Visual Therapy and Behavioral Problems

Lisa  and Christine suggested I write up our experiences with vision therapy. Hopefully this will be helpful to someone!

Late this summer, Princess and Dr. S were working on sequencing using K'Nex. Princess was struggling with a pattern suitable for a much younger child, and Dr. S. began to note that she was having some very specific difficulties. Princess seemed unable to visually break the pattern down into parts: she could not recognize that the bow of the ship, for instance, was comprised of a green piece with a white piece on either side. Additionally, Princess would stare at the pattern, put two pieces together incorrectly, know it was wrong, try again, and do it wrong in the same way. Over. And over. And over.

Dr. S referred us to a vision therapist.

The evaluation was broken down into two two-hour appointments. The first was mostly vision-related. Princess's vision turned out to be 20/20. For the second appointment, Princess was taken back to have school-work activities evaluated while I filled out paperwork. Some of it required me to check off letter groups she had trouble identifying and behaviors she exhibited; I checked almost all of them. When I was called back to be with Princess, Princess was given a maze of tangled lines and instructed to follow one line with her finger to the end while Dr. F flipped lenses over her eyes. Princess could. not. do it. She got confused and started over more than five times. Sometimes her finger was not on any line at all. She was beginning to get frustrated when Dr. F flipped a lens over her eyes, and Princess's finger suddenly flew through the maze perfectly! I breathed out, "wow!" and Dr. F said, "wow is right!"

Princess wears glasses now, but they're for her brain more than for her eyes. They magnify what she sees a bit, making it easier for her brain to interpret the visual input. We left the office with a set of exercises and an appointment to return when she had mastered them. This initial exercise was simply following a small target in and out from arm's length to an inch from her nose 15 times without getting fatigued. Sounds easy. Nope. At first Princess could not even do five correctly without rubbing her eyes, tearing up, and feeling exhausted. Her eyes would jerk, and her left eye tended to wander. But she worked hard and she mastered them and we went back for the next set: following the target back and forth, up and down, and in circles with each eye, then both, all while saying the ABC's. THAT one took two months.

During this three month period, we began to notice Princess's behavior changing. She went from daily tantrums, to three or four a week, to one or two or none. She started to be able to process a little after a tantrum. She voluntarily apologized for her behavior. She smiled more, she giggled more, she CRIED!! Real tears, in situations where it was appropriate to cry. In three years, she has real-cried exactly once. Once. In play therapy, she mastered a complicated game involving sequencing, memory, strategy, and disappointment in competition. She had a great Christmas. She TALKED about her pre-us life in therapy!!!

Last week I asked Dr. F if she commonly saw behavior changes that didn't seem related to vision. She got really excited and asked what was happening. She said that it is common, but it's apparently a little controversial whether this therapy causes behavior changes, so she doesn't mention it to parents as a possibility; she waits to see what they notice.

It is a little frustrating to add ANOTHER appointment and ANOTHER long drive to her already extensive therapy schedule, but this one is paying back bigtime.

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