Vision, Learning & Dyslexia - All-Pro Arizona Cardinals Wide Receiver Larry Fitzgerald Sets the Record Straight

Jul 08, 2010, 09:42 ET from College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD)

AURORA, Ohio, July 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In football you expect to be tackled, but too many parents get tackled by all the choices they have to make when they have a child who struggles with reading and learning. As we enter the 15th year of observing August as National Children's Vision and Learning Month, Larry Fitzgerald helps to set the record straight on the critical link between vision and learning.

"Parents don't realize that you need over 15 visual skills to succeed in reading, learning, sports, and in life. Seeing '20/20' is just one of those visual skills," says Fitzgerald.

When parents assume that their child's vision is fine it can be quite a maze for parents to navigate to figure out why their child is having so much difficulty with reading and learning, especially when professionals disagree and vested interests are involved.  Many parents get overwhelmed by all the information and conflict and just let the system take care of their children by making accommodations.  Other parents refuse to be tackled and keep searching until they find real help.

Dr. Katherine Donovan, a psychiatrist from Charleston, S.C., was one of those parents who didn't give up, "It wasn't until my own child had problems with reading that I discovered that my medical training was missing a very valuable piece of information which turned out to be the key to helping my daughter, Lily. While I had taken Lily to many ophthalmologists and learning specialists, desperate to understand why this very bright child still could not read well, or write legibly at age 12, I always got the same answers: 'her vision's fine' and 'she's dyslexic.'"

"As a physician, I had been taught that vision therapy was controversial and could not treat learning disabilities. However, my personal experience with my daughter proved to me that vision therapy worked, when nothing else did," Dr. Donovan shares. "While vision therapy cannot treat learning disabilities, per se, it absolutely corrected a vision problem which was blocking Lily from being able to learn. After a visit with a developmental optometrist who tested over 15 visual skills critical to reading and learning, I was shocked to learn that Lily was seeing double out to three FEET—which meant that when she tried to read, the words were double. No wonder she hated to read!"

Following optometric vision therapy, "Lily now reads 300 pages a day, in her free time; she puts down 'reading' as her favorite hobby; and she has a 95-average at Buist Academy with NO help from me on her homework! Prior to this, I'd been spending three to four hours each night, for many years, tutoring Lily," Dr. Donovan shares with delight.

Even though there is a wealth of optometric research which proves vision therapy works, as Dr. Donovan mentioned there is false information in the medical community about vision therapy.  This can be confusing for parents, especially when it comes from their child's pediatrician.  

Dr. Joseph Manley, a physician and medical expert witness for medico-legal cases, states, "The conclusions (particularly the failure to recommend vision therapy for children likely to benefit from it) of the American Academy of Pediatrics report on Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Vision are based on exclusion of the most relevant data and inconsistent application of the Academy's stated criteria for selecting evidence.  They fail to acknowledge abundant published and anecdotal evidence supporting the use of vision therapy.  This overlooked evidence includes controlled trials, observational studies, case reports and consensus of experts—the same kinds of data that underpin the daily practice of medical professionals."

Optometric vision therapy treats vision problems that make reading and learning difficult.  While vision therapy does not treat dyslexia, vision problems can often be misdiagnosed as learning disabilities such as dyslexia or even ADHD.  According to the American Optometric Association, studies indicate that 60 percent of children identified as "problem learners" actually suffer from undetected vision problems, and in some cases have been inaccurately diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

"I was fortunate that my vision problems were caught early in life," says Fitzgerald.  Fitzgerald credits the optometric vision therapy he received as a child as one of the keys to his success. He had a vision problem that was making it difficult to pay attention in school and his grandfather, Dr. Robert Johnson, a developmental optometrist in Chicago, Illinois, diagnosed the vision problem and prescribed the appropriate treatment.

Fitzgerald went through optometric vision therapy under his aunt's guidance, Dr. Stephanie Johnson-Brown, who is currently the executive director of the Plano Child Development Center, a not-for-profit vision care service corporation which was co-founded by her father, Dr. Johnson, in 1959.  The center specializes in vision education and the identification and remediation of vision development problems in children and adults.

Not all eye doctors test for learning-related vision problems, so it is important for parents to ask the right questions. Call your eye doctor's office and ask the following two questions:

  1. Do you test for learning-related vision problems?
  2. Do you provide an in-office vision therapy program when indicated, or will you refer me to someone who does?

If the answer is no to either one or both of these questions, visit COVD's website, www.covd.org, to find a developmental optometrist near you.

"Vision therapy made a big difference in my life and my career," says Fitzgerald, "Don't get tackled by misconceptions about the vital role vision plays in your child's education.  Take the time to learn more about how vision problems can interfere with success in school and in sports and visit COVD's website today."

About COVD

The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is an international, non-profit optometric membership organization that provides education, evaluation and board certification programs in behavioral and developmental vision care, vision therapy and visual rehabilitation. The organization is comprised of doctors of optometry, vision therapists and other vision specialists. For more information on learning-related vision problems, vision therapy and COVD, please visit www.covd.org or call 888.268.3770.

CONTACT:  Pamela R. Happ, CAE

COVD Executive Director

888 268 3770 tel

Email: phapp@covd.org

Website: www.covd.org



SOURCE College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD)



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