Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Learning Related Vision Problems

Vision Therapy Needs To Be Shared 
TEDxCheltenham video 

I see too many people that indicate they have never heard of vision therapy.  In my mind this is atrocious.  Vision therapy can help to remediate so many problems.  The obvious are lazy eye (amblyopia) and crossed eyes (strabismus).  Not as well known are learning related vision problems.  The Internet is helping to get this information out to the masses. 

A recent TEDxCheltenham video goes a long way in getting this type of information out to the public.  It was done by Keith Holland from England.  He skillfully puts across ideas that need to be learned by many.  He is a comforting speaker who gets his point across - ENJOY!!

--James B. Mayer, O.D., F.C.O.V.D.
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Monday, December 24, 2012

Children's Vision Warning Signs


Some of the learning problems your child faces in school may be related to vision. Even if your child has 20/20 eyesight, there may be hidden visual problems that affect your child’s understanding of school tasks. These visual problems can usually be treated with prescription eyeglasses and/or visual training. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA) nearly 25% of all school-age children in the United States have a vision problem.   

The AOA found that few of these problems extend to full blindness. Instead, they are often subtle vision problems that can impair or even prevent a child’s development. These visual inefficiencies can interfere with learning, inhibit participation in sports and other activities and create frustration for children of any age.

Unfortunately, because some visual problems related to learning are often mistaken for low motivation, rebelliousness, short attention span, or unwillingness to study, they can be hard to detect.  However, sometimes these behaviors can be symptoms of an underlying visual cause.

Parents and teachers can look for the following signs that may indicate visual problems in a child:
  • Has short visual and listening attention span; becomes easily    bored and restless
  • Loses place easily when reading
  • Suffers from car sickness
  • Trips or stumbles regularly
  • Has little or no interest in books beyond mechanical turning    of pages
  • One eye turns in or out at any time
  • Headaches, burning or itching eyes after reading
  • Complains of seeing double
  • Omits letters, numbers or phrases
  • Avoids near-centered tasks
  • Covers or closes one eye when reading
  • Does not improve, even after continued practice
If these symptoms are discovered in your child, schedule a visual examination.  A child’s vision examination differs from an adult.  A thorough developmental optometric exam of a child includes a battery of tests.   These may be new to you and provide insights not known.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360 

Friday, December 21, 2012

Children's Vision


As your children grow, you can help them adapt to the many visual changes they face. At different stages of development, a child needs different visual skills.  The toys, games and visual input you provide can help your child build a strong foundation for reading, studying and working.

For many years, people believed that newborn babies could not see. However, experts have found that infants can see up close. Young babies are attracted by faces, brightly colored objects and patterns, so give them lots of visual variety.

It’s best not to push preschoolers to read, but you can help them get ready to read by exposing children to a wide range of ideas and words.  To a young child, words on a page are just a mass of interesting symbols—this is a normal part of a child’s development and will grow into understanding later.

In kindergarten, children learn about spatial relationships that will help them cope with reading.  They learn to look at things from left to right, to differentiate form, to distinguish between curved and straight lines. Simple tasks such as coloring circles one color and squares another are a step towards reading letters later on. 

Developmental problems in children occur when they are deprived, restrained or restricted during early months and years.  Deprivation comes from insufficient exposure to a variety of experiences which prevents the visual system from developing adequate skills.  Too much restriction or restraint causes inefficient seeing habits, such as using only one eye.

As your child grows, you can watch for visual development clues and signs that might signal a problem.  Here are signs to watch for at various stages of development:

In preschool (from 5 months to 5 years), the eyes should be straight and healthy looking—watch for tilting of the head, poor coordination and balance; eyes should follow people or objects.  Your child should be able to point to an object he or she sees.  By age 5, a child usually shows an interest in books, can draw and color and knows how to write own name.

The stress of school and classwork frequently shows up around the second grade, which is the earliest stage of concentration of intensity and staying with a task.
Watch for signs of myopia (nearsightedness), like squinting or working too close to a task; headaches; squinting or burning eyes; a short attention span or losing of place while reading; covering of one eye or tilting head while reading; complaints of seeing double.

By the third or fourth grade, a sudden drop in achievement may occur. At this point, children must start using what they read. They read to learn, not learn to read. Reading must be used to learn other, more complex, areas of school work.

A state-wide study of 160,000 children in the Texas schools showed that 20% had vision problems by the time they finished first grade, and 40% by age 9. However, few children show the existence of vision problems at birth.

