Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pillow Talk, or Therapy Needed

A couple years ago I read that many kids who struggle with reading have a focusing problem called convergence insufficiency. It was so sad, the article lamented, that these kids weren't getting treatment when CI could be diagnosed simply by watching the eyes track a pencil eraser in toward the bridge of the nose. The eyes should track together smoothly.

I grabbed a pencil and I tested Ev. Smooth.
I tested Clem. Raggedy.

And I shrugged it off. Probably a chicken and egg thing. She doesn't focus up close, so she can't. When she spends more time reading her eyes will learn to coordinate.

But they didn't. And I forgot about the study for a while.

But at 9 the girl who loves to listen to Dickens on CD won't read anything but Calvin and Hobbes. So I took her to the eye doctor and they do the same test I did with the same results. Except it was even clearer this time. The doc did it three times. Her left eye at some point would just jump ship and look straight out while the right stayed on track.

I should probably schedule some couch time with a therapist for having not acted on what I learned years ago.

Clem went in for the comprehensive testing yesterday.

It was at a university center where they have doctors in training. We get led into a narrow room with chairs on both sides. The four of us are sitting knee to knee with four doctors (three of them in training) opposite us.

"So, you brought the whole gang!" says the doctor in charge.

"We homeschool," I explain. It is always the whole gang.

They nod.

They explain the testing. She'll need to have her eyes dilated to find her "true prescription". She could be farsighted, the doctor explains. Her young eyes could be compensating enough to pass tests, but not to maintain concentration.

"Have you ever had your eyes dilated?" the doctor asks Clem.


They look at me. "I think she has." I have a vague memory of disposable sunglasses.

"You have to protect your eyes from sunlight after the dilation," the doctor says.

"Oh yeah! I have had that," Clem says, brightening. "Remember, mom? That time you made us wear pillowcases over our heads."

I see a shadow pass over the eyes of the four doctors across from us.
I can just see them thinking. Homeschooling mother makes children put pillowcases over their heads.

I am thinking where the heck did she come up with that? When she was a toddler she used to wriggle herself inside a pillowcase behind the pillow. Then she'd bumble all around the house bumping into things and falling down and laughing her head off. But I distinctly recall weighing in on that activity and I was not pro.

Though when she did it wearing her dad's giant shoes I had to laugh, too.

There are more tests next week, including the dilation (note to self: bring pillowcase). After that she'll start vision therapy. I have my fingers crossed that it brings everything into focus for her.

She's grown up so much from the little girl, who, if I left out any three container type objects in no time would have one on each foot and one over her head. Boxes, mixing bowls, plastic pumpkins, and yes, pillowcases.

But no matter what she might say on the therapist's couch one day: I didn't make her do it.


patricia said...

The pillowcase story made me laugh almost to the point of snorting when you told me the other day--it's still hilarious. How do kids know to say the most ridiculous things in front of doctors?

I loved the shadow passing over the doctors' faces. And "note to self: bring pillowcase." Snort.

Don't kick yourself for not pursuing the therapy sooner...congratulate yourself for being the patient sort of parent who assumes that problems will work themselves out over time. I think that's the better approach, generally!

Hope the vision therapy is effective.

Molly said...

you're hilarious! and i have to add to patricia's comment that children also say the darndest things in front of new friends - i think she got an earful from my little guy the other day :)

it's amazing how things from our subconscious wiggle their way to the front of our brains, sometimes not quite as fast as we wish, but better late than never.

laurata said...

Okay, I was laughing when I read Susan's post, but laughing even harder when I read Patricia's comments!

Susan, as you might remember, Jade did vision therapy. It was annoyingly tie consuming, but made a differences (bottom 10th of the first percentile to tenth, iirc). It's been 2 1/2 years, I think. A year after we finished, she started reading chapter books. A year later, and she is reading Harry Potter. I do believe it helped make reading enjoyable, because she wasn't constantly struggling to keep her eyes in proper focus.

Stefaneener said...

Oh yeah, seriously funny. I'm especially impressed that you didn't try to explain. That would have been a poor tactical choice. Just wear your foil hat next time.

Good luck with the therapy. Being able to read is a good, good thing, and she'll be happier than even you will.

Molly said...

susan - i don't have your email address. can you email me so that i can put you in my "address book"? thanks!

The Stone Age Techie said...

I have had that exact feeling in a crowded exam room, where you leave convinced that somebody's going to call Child & Family Services... though in my case, the reference was distinctly scatological.
Good luck to Clem, and I agree with Patricia - don't kick yourself, you are doing something about it now, that's what is most important.

Kristin said...

Pillow talk is more fun than discussing therapy with strangers in white coats.

There's no need to berate what you may have known earlier because now is a better time to deal with it. She's older and will understand the therapy techniques better. It will work out.