By Harley Flego (Parent)

How could my daughter, a bright, articulate, 7-year old who could paint ‘Starry Night’ by Van Gogh, speak two languages and sing with perfect pitch not be able to read? I just didn’t understand.

Chelsea did well in preschool and kindergarten. There was no sign of anything wrong. The eye doctor and the pediatrician both said that she had ‘a small drifting lazy eye’, but not to worry because her ‘vision’ was good. Little did I know that what they called ‘vision’ was only ‘eye-sight’.

In 1st grade, Chelsea did well until after Christmas vacation, when her schoolwork seemed more intensive. It was painful to watch and hear her read. Chelsea became very frustrated and started to hate school. She didn’t want to get up in the morning.

She couldn’t comprehend anything she read. (Even sentences she had read just seconds before.) She traced lines with her finger to keep her place and put words together that were meant to be apart. She held her books very close to her eyes and was constantly fidgeting in her seat. She lacked confidence. She procrastinated with homework because it took 3 hours to do. It became a frustration nightmare for my husband and myself.

I wrote a note of concern to Chelsea’s teacher and asked to meet with her. We felt something was very wrong with Chelsea, but we couldn’t pinpoint what is it was. The teacher couldn’t either. Things weren’t clicking. Maybe she has ADD or ADHD? She exhibited some of the symptoms, but something about the ADD label just didn’t sit right with me.

My gut instincts kept me from physically getting her tested. I hated the fact that I might label my child and I refused to believe that my wonderful child had ADD. Still, I was extremely concerned that she was falling behind the rest of the class while I kept waiting for an answer. But, I held steadfast to my intuition and prayed for Divine intervention. It was the only thing I had to hold onto at that moment. I didn’t know how or where the answer would come from. I just knew in my heart that it would.

Amazingly enough, while Chelsea’s teacher was going through her files, she came across an article from 4 years ago. The article was entitled; 20/20 Vision May Not Be Good Enough. The article stressed the distinction between sight and vision. It also explained why some children who had perfect vision were having such trouble in school.

The article spoke about the Vision Development Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. A wonderful place where the doctors test the eyes to make sure they work together properly and can possibly rule out ADD and ADHD. It’s kind of a one-stop shop; they have eye doctors, psychologists, vision therapists, occupational therapists, and they sometimes make house calls for children with disabilities.

They work with people of all ages.

We scheduled an appointment immediately and had Chelsea tested at the Vision Development Center. My husband and I were devastated to learn the extent of Chelsea learning disabilities but at least we had an answer and a place to start. The doctor told us that Chelsea needed to be in a remedial program.

She was diagnosed with several vision problems, not ADD or ADHD, and these vision problems were leading to serious learning disabilities.

We explained to Chelsea that her eyes weren’t working together. We told her that her one eye wanted to do ballet and the other eye wanted to play soccer. She seemed to understand. We told her that the vision therapy program would take away her headaches and blurry vision and help her to read better. She had been so frustrated, that frankly, she seemed relieved and eager to start her sessions. The therapists used games and she wore funny glasses. They made it fun for her to retrain her eyes. We were both relieved to know we could fight this battle and win.

Three months have passed and my husband and I are astounded at Chelsea’s progress. She no longer has headaches, blurry vision or double vision when she reads. She is like a different child. She likes school and tells us she loves her new teacher in second grade.

The National PTA adopted a resolution in June of 1999 that school nurses should test for more than just 20/20 vision, yet rarely do they. I was a lucky parent. With the help of a wonderful and caring teacher, we found our answer.

Vision problems can manifest themselves as learning disabilities and sometimes have the same symptoms as ADHD. Children with the vision disorder, Convergence Insufficiency, an inability to focus at close range, may be misdiagnosed as having ADHD.

According to David B. Garnet, MD in an ‘April 2000’ article in Science Daily entitled: Ophthalmologists Discover Relationship Between Eye Condition and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; “We showed that children with the disorder, Convergence Insufficiency are three times as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children without the disorder. This is the first time such a relationship has been identified between these two disorders.” Not so; The Doctors at the Vision Development Center have known about this for years.

For more information, additional locations, or to make an appointment at the Vision Development Center to have your child evaluated, phone 610-783-1331.

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