The visual stress on your children cannot be underestimated. We suggest that parents schedule a vision examination by age 1 (no cost to you because we are providers), age 3 and before children enter kindergarten and yearly thereafter to help prevent and treat visual problems.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Learning Related Vision Problems

Learning Difficulties?  Get Vision Therapy!

Sometimes a success story from a parent will help in understanding how vision therapy can help with learning difficulties.  Maybe there are headaches or eyestrain.  Many times there will be difficulties in skipping words or lines when reading.  Visual concentration is often reduced. In the following video you will learn about anger problems with a child who had learning related vision problems.  I think you will really enjoy "Sophie's Story".  It was provided by Dr. Gabby Marshall of Bend, OR.

--James B. Mayer, O.D., F.C.O.V.D.
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Monday, December 17, 2012

Infant Vision Development: Year 1


New parents will be happy to know most babies are born with healthy eyes, free from disease and vision problems.

However, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA), ten million children under the age of 12 have vision problems that make it difficult for them to cope with the visual demands of home and school. How does this happen?

First, it’s important to note there is a distinct difference between sight and vision. Sight is the reflex action of turning the eyes toward light. This is called alerting response and is observable in the newborn infant.

Vision is the process of gaining meaning from what is seen and having the skills to understand and integrate what is seen with the information received through other senses.

The increase of visual problems in children by age 12 can be attributed to the amount of nearpoint work (reading, writing, studying) required of them before their visual system is ready.

Parents can work with babies to stimulate and prepare their visual system for the years ahead. The following activities are recommended by developmental optometrists to stimulate their baby’s vision. And they’re fun too!

Month 1:
Bring your face close to his.  Let him follow your face with his eyes as you move from side to side.  Make buzzing and smacking noises.  Flutter your eyelids while you hold his fingers just within touching distance so he can watch and feel at the same time.

Months 2 through 4: Babies enjoy looking at people or pictures, especially of the people they know. Display large family photographs on a wall or table to show to your child.  Let him view the pictures frequently while you name the people in them.  Let him touch the   pictures carefully if he wants.

Months 2 through 4:
     Babies enjoy looking at people or pictures, especially of the people they know.
     Display large family photographs on a wall or table to show to your child.  Let 
     him view the pictures frequently while you name the people in them.  Let him touch 
     the pictures carefully if he wants.

Months 5 through 8:
Fill your baby’s visual environment with interesting colors and shapes.  Play games with a brightly-patterned ball.  One that makes a noise is best.  Arrange for him to have time outside in a safe place on the porch or in the yard, so he will learn nature’s special colors.

Months 9 through 12:
One at a time, wrap several toys of various sizes in tissue paper and let your baby unwrap them.  Sometimes use a single layer of paper and sometimes several layers. Let him feel the texture of the paper and see how it unfolds. Do not use tape or ribbon.  For eye-hand coordination, you can make a good puzzle using a muffin tin and several tennis balls. Let your baby place the balls in the muffin compartments.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Friday, December 14, 2012

Infant Vision Development


As a parent you may be unaware of the importance of early detection of vision problems in your child and what you can do to assist her visual development early in life.

More than 98% of infants are born with normal, healthy eyes. However, the normal structure and health of the eyes do not guarantee that your child will be able to use those eyes efficiently.

Although clear eyesight is important in your child’s visual development, it is not the end result of good vision. “Sight” is being able to see. “Vision” is the ability to understand what is seen, to detect where it is, and to react to it (reach for an object, duck when a ball comes near your head, read a book).

You can help your young child develop her vision skills even before she begins to read or attend school. An infant actually craves visual stimulation and the variety you offer her is important to her development. Elaborate toys are not necessary—the world itself is a very stimulating place. Remember, it’s all very new to your curious child.

From infancy, your child’s day is filled with lessons in spatial relationships and as she develops, looks at, feels, tastes, pushes, pulls, throws and drops everything possible as she learns three-dimensional characteristics and functions.

You can help your child by moving her from room to room, by different lighting conditions (not extremes) and by approaching her from different directions. If you speak as you move about, she will learn to follow the sounds of your voice with her ears and look for you.

A brightly colored mobile above her crib helps to develop depth perception. Different shaped blocks and rattles help your baby learn to reach and grasp. Pots and pans, measuring spoons and containers that fit within one another are all fun toys and great visual lessons for your child. Even playing peek-a-boo, as fun as it is for both of you, strengthens her visual develop. These early eye-guided movements of the hand are the “dress rehearsals” for learning to read later on.

