Play’s the Thing at Dr. Graebe’s Office

When you walk in to Dr. Rick Graebe’s optometrist’s office in Versailles, you might find more than you expect.

Sitting among the computers and work desks are a mini-trampoline, a 51-inch plasma screen, balance beams, bean bag games and a Wii fit board.

Along with children working with puzzles at the desks, you may find a child walking on a balance beam to the beat of a metronome while catching bean bags and counting by threes.

More than once, parents gaze around and proclaim, “Well, you’re just playing games.”

That’s exactly right, Dr. Graebe replies.

“It’s important to remember play is children’s work,” he said.

And the work in Dr. Graebe’s office is Vision Therapy – a kind of physical therapy for the eyes, brain and body.

When children struggle at school, often the visual system is the cause.

With 75% of all classroom activity devoted to close-up work, tactile, physical learners are often disadvantaged.

Students staring at computer screens and toiling at workbooks need a well- functioning visual system to succeed.

Dr. Graebe describes having an underdeveloped visual system like watching a TV show with the lips out of sync with the sound.

Kids with this problem can’t focus on the message.

Vision Therapy can help re-integrate the senses by having patients multi-task while engaging as many senses as possible.

When all the senses are developed properly, the visual system will naturally dominate.

“We want the visual system to be the top sense for maximum performance,” Dr. Graebe said.

So, Dr. Graebe’s office may seem like a playground to children, but that’s all by design.

Dr. Graebe also recommends plenty of outdoor or unstructured play. That may be an endangered practice but an important one that engages all the senses.

“Make sure kids have time to play,” Dr. Graebe advises. “That is therapy in itself.”