Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Looking at the World Through Red-Blue Glasses

I have written briefly on this blog before about how Tessa has struggled with reading in the past. How first grade was tough for her, and she ended up seeing a reading tutor after school 3 days a week. There have been many updates on that issue and I realize that as I try to re-invigorate the blog, I should probably write about it.

By the end of first grade and after much tutoring, Tessa was *almost* caught up to the reading level of her class. We worked hard on it all summer and she continued to improve. We also chose to move from our private Christian school to our local public school, where she could receive more resources and remediation to help her.

But after the first month or so of school, it was obvious that her reading had plateaued and other subjects were starting to suffer as well. I had that Mommy gut instinct that told me something else was wrong. She's not ADD...could she be dyslexic? Does she have a learning disability?

The awesome thing is that we are SURROUNDED by teachers in our life. We had her tutor as a resource, her grandfather the school superintendent, her grandmother the 40 year teacher, her great aunt the 1st grade teacher, my best friend from middle school the 4th grade teacher, and our small group friends who are amazing home-schoolers. Many conversations, many opinions gathered.

Finally we decided to take her in for extensive vision testing to check on issues like tracking. She had had a normal eye chart test and the Target optical center, but nothing like this. It was 90 minutes of testing her tracking, depth perception, double vision, eye muscle movements. It was intense.

The conclusion was what I had suspected. The reason she hadn't been reading well was because she has two eye disorders, both of which affect the muscle movements of her eyes. The interesting part being that her vision is actually good and doesn't require glasses. But her ability to MOVE her eyes, and move them well together to read across a line of text....was crap.

For the researchers out there that might be interested, the technical words for what she has are binocular dysfunction and oculomotor dysfunction.

These things were causing her not only trouble with reading...but with any kind of crowded paperwork like math sheets, or basic classroom activities like copying from the board. Everything made sense to us. Like finding the missing puzzle piece.

As is often the case with medical things, we quite quickly became immersed in information and facts on her condition. The week after the testing she began and pretty intense 'vision therapy' program that uses both at home computer games and weekly in-office visits with an optometry specialist.

Things have also changed for in the classroom, as we have met with her teacher and the school resource teacher about having accommodations made for her, meaning some things are read out loud to her as well as small changes like bigger computer screens and less homework.

So far she is clicking right along with it. She has been doing the therapy for 9 weeks and is really starting to show some improvement. They tested her again at 8 weeks and while her eye teaming has a ways to go, her depth perception has already improved by 10 TIMES from where it started.

She will continue this for at least 4-6 more months, which means every Wednesday I will pick her up at her school lunch time and truck her over to the optomotrist. Of course once she is seeing better, there will be some ground to make up from the stuff that didn't 'stick' in her earlier grades.

But the great thing is that Tessa has the most amazing team around her. Great teacher, great vision therapist, great tutor, great friends who are encouraging and praying for her, and a Mom who is willing to do whatever it takes.

By the grace of God, we'll get there!  (maybe that should become our new motto?)

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