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My daughter was diagnosed with CI last year when she was 6 and was very successfully treated by Dr. Hillier in San Diego. But the process of figuring out what was wrong with her eyes and what to do about it took much longer. When my daughter started to read in Kindergarten, I noticed she could only read for a few minutes at a time. She also frequently lost her place and missed small words, substituting “a” for “the” and vice versa, or left out words altogether when reading. I attributed this to her being a new reader. However, over the next year and a half, it seemed that although her ability to read improved (and I worked with her on reading every day after school and over the summer), she was still making the same mistakes and was still only able to read for a few minutes at a time. Although she was usually a very happy kid and liked just about everything, she said she hated reading and avoided the small amount of homework she had like the plague.

By the fall of first grade, I began to get worried and asked her teacher if she thought something was wrong, perhaps with my daughter’s eyes. She dismissed this, and said her vision was fine–after all, she knew all her letters and sounds perfectly. I knew she had 20/20 vision, but it just seemed like something wasn’t right. I then called her school’s office and asked if the nurse or the school had any way of testing her eyes, or if not, if they could recommend an eye doctor for her to see. They said they would call back with a recommendation, but they never did. I again expressed my concern about my daughter’s lack of progress in reading to her teacher, and I was left with the impression that her teacher felt, “your daughter just isn’t as smart as you think she is.”

Of course, in hindsight, I should have taken her to a pediatric eye doctor on my own. Instead, I figured that if it wasn’t her eyes, maybe it was the school and we switched to a private school starting in January of first grade. I did not mention any concern about her eyes to the new school. Within a week, her new school called me to recommend I take my daughter to a pediatric ophthalmologist, because her reading teacher suspected she had Convergence Insufficiency. Interestingly, her reading teacher said it was my daughter’s writing that tipped her off to the CI more than her reading (although she also pointed out my daughter often covered one eye when reading). My daughter had a great deal of difficulty writing in a straight line, would often start sentences somewhere in the middle of a page instead of on the left side, and seemed unable to complete worksheets.

We took her to an eye doctor in Albuquerque, and he diagnosed her with CI. Prior to seeing the doctor (I had to wait about 6 weeks), I had done a lot of research on my own about CI and had read about the CITT study and about vision therapy as a proven effective treatment for CI. The eye doctor confirmed my daughter had CI and prescribed prism eyeglasses. I inquired about VT. He said 6 was too young to start, and although his office did VT, they didn’t start on kids that young. He seemed unwilling to discuss VT as an option. I then called the local university hospital and got an appointment with the head pediatric ophthalmologist and their orthoptics person. The eye doctor there agreed my daughter had CI, but said it was “very mild” and that most kids her age “don’t like to read” and opined that it was very normal and I shouldn’t worry about it. My daughter was given two at-home exercises that even I couldn’t figure out how to do, and the doctor completely dismissed (even scoffed at) office vision therapy as an effective or necessary treatment for her CI. She seemed totally unaware of the CITT study as well.

There was no way I was going to accept that there was nothing I could do for my daughter or that her behavior was normal–it was very clear to me there was a significant problem. I realized I would have to find an optometrist who could perform VT on a young child on my own. After researching further, I decided I wanted her to see an optometrist with an FCOVD certification, and found Dr. Hillier at the San Diego Center for Vision Care. Since I have family in San Diego and it is an easy nonstop flight from Albuquerque, I decided I would take my daughter there for an evaluation and if necessary, travel with her to San Diego for treatment. Dr. Hillier agreed she had CI, and interestingly, he was the only doctor who tested her convergence twice. Once before reading and once after reading for a couple minutes. Although she had CI even before reading, Dr. Hillier found that after reading for just a minute or two, my daughter was unable to make her eyes converge closer than about 14-16 inches. It was fascinating, because I watched the whole exam, and you could clearly see one of her eyes wander off to the side when she tried to focus on something. No wonder she refused to read–she struggled very hard to make her eyes converge to read, and then the words must have gone blurry when the one eye drifted off. We immediately began VT at the San Diego Center for Vision Care, and we were very diligent about doing the nightly home exercises in addition to the office visits.

It was a lot of work, but it also was like a miracle, because within 6-8 weeks my daughter picked up a book and began reading. She was as shocked as I was that she could read fluently for a long period of time. I asked her what the difference was, and she said, “I don’t know, it’s just easier to focus on the words.” We continued therapy over the course of the summer, and my daughter went from hating to read to loving it. Her writing has significantly improved as well, and her 2nd grade teacher said she is doing a wonderful job in school. I am very grateful for VT (and Dr. Hillier and the staff at the San Diego Center for Vision Care!) It has made a world of difference to my daughter. I just wish that more schools were aware of the symptoms and prevalence of CI, and that more ophthalmologists would recommend VT as an effective treatment for CI. If I had accepted their dismissive and negative opinion of vision therapy, my daughter wouldn’t be the happy, successful student and reader that she is.

PS: Ashley is doing great in 2nd grade.  She is picking up chapter books again and is reading them easily.   She had some writing homework, too, and instead of the usual procrastination, she sat right down and did it.  Your office’s vision therapy has made a world of difference!  Thanks again!

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