With the creation of independent Chapters around the world, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is proud to expand its efforts to Make Vision Therapy Visible. To this end, the South Korea Chapter conducts several public service activities, including a vision therapy voucher program for disadvantaged children who struggle in school and in daily living. Since 2014, 14 children have either undergone or are currently participating in this program. Dr. Shin, President of COVD Korea, shares the story of one such child.
Su-Jin, a developmentally disabled grade 8 student, lives just a ten-minute walking distance from the school she has attended her entire life. For almost 8 years, Su-Jin’s mother had walked with her daughter to and from school, always holding her hand and carefully leading the way. She challenged her many times over the years with the hope of encourage her daughter’s independence, letting go and urging: “Mother is right behind you, you lead the way home.” However, her mother explains, “Anytime I asked, my daughter hesitated to walk and would then hold my hand tightly.”
After many years of observation, Su-Jin’s teacher had important insight into the student’s challenges. “Many times, I found Su-Jin wandering in the hallway trying to find the classroom, or even lost on her way back to the classroom from the restroom. Several years of teaching and observing Su-Jin in school seem to indicate that her learning problem is rather minor compared to her orientation problem, which results in huge difficulties in moving from place to place by herself.”
Su-Jin was referred by her teacher to the COVD Korea voucher program team for an eye checkup. After a comprehensive vision examination, Su-Jin’s head and body were found to be tilted about 20° toward the left-downward direction. This is a result of her history of congenital esotropia and cerebral arteriovenous malformation, which make it hard for her to learn letters and numbers, cause balancing problems, and leave her with no sense of orientation. The COVD Korea team prescribed a program of vision therapy, hoping to provide her with some relief from this debilitating visual tilt.
For the next five months, Su-Jin worked on visual and body mid-line development, balance, and self and visual space awareness. One day Su-Jin’s mother exclaimed while crying tears of joy, “Guess what happened to my daughter? It was the first time in her life that she found her way back home from school.” It was clear that her daughter was walking straighter and with more confidence than she ever had, developing self-awareness and orientation as well as an expanded visual space.
After a total of ten months of vision therapy, Su-Jin’s mother reported, “My daughter has greatly improved her sense of orientation to go to the convenience store near our house by herself, which I couldn’t imagine she could possibly do.” Her mother continued, “I was sure that vision therapy would help my daughter, but I did not expect this therapy to make a huge improvement in a relatively short period of time. Now I have strong confidence that my daughter can live an independent life some day.” Daily life has changed in other smaller, more unexpected ways, as well–when searching for an object, she is now more often looking with her eyes than groping with her hands.
Su-Jin’s mother was continually amazed by her daughter’s progress. “My daughter begins to understand letters and numbers. For 8 years, Su-Jin had gone through several forms of special tutoring aside from her special class in school, and I can certainly say that vision therapy has helped my daughter more than any other special education.” Before vision therapy, the child’s visual interest had never lasted for more than a few moments. But now, her mother shares, “My daughter has become interested in fairy tale books and often spends more than 30 minutes enjoying pictures in books and asking about the story, or she even sometimes tells a story using her imagination.”
Dr. Shin explains, “A behavioral optometrist can help children with severe learning problems, like Su-Jin, by developing right and left concepts through awareness of laterality, which is the basis for learning and understanding letters and numbers. Once a behavioral optometrist’s intervention has improved a child’s vision, other special education programs may become effective for learning.”
A year after beginning vision therapy treatment, Su-Jin’s head and body are nearly aligned when sitting, standing and walking, and her teacher has noticed a range of unexpected changes. “I hear Su-Jin’s voice when talking and laughing in the classroom in a way that was hardly seen in the past. She participates in class activities more than ever. It is now commonplace to find her coming from the restroom by herself, finding the way back to the classroom.”
Su-Jin’s mother and the teacher are overjoyed at the positive changes in the child’s learning and daily life. They send their sincere thanks for COVD Korea’s help, saying “We wish to say to all parents and teachers who have children with orientation and/or learning problems, consult a behavioral optometrist and know that these children can have tremendous benefits from vision therapy.”
Do you think your child may be struggling with an undiagnosed vision problem affecting learning, just like Su-Jin? August is Vision & Learning Month to raise awareness of these issues, just in time to head back to school. Schedule a comprehensive exam with a behavioral optometrist today to ensure your child has every opportunity to live up to their potential!