If a child displays behavioral problems, parents often rush to the pediatrician for a quick fix.
But this remedy could be little more than a quick mask of the real problem.
Dr. Rick Graebe, a behavioral optometrist in Versailles, advises parents to consider multiple treatment options.
“When looking at kids with unique problems and unusual behavior, take a multi-disciplinary approach,” he said. “Don’t count on any one doctor to have the answer.”
For example, he said, for a child displaying symptoms of restlessness and a short attention span, the treatment prescribed will depend on the health-care provider offering the opinion.
A pediatrician could diagnose ADD and prescribe medication. An occupational therapist: sensory integration and therapy. An allergist: a food allergy and avoidance. Dr. Graebe: a learning-related visual problem and therapy.
Multiple answers may seem overwhelming, but parents should trust their instincts. “You know your child better than any specialist ever will,” Dr. Graebe said.
Still, he said, “My personal belief is that altering body chemistry with medication should be the last resort because it can do harm. The other approaches will not.”
That’s why Dr. Graebe is a fan of occupational therapy. “An OT can help bring awareness to kids and their bodies, and where they are in space,” he said.
So what might Dr. Graebe conclude after examining a child with the above symptoms? The problem might be related to the visual system.
“First, eyesight is not vision,” he said. “The visual system includes the eyes, brain and body.
“Vision skills are learned. If they’re not learned correctly, pathways from the eyes to the brain may not operate efficiently causing behavioral problems.”
A school-aged child being asked to read with an inefficient visual system might well have a short attention span.
In a world in which we rely so heavily on visual input, according to Dr. Graebe, “vision affects behavior, and behavior effects vision.”
That’s one option that might be right for your child.