Monday, November 21, 2011

Cross your fingers

On Friday afternoon, I picked up Fellan from school and took him to an eye doctor appointment.  He has always tested fine for vision using those highly non-scientific eye charts, but his occupational therapist thought we should really get his eyes tested by a pediatric developmental optometrist because she thought "there was something going on with his eyes".

It was a really interesting appointment.  She first tested his eyes with the regular eye doctor contraption of a million lenses and determined that he has 20/20 vision.  But then she had him sit at a desk and handed him a piece of paper with several different pictures on it.  She asked him to draw a copy of the pictures below each one.  He did Ok, but his handwriting is pretty bad, so they weren't exact duplicates.

But, one of the pictures was three ovals that overlapped each other in the middle.  Sort of like that atomic energy symbol.  When he got to that one, I expected him to just draw three ovals that intersected at the middle - I mean, that's exactly how I saw the picture.  But instead, he drew the middle part of the symbol, trying to get all the angles just right and then he drew the rest of each of the ovals as if they were petals on a flower.

I think it was immediately after he drew that picture that the optometrist asked me when Fellan started walking.  When I said he started walking at 8 months, she suddenly seemed to have all the answers she needed.  She said, "Oh, he was an early walker? And he didn't spend much time crawling, then, did he?"

"Nope," I answered, "and he didn't just start walking, he started running!"

Apparently, it turns out that crawling is an important milestone in the development of the connections in your brain.  It's the time when you learn depth perception and if you bypass the crawling stage, there are some that believe it can affect the way your brain interprets things and can cause problems with the way your eyes work together.

She said something about limited visual perception (or something like that) and then took us to another room where she put some goggles on him and had him read a paragraph from a book.  The goggles had special sensors in them that tracked the movement of his eyes while he read the story.

Reading goggles in action
I got to look at the chart after he finished and it showed that at the beginning of the passage, his eyes tracked pretty well together, but as he kept reading, his eyes began to just do their own thing, until at the end of the paragraph, he was basically reading cross-eyed!  She found it amazing that he could actually understand what he was reading at that point.

She told me this means that basically, Fellan's brain thinks that his school papers and his books are closer than they actually are and we need to re-train his brain to get it back on track.  And the way to do this is to get him some prism glasses.  They're effectively the opposite of reading glasses.  Instead of magnifying things, they make things seem farther away.  She put some on him and had him read another paragraph. The chart was much better than the first.

Fellan couldn't contain his excitement at the prospect of getting glasses.  I think one of his friends at school has glasses, so he thinks it's cool or something.  But he should only have to wear them for 6 months to a year and only for reading and writing.  Hopefully after that point, the novelty will have worn off and he won't be upset to have to give them up.  Also, hopefully, this will actually do something to help his handwriting, as well - she said it should definitely help it some.  It probably won't fix it, but it could help.  So, cross your fingers... and not your eyes.  ;)


meredith said...

Crossing my fingers. My youngest has some kind of learning hurdle that only a few of the teachers seem to pick up on. (I'm thinking that only the best most observant teachers see this in her.) It's not big enough to keep her from learning, but it seems like she has to work so much harder than others with certain things. I've had a speech therapist say that maybe she has a mild form of dyslexia, but I've always wondered if it wasn't something 1st and 2cnd grade she was treated for that, but now in 6th grade, I have another teacher saying that when she has to read aloud or write at the blackboard, she fumbles, and writes bad, reads hesitantly...Her hand writing is atrocious unless she concentrates really hard and...
she walked at 10 months and never crawled. We just took her to another ophthalmologist and he did the regular testing and said her vision was fine but that there was a little something he couldn't really identify and that we should come back if she still says she can't read the blackboard from the back of the room.

Sara said...

I tell you what, this testing was really cool. It could just be the engineer in me, but I don't think so. She said that she would have never been able to diagnose this problem without the special goggles because his eyesight is "perfect" when you test with conventional methods.

The reason the OT wanted us to test his eyes is because when Fellan tries to follow something making a sideways figure 8, if you test his right eye alone, it doesn't "track" smoothly - it jerks from point to point. If you test his eyes together, they track smoothly together.

The other thing she noticed was that his right eye turns-in ever so slightly when she plays "beachball volleyball" with him. It's nothing I could see, but she could tell there was just something not right.

I've read some things about "Convergence Insufficiency", which is what I think this means and it says that vision therapy is sort of a better way of dealing with the problem than just prism glasses. The OT is doing some vision therapy with him, so she said these glasses should help him even more.

We'll see, I guess. I'm hoping for the best, but trying to keep my expectations low...