Vision problems may be holding your child back

By: Rachelle Baillon Email
By: Rachelle Baillon Email

Thursday, August 29, 2013--6:40p.m.
MADISON--Soon, students everywhere will be heading back to school. That's a welcome change for some parents, but for others, a harbinger of future frustrations.

That's a feeling Leeann Schulz knows all too well. "We would be doing spelling words and....we couldn't get past the first word," she said. "....I was frustrated with him, he was frustrated with me and I just knew this isn't right."

She said she knew as early as kindergarten that something wasn't right with her son, Logan. Tasks other kids completed with confidence, Logan struggled with. "He's super-verbal, he's very smart, I've always known that," she said. "And it just felt like he could do better in school. It was hard for him and that was hard for me to watch."

But then Logan's fourth grade teacher suggested he be tested for a vision learning problem. "She knew that he could do better and she had a solution and it was a relief to me to know that there was something we could do," said Schulz.

It turned out his teacher was right: He's since been attending vision therapy and is making huge gains. "In school my test scores are a lot better," said Logan, now 11 years old. "Reading, I can now read bigger and longer books, so I like that."

The thing is, we're told for up to 25 percent of kids vision could be interfering with their learning. For some it's as simple as needing glasses--but for others, like Logan--it might be a functional problem. Common symptoms include: "Skipping or rereading lines that they read, transposing words within a sentence, avoidance of near work, distractable behaviors, trying to get out of near reading," said Lisa Dudzinske, a vision therapist.

Dudzinske said over time, if left unaddressed, those kids can be labeled with behavioral issues or as just bad students when really, their vision might be tripping them up. "Vision therapy helps you to unlearn the bad things," she said. "So that we help the developmental process along so that a person can use their vision the way it's meant to be used."

For the Schulzs, Logan's therapy has been a big commitment, but one they're glad they made. "He has the ability to do whatever he wants to do in life because he can comprehend and understand and have more confidence in himself and that's priceless," said Leeann.

If your child has some of those symptoms that we mentioned, you may want to ask an optometrist to perform a functional vision test.
If vision therapy is recommended, Dudzinske tells us that a typical treatment length is six to nine months. The cost can be anywhere from $3,000-$5,000 for that, though she says around 70 percent of patients have insurance that includes the therapy.
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