We recently spoke with Mitchell Schaefer, a vision therapy graduate. In this interview, we discuss how amblyopia affected him, and the impact vision therapy had on his life.
When Mitchell was in 3rd grade, his parents brought him to The Vision Therapy Center, where he was diagnosed with amblyopia (lazy eye).
Mitchell eventually completed therapy and improved his vision. Today, Mitchell is a junior in high school, and he talked to us about this experience. Listen to the interview or read a transcription below!
Q: What was life like before vision therapy?
Mitchell: I had glasses since I was 18 months old. I always had a lazy eye issue. Around first and second grade, when they start teaching you how to read, it became a real struggle. I couldn’t keep things clear. I had no interest in reading. Writing was a slight issue too.
Q: Did you feel like you were falling behind the other kids in terms of learning?
Mitchell: It was really difficult. Interactions with people were also difficult because the clarity messed with my depth perception. Walking through the hallways, I would bump someone, or if I was talking with someone I might run into them accidentally.
Q: When did you start with vision therapy?
Mitchell: It started in third grade. They diagnosed me with amblyopia or lazy eye. Therapy lasted weekly for about a year. After that, I went every couple weeks or once a month for another year. Now I go in for yearly check ups.
Q: What was vision therapy like?
Mitchell: The very first thing we had to do look into a colored light (syntonics) for about 20 minutes. It was one of those things, where I was thinking, “Does this work?”
To pass the time, my mom and I would tell stories or do homework. She’d ask me math questions and I’d answer them to make the time pass faster.
There were days where you were thinking -- “Is this working?” -- because it’s so weird because of the things she has you do.
Q: How did you know it was working?
Mitchell: It used to take me 10-15 seconds when I had to look up from my desk and focus on something written on the board written by the teacher. Halfway through third grade, I was able to look down and look up and it wouldn’t be a big strain.
Also, before, if I took my glasses off, my glasses instantly crossed. After a few weeks, I could take my glasses off, keep them from crossing and then cross them if I wanted to.
Q: What is your life like now?
Mitchell: We did it vision therapy until fourth and fifth grade. We try and go back every year. We get a new prescription.
Every time we go in for a checkup, they have all these little things - you look through a machine and it distorts your vision a little bit. There is also hand-eye coordination - they give you shapes in a book and you have to draw them, and then reading for comprehension.
There are a few exercises I have that I’ve been doing ever since I finished.
Q: Did kids treat you differently after vision therapy?
Mitchell: I used to get picked on for having glasses and struggling with reading. But in 4th grade when I caught up with the other kids - their attitudes changed from “He’s a kid with issues” to a little more accepting.
At first, it did seem like this was crazy talk. But then you get into it, and then you get toward the end of it and it does work.
Mitchell is a junior at Bigfoot High School in Wisconsin. Congratulations to him on his vision therapy success!