As a mother trying to determine why her child was struggling with reading and learning, Robin Benoit found it very difficult to locate answers. According to Jillian’s fourth grade teacher, even though Jillian was very bright, her academic performance was lagging behind. She had poor handwriting, left many of her class assignments unfinished, skipped words when she read out loud, would daydream during silent reading, and was consistently going to the restroom during math.
Jillian had been diagnosed with amblyopia (also known as lazy eye) but despite following the treatment prescribed by the ophthalmologist she continued to struggle with reading, spelling, and math. Her mom started searching the internet for information regarding vision and learning. Her pediatrician and ophthalmologist were not supportive when Mrs. Benoit thought she found the answer to her daughter’s problem. But she followed her heart and continued pushing forward to help Jillian. This push led Mrs. Benoit to optometric vision therapy and a developmental optometrist who was able to help Jillian.
The results from optometric vision therapy changed Jillian’s life, making it possible for her to learn and do many things she’d never done before. When they learned how widespread these types of vision problems are, Jillian and her mother decided to share their story by writing a book to help other parents who are struggling with reading and learning issues, Jillian’s Story: How Vision Therapy Changed My Daughter’s Life.
Most parents don’t realize that undiagnosed and untreated vision disorders can cause tremendous difficulty with learning. In fact over 60% of children who struggle with learning have undiagnosed vision problems. Thanks to Jillian’s Story more parents are learning that their children, too, can be helped.
Mrs. Benoit was asked by the American Optometric Association to speak at their first ever School Readiness Summit: Focus on Vision held last month in Washington, DC. She shared her daughter’s story with attendees there, including representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and the American Federation of Teachers. And her daughter, Jillian, shared a message via video, “Trust me when I say that it’s really hard to learn when you can’t see.”
According to information released by the American Federation of Teachers, “Even the most gifted students will struggle academically if they have trouble seeing the blackboard or focusing on a book. A tremendous amount of learning happens visually, so proper vision care is crucial to helping students reach their full potential… Every one of us has a role to play in providing our children with the best education possible.”
“We see patients in our office with stories similar to Jillian’s all the time. The best thing parents and educators can do is become familiar with the signs and symptoms which indicate a vision problem may be contributing to the child’s difficulties,” shares Dr. Amanda Nanasy, an optometrist in Pembroke Pines that diagnoses and treats vision problems that interfere with academic success.
The five most common signs that a vision problem may be interfering with your student’s ability to read and learn are:
1. Skips lines, rereads lines
2. Poor reading comprehension
3. Takes much longer doing homework than it should take
4. Reverses letters like “b” into “d” when reading
5. Has a short attention span with reading and schoolwork
Any one of these symptoms is a sign of a possible vision problem. A more in-depth symptoms checklist is available on COVD’s website.
If you would like to schedule your child’s eye exam, please call The Eye Center at (954-432-7711).
If you are interested in having Dr. Nanasy speak at your local school PTA meeting about what every parent and teacher should know about vision and learning, please send your request to EyeCenterVT@gmail.com