our daughter had doubts.
Bree had told us, “Vision therapy sounded like just another test to convince my teachers and parents that I’m just lazy. I didn’t want to do it, and I didn’t think this could help me at all. I already had surgery to fix my eye turn and my eyesight is fine. I thought this is just going to make me feel more stupid as I won’t get anything, like always.”
Still, Bree decided to give it a go anyway. We’re just thankful that our daughter, despite her hesitations, cooperated.
Bree had 19 sessions of vision therapy, and we noticed improvements within the first couple of sessions! Bree also kept a vision therapy journal and wrote down her progress.
Here’s an excerpt:
Week 1: I sat down on the chair and looked through this clear cube. I had to tell the lady what number the arrow was on and which colour yellow or blue. As I looked through, I said the arrow was going past the 10 in the blue side. My mum then tried it, and the arrow remained on the 0 till she looked hard then it started to move to the number 2 on the blue side, but she had to really try to make the arrow move. That’s how I learned that my eye still turns and it does make it hard for me to see, but I never knew.
Finally, an Answer!
After several tests, the optometrists found out Brianna’s eye turn was somehow making learning more difficult.
We started vision therapy for Bree’s learning but discovered the eye turn was the main cause of her particular learning problems. Bree’s vision seemed perfect in other tests, so her issues were a mystery to us. The surgery corrected the noticeable eye turn, but unfortunately there were other problems that we could not see. From my understanding the surgery corrected the eye turn to a point, but the turn caused a “vision processing problem.”
Bree was very good at reading by the time she took vision therapy, but struggled with comprehension. In some of the videos shared, one in particular will always stay with me. When Bree had to look through a microscope-type thing and find 2 letters and she could only find one—which proved that her eye was basically switching off. This was the same day we finally could understand what was happening with Bree.
I will never forget her face when she told us, smiling, “For the first time ever, I felt like I might be okay. I wasn’t lazy or stupid, and this is not my fault.”
“I still struggle to learn, I’m still slow but I am learning how to deal with my eye problem and not let it upset my work too much. I don’t think I will ever really be able to work as well as my friends, but I know vision therapy isn’t useless. I can do school work now. I might need a little more time and really patient tutors and teachers, but it is no longer as scary trying to do work.”
“Vision therapy helped me so much and helped my teachers, tutors and parents not get mad at me but remind me to think about what I learned in vision therapy and to wear my glasses. I believe in myself again.”
“What’s best is no one thinks I’m lazy anymore,” Bree happily told us.
Thankful for Vision Therapy
Vision therapy gave us many answers we were looking for with our daughter. For years she has been struggling with schoolwork and had test after test with no answers. For us we felt like we were fighting a losing battle with Brianna’s learning. She is such a smart girl but her school work never reflected her.
After so many test and meetings nothing could give us an answer to why some days Bree would work better then others and why she is struggling so much when she seems so intelligent otherwise.
This may sound weird, but I feel vision therapy helped save Brianna from being lost in the system. Knowing it’s a vision problem made my child want to learn again and not be so scared to be ridiculed for being stupid or reprimanded for not being able to complete her work.
After just a few weeks working in vision therapy, not only did we have answers to her struggles, but we started to see improvements. I can’t recommend vision therapy enough! My daughter does still struggle, but the therapy has made her confident and provided her with tools needed to help assist in her learning. We are so grateful for all the work our optometrist and vision therapist have done for Brianna.