WOW, this has been quite a busy week for my boys and I. Monday and Tuesday were spent at Dr. appointments for my 8yr old Nathan, to try to figure out what exactly is causing his Learning Struggles. I can now officially say I have a Special Needs Homeschooling Child due to Vision Related Learning Struggles.
Nathan had his first Eye Exam at 3yrs old at Illinois Eye Institute and I mentioned to them that I thought something might be going on with his eyes because they always seemed "off kilter", not in the correct line with each other. The exam did show an issue at the time, but it wasn't diagnosed at the time. Nathan was given his first pair of glasses at age 5, to be worn when reading. We continued to monitor his eyes every 6 months and he wasn't getting any better, matter of fact it was getting worse. Nathan was diagnosed with Convergence Excess in October '09, at the age of 6. I found an excellent blog when he was diagnosed that has been very encouraging to me: The Obstacles He Faces. He was prescribed Bi-Focals at that time. He has been wearing Bi-Focals for 2yrs now and has continued to struggle with many things, especially reading. Nathan does well with Math, and he can "read" single letters, but he struggles with "words and text". He was getting frustrated with reading and so distracted and I was getting frustrated with and for him. I decided to make him another Eye Dr. appointment to determine if Vision Therapy would be helpful to him. I also talked to his Pediatrician to get a referral to an Occupational Therapist to see if Nathan had any Sensory or other issues that were causing him learning issues also.
We had an appointment on Monday at 10:30am at IL Eye Institute where they did another full exam(1hr exam) and rechecked and rechecked how his eyes team together. His eyes don't work together therefore he can't see. The Dr. who diagnosed him 2yrs ago, saw him on Monday and says the Bi-Focals are helping some, but not enough. The Dr. said his reading issue is ABSOLUTELY because of the Vision Issue. He can "read" single letters and know his entire alphabet, knows his numbers and can write some words, but he can't read full words because words tend to get blurred because of letters together. Since his eyes can't focus, his brain can't focus to stay concentrated on more then one letter.
He has another appointment on January 9th(this is the soonest we can get it due to being closed on upcoming Mondays due to the Holidays). The next appointment will consist of giving him a Vision Info Processing Test. This test will determine how "deep" his issue is and to determine how "blurred" his vision gets when trying to focus and team his eyes together. The test will be the determining factor to what level of Vision Therapy he will need. So the next step in helping him is Vision Therapy. I have heard nothing but AWESOME things about Vision Therapy and I have actually been asking about it for over a year.
I found an amazing website last night that I know will be an awesome resource for me at home Parents Active for Vision Education
I also found a really, really encouraging blog post by a homeschooling mom: Vision Therapy Skeptic to Cheerleader
Tuesday he had an appointment with a Occupational Therapist. The Occupational Therapist was awesome! She ran Nathan through a battery of tests for Coordination and mind games. She also asked him a lot of questions about his senses. She had him write his letters and numbers. Some he does write backwards, but she attributed that to his vision also. She had him do a colored peg game. She had a sheet of paper that had colored dots the same color as the pegs. The peg board was empty and he had to set it up just like the paper. He breezed through that and he loved it. The only issue she said he exhibits is "Sensory Seeking" and his Fine Motor Skills are not where they should be. She attributed this to his Vision. He can't fully tie his own shoes. He can accomplish the first step, but can't seem to do the "bunny ears" step. She says this is due to the "hand eye coordination" needed for this step. His eyes, by the "Bunny Ears" step, aren't teaming together so he can't get that step. I found a good site that talks about Sensory Seeking kids. Nathan is very "touchy feeling", wanting to constantly give people hugs, has to keep his hands busy, and always wanting to touch things that belongs to others or things he shouldn't be touching. The Occupational Therapist said that she is going to put Nathan "on hold" for treatment from her. She believes once he goes through Vision Therapy he will be a completely different child and not have the issues she saw. I agree with her from all the reading and research I have done about Nathan's Vision Issue!
So all in all, Nathan's Vision issue is the cause of many of his issues specifically his reading. We are NOT going to pressure him with the reading, he will learn to read eventually, the most important thing right now is getting him through the Vision Therapy and correcting his eye issue. Most kids with Convergence Excess improve after about 6 months of weekly Therapy appointments and eye exercises at home. I have confidence in Nathan and I am sure once he has his eyes working better, he will take off with the reading and should be reading at his level within a year! I am comfortable with that as boys tend to be late readers, even when they have good vision. I would be comfortable even if this was a girl I was dealing with, because I would rather work on getting the eyes correct then the pressure of reading.
I HIGHLY HIGHLY encourage everyone to make sure your child has Eye Exams starting at an early age, especially by age 5, when most children begin their schooling. Many Vision issues go undiagnosed and many Learning Struggles are Vision Related!
I was knew my Nathan was my Special boy and all this was confirmed this past week! I am looking forward to progress and getting Nathan the help he needs to be a wonderful reader and achieve all he can! I am sure a few months for now he will be saying "I CAN" instead of "I CAN'T" which is his favorite saying right now!