I’m a teacher with an undergraduate degree from a respected midwestern university & a master’s degree from another. I’ve spent the majority of my career devouring professional development – particularly stuff involving brain research. I was named a local university’s “Mentor Teacher of the Year” for 2015 & my teacher evaluations have always been impressive. I work my tail off to be good at what I do. So when my oldest child started having trouble at school, I thought I knew what I was doing.
I had all this training, right? Surely I could figure out how to “fix” things to help her be successful. Don’t get me wrong, I want my child to learn how to LEARN, not just get good scores. I have this love of reading that I want her to share with me – I have always had these dreams of sharing books together & seeing my kids excel.
So, we got her glasses when her kindergarten teacher noted that she was squinting. We took advantage of every after school reading help option we were given. We dealt with the nightly battles to get the homework done and the 20 minutes of reading every night. We tried bribery to get that reading done – “read the book & I’ll take you to see the movie in the theaters”, “you aren’t allowed to see the rest of the Harry Potter movies until you read the books”, “read all the Harry Potter books and we’ll take a family vacation (we’ve never done a big trip) to Harry Potter World!”. Anything, ANYTHING to get this child to read!!! …and nothing worked for long. Graphic novels helped, but getting her to go through an extended plot line? No go.
We spent year after year hearing the same things from each of her teachers:
“She needs to read more” (my God did we try everything under the sun to get her to do this)
“She struggles to pay attention” (we tried fidget toys, alternate seating, reward/punishment, etc)
“She has trouble with math too” (drill & practice, drill & practice)
And yet, while she could occasionally score at or above grade level in both math and reading…she was occasionally scoring a year behind. STAR360 & state exams were always contradictory. Add in our state’s 3rd grade mandatory retention based on a single reading test & this Momma about broke out in hives waiting to hear how it went. But because she could demonstrate mastery, no help for any possible learning disability & suggestions that she just needed to try more. We pulled every string & favor we knew to try and figure out the magic identifier to what was holding her back.
So, now fast forward to this year. It was August & she’s staring at 5th grade – the end of elementary school & my spouse and I were getting that panicky feeling: if we don’t get this nailed down NOW, she’s going to be that kid that falls through the cracks. Not because her teachers won’t care, but because she’ll be that kid who does just well enough to not fall into the triage group. Insert mom pulling the “don’t mess with me” card (not my most proud moment as an educator, but you’d throw that card too for your own kiddo in a heartbeat). When it became obvious that the district was not going to help her, we started the 504 route…and got lucky.
See, we thought that maybe we might get an Other Health Impairment for some mild variety of Attention Deficit Disorder, but our new general physician noticed a subtle thing with her eyes during a basic checkup: her eyes didn’t converge quite evenly. We’re talking seriously subtle. So subtle that not one of the three optometrists who had diagnosed her vision issues over her childhood didn’t note it…not even once. Doc suggested we call around to see if we can get her in with someone who specializes in pediatric optometry – specifically with vision therapy. Turns out there is one office (ONE) in our large metro area and we got her in to see someone over winter break. BINGO!
My kids had “Convergence Insufficiency” (yeah, it’s a real thing). Seems that she has a brain communication issue involving her eyes. A totally fixable thing with some therapy, but something that gets missed a lot. It has only recently become a recognized condition & the majority of general optometrists don’t know to check for it.
Insert teacher-mom guilt here. I checked out the symptoms on the website http://www.convergenceinsufficiency.org& watched a TEDx video (’cause, yeah) & my mind about exploded. Not only is this my kid…this was/is…ME. %$*#*&&@#!!!!!!!
So, we’re getting the big therapy evaluation & then starting a therapy regime with (hopefully) some pretty valuable results by the end of the current school year. But I know there are more parents & educators out there who have a kiddo just like mine: one who loves to learn, but gets headaches. Loves science & math, but struggles with reading. Has test scores all over the map and you just can’t get the puzzle pieces to fit on how to help this kiddo.
There is someone out there with answers – keep looking.
Chicken Little Out
P.S. Notice how we both have one eye that doesn’t quite seem to focus center? Big indicator of CI.