Parents always want their kids to become quick studies at their schoolwork. But when home schooling mom Sandra Mackulak found her son Kraig struggling to read and unable to remember his numbers, she knew something significant was wrong.
Sandra discovered that Kraig did not have a learning problem, but a vision problem. Not only would the discovery lead to a remarkable turnaround in Kraig, but it would also eventually lead to the realization that the Mackulak’s daughter Kate had vision issues as well.
Struggling from an Early Age
As his homeschool teacher, Sandra was attuned to Kraig’s struggles at an early age. From preschool through kindergarten, he labored to keep pace with his studies.
By second grade, she knew that something was not right with her son. “We were both getting frustrated,” she recalled. “I kept saying to my husband that something is not clicking.”
Sandra talked to other moms who mentioned vision therapy as a possible solution. She didn’t pursue the option until Kraig started third grade, as his struggles had intensified. “He even had a hard time learning his numbers,” Sandra said. “He couldn’t remember them.”
Kraig also struggled with his reading. At the beginning of third grade, he was reading at a kindergarten level. He could barely read a whole page on his own without getting tired. Sandra tried a variety of methods to make it easier for Kraig to read, but fatigue continued to plague him.
Recognizing small words also proved to be difficult. Kraig routinely confused the letters M and W. He would also pull in letters from different sentences, or lose his place while reading. Multi-syllable words proved to be an insurmountable obstacle. “He would give up,” Sandra said. “He wouldn’t even try.”
Kraig was taken to The Vision Therapy Center, where he was diagnosed with convergence excess. Sandra vividly recalls Kim Jelinske explaining the diagnostics, and pointing out a rather strange symptom.
“She started talking about running and an issue that Kraig has: He runs with his hands behind his back. She said it’s a balance problem. And here I always thought he was just being goofy when he ran,” he recalled.
With Kraig’s diagnosis in hand, vision therapy treatments began.
An Impasse, Then Progress
Kraig working on visual tracking.
At first, Kraig resisted vision therapy. He didn’t see any improvements, nor did he understand how the exercises were going to help him. Sandra said that eventually it came down to his therapist, Cindy Moldenhauer, having a conversation with Kraig.
“Cindy told him that sometimes you just have to trust people,” Sandra said. “You have to trust that your parents and your doctors know what’s best for you.”
After the heart-to-heart, Kraig became a willing participant in vision therapy. Then the improvements began. With one activity, Lifesavers, Kraig noticed some profound progress. “Week after week he tried,” Sandra said. “Eventually, he got it.”
More therapy followed, and soon Kraig’s reading habits changed. By the time he reached fourth grade, he was reading at a fourth-grade level. “Last year he hated reading, just hated it,” she said. “Now he wants to read even more.”
She recalled getting a phone call recently, and having to leave Kraig as he read a Boxcar Children book. After the call, he told her, “I hope you don’t mind if I read ahead.” She smiled and said she didn’t, but that he’d have to read it to her so she could get caught up with the story!
Kraig could now read for 20-minute stretches, and multi-syllabic words were no longer a problem. But his progress wasn’t limited to reading.
Math, Kraig’s long-time nemesis, also became easier. Because math is related to spatial concepts, he had always struggled to learn his numbers. Addition and subtraction also proved to be difficult. Then, Dr. Brandon Begotka suggested an interesting technique.
“Dr. Begotka suggested using stairs to explain the space between numbers on a number line,” Sandra said. One step would represent an even number, another an odd number. When Kraig saw that you jump over an odd step to get to another even number, the spatial concept began to click.
Like Brother, Like Sister
Kraig’s symptoms and his success led Sandra to believe that his sister Kate might have similar issues. The family noticed that early on, Kate had balance problems. She would often tip out of her chair, or fall over when she was standing in the middle of a room.
Eventually, she was diagnosed with convergence insufficiency, and vision therapy began to help her as well.
Kate's balance has improved so she teaches herself to do this!
Today, Kraig’s confidence, like his sister’s, has improved. Beyond academic success, Sandra has noticed that his overall organizational skills have improved, including time management and keeping his room clean (two pleasant surprises).
Sandra is grateful for the remarkable turnaround in her children’s lives. She recalled one specific instance for which Kraig feels an extra amount of gratitude.
Because his reading confidence was so low, Kraig never used to read signs. “I’ve noticed him more than once go into the wrong restroom because he wouldn’t read the signs,” Sandra recalled. “These simple things that we all take for granted he couldn’t do.”
He can now. Congratulations to Kraig and Kate and the Mackulak family – yet another vision therapy success story from The Vision Therapy Center!