A parent can be forgiven if she scratches her head after she hears the questions Dr. Rick Graebe poses about her child.
A parent might wonder: “This is an optometry office, right?”
Dr. Graebe’s office in Versailles is much more than that. A behavioral optometrist, Dr. Graebe specializes in Vision Therapy, which is a kind of physical therapy for the eyes, brain and body.
Fueled by his wholistic approach to healing, Dr. Graebe first ensures that the child sees well and has good eye health. This is standard eye care.
Next come the very un-standard questions. There are four of them.
How is your child doing in school? Is your child interested in sports and how does he/she perform? How well can your child ride a bike? How is your child’s handwriting?
Not surprisingly, some parents have a question of their own: What does all that have to do with eyesight?
“I love it when they ask questions,” Dr. Graebe said. “The more questions, the better I like it.
“The eye chart exam tells us about focal vision, but there is no test in an eye doctor’s bag that can test for the ambient portion of vision.”
Ambient vision helps tell us where we are in space and where we are in relation to other objects. Focal vision is primarily the purview of eyesight, and ambient vision involves and integrates the other senses.
So a child who has sloppy handwriting or falls when riding a bike or is uncoordinated as an athlete probably has improperly developed ambient vision.
Children with ambient vision issues will struggle to walk heel to toe on an imaginary balance beam, wobble when balancing on one foot with eyes closed, or be unable to walk pigeon toed or with their feet splayed.
These issues can be linked to poor integration of the visual system (eyes, brain and body), which is also linked to poor eye tracking.
Children whose eyes don’t work in tandem and can’t easily track words on a page struggle to read. Not surprisingly, they often perform poorly in school.
Vision Therapy can address all of these issues with a coordinated set of non-academic, fun exercises that improve eye coordination and eye tracking.
The exercises also help integrate the senses, so a child might not only read better but be less clumsy.
“Not a week goes by that we don’t see that we’re going to change a person’s life,” Dr. Graebe said. “This is our chance to help so many people,”