To solve the nightly homework struggles of her children, Dr. Brenda Montecalvo decided to use her knowledge as a developmental optometrist to find a solution. The results were three highly successful kids—and now a book that's available to help other parents have similar success.
If your child(ren)’s homework dominates too much of your home life, Visual Secrets for School Success: Read Faster, Write Better, Master Math and Spelling could be the book for you.
“Visual Secrets gives parents a crucial opportunity to help their children tie good visual skills in with high-level learning,” says Dr. Montecalvo.
A Developmental Optometrist AND a Mother of Three
Visual Secrets distills Dr. Montecalvo’s 35 years of experience helping children with learning-related vision difficulties into an easy-to-read book. She’s witnessed hundreds of patients go from failing grades to A’s by teaching them how to improve their visual skills and apply them to their school subjects.
But the seed of the book began decades ago when she devised easy-to-understand visual games, techniques, and strategies to help her own children become highly efficient and effective students.
All of Dr. Montecalvo’s children excelled in school despite bringing home very little homework throughout elementary and high school. Today, she and her husband, Anthony, are the proud parents of an engineer, a medical doctor, and a soon-to-be third-generation optometrist - Dr. Montecalvo’s mother was an optometrist for 70 years!
“I do have bright children. But they were taught how to use their visual skills to gather information in a shorter period of time. The positive ripple effects of that can’t be underestimated,” she says.
Visual Skills Can Foster More Efficient Learning
“It is life-changing,” writes Dr. Montecalvo, “when students finish most of their work in the classroom and have less than 30 minutes of assignments to complete at home.” That’s because they now have more time for fun, family, and friends. So how is that possible?
At the heart of Visual Secrets are five chapters on the core subjects of handwriting, spelling, composition, math, and reading comprehension, respectively. The book walks parents through the visual skills specific to each subject. It then covers how to help a child both develop those skills and then apply them to be a better, more efficient learner with simple exercises like:
- To help grasp basic addition and subtraction, use 10 equally-sized stair steps that a child moves up and down on.
- To help develop visual sequence and discrimination skills, have your child do stacking-cup exercises.
- To foster composition skills, have a child describe a mystery object in the room and encourage them to use descriptive words to convey its size, shape, color, and location.
- To improve reading comprehension, use a chart of commonly confused words, like this-that-then, and have your child call out the words quickly.
Additional chapters. The book also includes chapters on creating an ideal learning environment at home, working efficiently during school hours, staying organized, and building self-confidence.
All the strategies in the book work together to help maximize time efficiency, says Dr. Montecalvo. For example, “If you can read faster, you can get that assignment done in the classroom, and then you can switch to the assignment you got in the class before. Pretty soon, your child is bringing home less homework, is doing better in school, and everyone is happier.”
It’s Not About 20/20 Eyesight: Why a Functional Eye Exam is Critical
Dr. Montecalvo stresses that before using Visual Secrets at home, parents should first take their children to a developmental optometrist. This is an optometrist who specializes in treating functional vision problems, which can include difficulties with binocular vision, eye movements and depth perception, as well as visual deficits following brain injuries.
You may be wondering if the eye screening your children received at school or your pediatrician’s office is enough. The answer is no. “It’s unfortunate that so many people believe vision is all about having 20/20 eyesight,” says Dr. Montecalvo. “The reality is that most learning-related vision problems rarely involve visual acuity, or 20/20 eyesight, issues.”
And that’s exactly why a comprehensive Functional Vision Exam is important. This involves much more than evaluating visual acuity and eye health.
It also includes assessing a child’s functional vision, which encompasses how the entire visual system—the eyes, the brain, the visual pathways—work together to help them interact with their environment. If problems are found, the developmental optometrist can establish an optometric vision therapy plan.
The Bigger Picture: Dr. Montecalvo’s Message and Mission
“About 25 years ago, another optometrist told me I should present my ideas in a book,” says Dr. Montecalvo. When I recently turned 60, I decided if I don’t start writing that book, it’s never going to get done.”
Visual Secrets is part of a larger mission for Dr. Montecalvo. “We use vision to explore and understand the world around us,” she says. “Our vision tells our brain how to move, how to think, how to do. That’s why we need to educate the public so they demand that vision be evaluated appropriately.”
Dr. Brenda Montecalvo, Montecalvo Visual Secrets
"I’m convinced that when someone can use the full potential of their vision, they’re then more able to reach their full potential as a person."
Vision is integral to better learning. But for Dr. Montecalvo, it’s really about so much more than that. “I’m convinced that when someone can use the full potential of their vision, they’re then more able to reach their full potential as a person,” she says. “And when they can do that, they can help make the world a better place.”
For more information on Dr. Montecalvo, visit her website at https://www.brendamontecalvo.com/.