Children who avoid reading are quick to be labeled as lazy or unintelligent. But Dr. Rick Graebe, a behavioral optometrist in Versailles, knows that this is often a misdiagnosis of a larger problem.
A visit to the eye doctor will check visual acuity and eye health, and your child may be able to identify letters on an eye chart.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean he can read well.
In the classroom, children need to focus back and forth from the board to a desk and paper.
Just because you can see the board doesn’t mean your eyes are focusing and tracking.
“Well, it’s not their eyesight, but it’s still their vision,” Dr. Graebe said.
Poor visual perception skills often translate into poor reading skills.
That is why Dr. Graebe provides Vision Therapy to correct deficiencies in the visual system and give children a fresh start.
Dr. Graebe likens the frustration of a poor visual system to reading a book in which every fourth word is in a foreign language.
Children with good visual systems will read a book and create pictures in their minds.
Without that ability, it’s no wonder children lose interest in reading.
Dr. Graebe’s practice can diagnose the problem through testing.
Equipped with special goggles, children are tested while reading to see how many times they lose their place or where they fall below the standard for their age group.
The treatment for a poor visual system is like any other physical therapy – you have to crawl before you can run.
Patients start slowly to create new pathways in the brain, so over time reading skills get better until it becomes automatic for the child.
Dr. Graebe compares poor visual skills and reading to playing a piano with no sound. You would never know if you were hitting the wrong notes.
Therapy is like turning on the sound.
The success of the therapy is easy to measure. Dr. Graebe said kids will move up in their reading group at school, and parents see a new attitude of “let me try” when reading.
That eagerness to read is a major part of the success for patients.
“If you don’t have confidence, you won’t get to competence,” Dr. Graebe said.
The word “can’t” is not allowed in his therapy room, Dr. Graebe said.
He sees Vision Therapy as a lifelong lesson for young kids – With hard work, they are capable of anything.