Discovering Vision Therapy Blog

From Barely Reading to Class Valedictorian: How Vision Therapy Changed Ethan’s Life

How Vision Therapy Changed Ethan’s Life

As a child, Ethan was curious, warmhearted, and obviously bright. But when it came to reading, he struggled. And though he excelled in areas like math, science and listening comprehension, Ethan remembers that by third grade he could “barely read or spell.”

His parents and his teachers were mystified. Could it be his vision? Ethan’s mom, Beth, says he had gone to an optometrist when he was around five. She was told he had 20/20 vision.

20/20 doesn't guarantee everything is great.

Beth says they were on the verge of planning for special education support, but as a last ditch effort, Ethan’s teacher suggested to have his vision examined again.

Ethan’s 20/20 Vision Was Not the Whole Story

An optometrist at Family Focus Eye Care in Fond du Lac confirmed that Ethan did indeed have 20/20 vision. But when she also took the time to do a basic eye-tracking exercise with Ethan, she made a pivotal discovery.

As Beth remembers, “I watched and I saw his eyes bounce all over the place. The optometrist looked at me and said, ‘I think this is the problem.’”

More importantly, she said that Ethan could be helped with optometric vision therapy. 

Diagnosing Ethan’s Problems and Initiating Optometric Vision Therapy

Ethan and his mom first came to The Vision Therapy Center beginning in the summer before his fourth grade year. Ethan’s initial Functional Vision Exam revealed the following problems:

Convergence Insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency is a problem with “eye teaming.” A person may be unable to converge their eyes or to sustain convergence. 

If your eyes don’t converge efficiently, it can adversely affect the ability to concentrate on otherwise simple tasks. This can result in discomfort and even double vision when performing near-point activities like reading. 

Accommodative Insufficiency. The technical term for the eyes’ ability to focus is called accommodation. Tiny muscles inside your eye contract or relax to change the shape of your eyes’ lenses to allow you to bring objects at different distances into focus. 

When you focus on something close, the muscles contract and when you focus on something in the distance they relax. In Ethan’s case, he had difficulty sustaining focus on objects up close, such as reading material. 

Initiating Optometric Vision Therapy for Ethan

To address these issues, Ethan began nine months of weekly in-office optometric vision therapy, which involved a series of activities designed to retrain his visual system. Over this period, he also completed daily at-home vision exercises to support his progress. 

A Winning Combination: Ethan’s Determination and Optometric Vision Therapy

Vision therapy was worth the work.

Beth recalls that within the first couple of months of vision therapy, she started to notice progress, like Ethan being able to sound out words better. “And within six months he was improving in leaps and bounds. It was unbelievable.”

Beth believes Ethan’s results had to do with two main factors: The Vision Therapy Center’s  approach and encouragement and Ethan’s determination. “It was a fantastic combination of success for him.”

Flash forward to the end of middle school. Beth says, “I remember thinking, ‘Wow, I have to tell him to put his book down because it’s time for dinner!’ I couldn’t believe it was the same kid whose reading challenges were bringing him – and me – to tears just a few years earlier.”

On top of that, the standardized test Ethan took in eighth grade showed he was reading at an 11th grade level.

At-Home Maintenance to Keep Ethan on Track

When Ethan was around 15, he began to have a few vision “hiccups,” according to Beth. “His reading abilities remained strong, but he started to have the kinds of headaches and eye strain he had years earlier.”

In response, The Vision Therapy Center provided Ethan at-home maintenance exercises. 

“We also went back for a few check-ups every six months, and with their help, Ethan was able to keep on track,” says Beth.

With the Roadblock Removed, Ethan Graduates at the Top of His Class

In fact, keeping “on track” hardly describes Ethan’s success. In the spring of 2020, he graduated from the STEM Institute in Fond du Lac as valedictorian of his high school class. 

He will be attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison and majoring in biology, with intentions to become a medical doctor.

“I can remember when he first said he wanted to be a doctor many years ago. I worried that it would never be possible if he couldn’t become a strong reader. Yes, Ethan has had to work extremely hard. But vision therapy has been the key to opening up the possibilities for him,” says Beth.

“Vision therapy took the roadblock out of my path,” says Ethan. “It let me be myself. Without it, I was just stuck. But now I have nothing holding me back!”   

Ethan’s Functional Vision Problem - A Clinical Overview

In this section, we share some of Ethan’s diagnoses and clinical progress for fellow optometrists and medical practitioners. 

Initial Diagnosis
Convergence Insufficiency
Accommodative Insufficiency

Visual Acuity

Unaided

FAR

NEAR

OD

20/20

20/20

OS

20/20

20/20

 

Near Point Convergence

Pre-Vision Therapy

 

NPC

3"/6"

After 5x

3"/6"

With red lens

4"/8"

 

Post-Vision Therapy

 

NPC

To nose

After 5x

To nose

With red lens

2"/3"

 

Vergence Ranges

Pre-Vision Therapy

   

FAR

FAR

NEAR

BI

x/10/0

x/12/8

BO

x/16/2

x/14/6

 

Post-Vision Therapy

   

FAR

FAR

NEAR

BI

x/10/4

x/12/6

BO

x/26x14

x/36/18

 

Accommodative Amplitudes 

Pre-Vision Therapy

 

OD

4.00

OS

4.00

 

Post-Vision Therapy

 

OD

10

OS

10

 

Take the Vision Quiz: The First Step Toward Detecting a Problem

If you think you or your child may be suffering from a functional vision problem, the first step toward diagnosis is to take the Vision Quiz. It can help you identify if you’re suffering from any of the symptoms associated with a functional vision problem.

Take The Vision Quiz Now

 

Posted by   The Vision Therapy Center, Reviewed by Dr. Kellye Knueppel

The content in this post created was written by professional writers and then reviewed and edited for medical accuracy by Dr. Kelly Knueppel of The Vision Therapy Center.   Learn more about Dr. Knueppel's medical background