Because your child has no way of recognizing good vision, she depends on your observations and awareness for detection and correction of problems.

A complete “Parents’ Guide and Checklist” is available - just contact me.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91362

Monday, December 10, 2012

Infant Vision



The first half year of an infant’s life is a critical period for the development of vision. During this time, baby is learning to focus both eyes, judge distances and coordinate hand/eye movements.

Parents can do a lot to help an infant develop visual skills in a number of ways:
  • Keep a dim light on in baby’s room at night. This encourages the infant to learn to locate an object.
  • Place toys that are safe to be put in baby’s mouth in the crib. The process of looking at, grasping, then putting the toy in the mouth helps your infant develop hand/eye coordination.
  • Hang a brightly colored mobile about six feet from the crib. The slow movements and colors encourage baby to learn to focus and track his or her eyes. 
  • Talk to your baby as you move about the nursery. As baby lies in the crib, he or she will learn to connect vision and hearing with direction and distance. Move the crib to a variety of   locations within the room.
  • Change the sides on which you carry, change or feed your baby so that the vision of the right and left eye will develop equally. This also helps the muscles of the neck to develop evenly.
Many visual problems, especially “lazy eye” (amblyopia), are thought to be the result of a poor visual development process during these early months. Visual problems can frequently be prevented if detected early. Watch for these signs:
  • Frequent rubbing of the eyes
  • Squinting, drooping eyelids
  • Eyes that cross or turn in
  • Unusual postures or appearance of the eyes
--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360

Friday, December 7, 2012

Vision & Toys



"It is only a slight exaggeration to say that what we see today, how we perceive the visual world around us, depends on the visual experiences we had during the first stages of our lives."  So said the Nobel Committee in awarding the 1981 Prize in Medicine to three researchers in vision who had affirmed that discovery.  Among the best “visual stimulators” for youngsters are the toys they play with each day.

Here are some toys that help build eye-hand coordination, general movement skills (for everything from writing to sports), shape and size discrimination (needed for reading), space and distance judgments (needed for driving and sports) and visualization and visual memory skills that enable us to develop concepts.

Birth to 5 months:
       Toys: sturdy crib mobiles, gyms, large, bright rattles, bright rubber squeak toys
       Activities: Peek-a-boo, patty cake

6 to 8 months:
       Toys: stuffed animals, floating bath toys
       Activities: Hide and seek with toys

9 to 12 months:
       Toys: sturdy cardboard books, take-apart toys, snap-lock beads, blocks and stacking-nesting toys
       Activities: roll a ball back and forth

       Toys: bright balls, blocks, zippers, rocking horse and riding toys pushed by the feet
       Activities: throwing a ball

       Toys: pencils, markers, crayons, beanbag-ring toss games, peg hammering toys, sorting shapes-and-sizes toys, puzzles and blocks.   A great toy for children this age is a stacking, nesting coffee percolator with parts that nest together when properly assembled.

Careful selection of toys that can build visual skills should help provide a solid foundation upon which a child can develop more efficiently in school and life.

For youngsters who have missed out on some of the vision developmental steps during their early life, an individual optometric visual training program can help them “fill in gaps” to provide that solid visual foundation.

--James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
    Agape Learning & Optometry Center
    Thousand Oaks, CA

Monday, December 3, 2012

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)

More and more employers are offering their employees the option of directing their health care spending with Flexible Spending Account Plans (FSA), through “Cafeteria” Benefit Plans.  And savvy plan participants are directing that spending towards eye care.

Most participants know they can use their plan dollars for eye examinations, eyeglasses and contact lenses.  But there are many more ways to apply those dollars towards eye care.

For example, plan participants can use their accounts to pay for prescription medications for eye conditions such as dry eye syndrome and glaucoma, even laser vision surgery.

These plans may also be used to extend the benefits of a patient’s vision plan.  A patient who is covered by a separate vision plan, can use flex dollars for the co-payment on a covered eye health examination.  Or, if their vision plan provides one pair of eyeglasses, the patient can use plan dollars to pay for computer glasses, driving glasses or prescription sunglasses.

Some plans have a deadline by which the employee must use the dollars in their account or forfeit them.  Contact lens patients who face such a deadline may consider purchasing an annual supply of lenses with their remaining plan dollars.

--- James B. Mayer, OD, FCOVD
     Agape Learning & Optometry Center
     Thousand Oaks, CA   91360