Category Archives: Q&A with Dr. Nicholson

Philip Nicholson, O.D.

Q&A With Dr. Nicholson: Will my child outgrow vision problems without vision therapy?

Untreated vision problems nearly always last a lifetime. When a child is diagnosed with a vision problem by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care, it is important for that child’s long-term success and self-confidence to receive the best possible treatment. At the Visual Learning Center in Olney, MD, we provide a unique vision therapy treatment program for each patient’s individual needs to ensure optimal improvement and lasting results.

Without vision therapy, unfortunately, your child will most likely not outgrow vision problems, but instead struggle throughout school and eventually learn accommodation techniques to adapt to their environment and meet their needs.

Coping skills appear different, depending on the specific eye movement disorder or visual processing skills deficiency each child has.

For example, your child may use avoidance tactics, such as listening to auditory books rather than having to read text.

If your child has problems with accommodation — changing focus from near to far at will, which is an essential skill for copying notes from a board — he or she may ask for notes from a teacher or classmate.

If your child suffers from frequent eye strain or headaches from looking at material at near-point, he or she will learn to take a visual break and allow eyes to rest every few minutes. Head tilting, squinting, or moving the paper or book around are also common coping behaviors.

Children are naturally adaptable and resourceful; so many will take the necessary steps to avoid embarrassment and perform at their best. It is also important to remember that if the child is not aware that he has a vision problem, he may not even be conscious of coping behaviors.

While these examples may seem like good solutions for troublesome issues, they are like placing Band-Aids over much more serious underlying problems. Your child will most likely never be able to perform at his or her true potential when these detours slow them down; and when it comes to academic performance, what parent does not want their child to achieve their best?

Take a look at our vision therapy success stories to learn more about how vision therapy can lead to significant and lasting improvement in a relatively short period of intensive treatment.

If you suspect your child might have a vision problem that would benefit from vision therapy, and you are in the Olney, MD area, convenient to Silver Spring, MD, contact us today to schedule an appointment.

 

Philip Nicholson, O.D.

Q&A: How is your program different from other providers of vision therapy?

When a child struggles with vision problems, such as deficiencies in eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, or visual processing, the first step to getting help is diagnosis.

Many Montgomery County families come to the Visual Learning Center in our Olney, Maryland office because their child has been having difficulty with reading, writing, or behavioral problems in school. Often, learning disabilities, dyslexia, and attention deficit disorders have been ruled out, or traditional attempts to help the child improve in school are not working.

After an initial assessment, we encourage parents to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive visual analysis, which takes up to two hours and includes a written report and follow-up consultation, and a unique treatment plan individualized for each child.

What sets our vision therapy treatment plan apart from other approaches is that it is based in the best scientific research available in the field of vision and learning, and our methods are continually modified to incorporate new scientific data to achieve the best results.

Our vision therapy program is a highly targeted treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. Vision therapy sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to properly control the whole vision system. At the Visual Learning Center, our vision therapy exercises target and train visual skills that are most likely to have a meaningful impact on learning performance and a child’s academic abilities.

Each child is treated individually, on a one-on-one basis, to achieve significant results quickly and allow for immediate feedback. Both positive reinforcement and gentle and direct error correction encourages the child to feel greater confidence early in the process and make progressive improvements throughout the vision therapy program. One of the first things you will notice, is that your child’s self-esteem will improve as he sees the difference in his performance.

The vision therapy exercises are designed with a discouraged young student’s needs in mind. Children work through sequenced procedures that aim to challenge–not bore or frustrate them–unlike their school work, which carries negative associations for them. Instead, the activities are designed to help your child practice and develop new skills in a non-academic way that does not remind them of their difficulty with schoolwork. Because of this approach, newly developed visual skills will become habitual in a fun and safe manner, and then your child will be able to apply his new skills to his academics automatically, and with a high level of retention.

Something else that sets our program apart is that we encourage parental involvement. The program requires practice outside of in-office sessions. Practicing at home provides an opportunity for cost-effective repetitious procedures and helps your child to transfer learned skills to everyday activities. But what parents tell us they enjoy most about their participation is that it often mends the parent-student relationship. We understand that homework wars and punishments for getting in trouble at school can strain your interactions with your child, so we are delighted to play a part in making a positive impact on your relationship.

Overall, vision therapy at the Visual Learning Center produces invaluable results when considering committed effort, time, and finances. I chose to become an optometrist who specializes in developmental and functional vision care because I struggled with vision problems as a child, and I can attribute my success as a student to the results of vision therapy. Click here to read some of the vision therapy results and success stories our patients have experienced.

To schedule an appointment for a comprehensive vision assessment and learn more about our vision therapy program in Olney, MD, call 301-570-4611, or complete this form.

Philip Nicholson, O.D.

Q&A: Why did the other eye doctor we took our child to say he didn’t see anything wrong with his eyes?

Parents often contact us at the Visual Learning Center confused, wondering how their child could possibly have a vision problem when their family eye doctor did not indicate that anything was wrong with the child’s eyes.

We understand that, as a parent, you only want the best for your child and you rely on professionals to detect problems and advise you on the best course of action to care for your child.

Sometimes families express frustration with their eye doctor, wondering how the visual processing problem that — as it turns out — is causing so much disruption in their child’s ability to learn, could have been missed. They question whether earlier intervention and vision therapy at a younger age could have set the child up for better success at school.

The simple answer is that the particular eye doctor who examined your child is probably not a developmental optometrist. Though he or she is an O.D., just like I am, that doctor has not been trained in developmental diagnosis and vision therapy.

Routine eye or vision exams check the health of the eyes and the need for glasses. Eye doctors that specialize in surgery or disease treatment will likely not be able to diagnose functional problems, related to learning. This is simply not their area of expertise.

If you are a parent who suspects that your child might be struggling with a learning-related vision problem, have a conversation with your eye doctor to make sure your provider will look beyond ‘20/20 vision.’ If your eye doctor does not test using specific methods, vision-related learning problems will not be diagnosed and your child may continue to have functional vision problems.

Here is a helpful list of questions to ask your eye doctor:

  • Do you test for and correct accommodation (focusing) facility with +2 and –2 diopter flippers? Do you test for and correct lateral vergence facility (lateral eye alignment and speed) using prism flippers with 3 diopters base in and 12 diopters base out?
  • Do you test for and correct vertical vergence ranges (vertical eye alignment) using single prisms base up and down?
  • Do you test for and correct eye movement while the child is reading or answering questions that require comprehension? (using Visigraph infrared monitoring devices or similar equipment)? Eye movement analysis while simply following a moving target is not an accurate measurement of eye movement skills used while reading as this measures pursuit movements and not saccadic movements used while reading.
  • Do you test for visual perceptual or visual processing skills like visual discrimination, visualization or visual memory?

Feel free to print this off and take it with you to your appointment.

And if your family lives in the Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD area, and you are interested in having your child tested for vision problems that may be interfering with their learning, contact our office and schedule an appointment to determine if your child might significantly benefit from treatment of learning related vision problems.

Philip Nicholson, O.D.