Today Jillian and Robin Benoit visited with students at SUNY Optometry via Skype.  Together they told Jillian’s story…… how it was discovered that she had severe amblyopia; how an ophthalmologist treated her amblyopia; how her vision problems persisted even when the ophthalmologists said there was nothing more that could be done to help her; and ultimately how optometric vision therapy changed her life.

There were a few moments in their presentation today that I found particularly thought-provoking:

1.  Vision therapy changed, not only Jillian’s life, but the lives of her family and friends.  If Jillian had never learned to read music and play the clarinet, she and her family would not have traveled to see her play with her school band.  They never would have experienced the myriad of opportunities associated with writing and marketing, not 1 book, but soon to be 2 books!  And they will never have to wonder, what if I had taken her to see an optometrist when she was a baby.

2.  Jillian received an email from an ophthalmologist who seemed intent on using the never-changing defensive strategy to bash optometric vision therapy:  where is the evidence, where is the data to prove that vision therapy works.  Jillian took on the ophthalmologist by telling him, “I’m the data!  VT is for people and the people can tell if it works.”  Bravo, Jillian!

Jillian, I would like to give you another perspective on “show me the evidence, show me the data.”  The results of the Amblyopia Treatment Study 2-A were published in the journal Ophthalmology in 2003.  In that study, children between 3 and 7 years of age with severe amblyopia were randomized to 2 treatment groups: full-time or 6 hours/day of patching.  The results: visual acuity in the amblyopic eye improved a similar amount in both groups.  The improvement in the amblyopic eye acuity from baseline to 4 months averaged 4.8 lines in the 6-hr group and 4.7 lines in the full-time group.

Despite this evidence that was published in an ophthalmological journal, Jillian was patched for 11 hours/day for 3 years.  What good is the evidence if you don’t put it into practice!

Thanks Jillian  and Robin Benoit for encouraging my students to be Superheroes.  You are developmental optometry’s Rock Stars…… Rock On!  jillians story