I love reading. I remember in early grade school checking out a stack of 10-15 books at a time and going back a day or two later to check out more. In 4th grade I wondered why I was being sent to the principal’s office only to find out the school nurse was there to test my eyesight. Within a few weeks I received my first pair of glasses for nearsightedness (objects blurry far away). I continued to love reading and every year I would go to the eye doctor and get a stronger prescription each time.
My path toward Optometry began my sophomore year of high school. In our Anatomy/Physiology class we were asked to write a report on a science related profession. Our family the year before had joined the sailing club in Klamath Falls, OR and one of the best sailboat racers was an Optometrist. He also played a wonderful trombone. As that was my instrument I reasoned that he seemed to know what was going on in life so I wrote my paper about Optometry. I liked what I learned about the profession and since I wore glasses I decided to “set sail” toward Optometry school.
I attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR for undergraduate school to try and improve my chances of getting into the Optometry school. My first 2 years of undergraduate studies went well. My junior year started and something was different. I would start to study and after only about 10-15 minutes I would find myself falling asleep. I thought, “This is college, I must be staying up too late.” So, I got more rest but the problem actually worsened. I found that my reading comprehension started to fade away and I can still remember how frustrating it was to read one paragraph 6 times in a row and still not recall what I had read. One of my classes at the time was Organic Chemistry, a prerequisite class for Optometry school. I was not doing well and I knew I needed to do well on the next test. I kept track that week and studied 30 hours for the chemistry test! My score…8 points out of 50…ouch!
I began to seriously think about my backup plans if I did not get accepted to Optometry school. Either playing my trombone in the Air Force or being a chef were my two options at the time. I made myself an appointment at the Optometry School clinic to see if my glasses had changed. The glasses had not, but my eye coordination had changed. The intern showed me that though my nearsightedness was the same my convergence (ability to aim my eyes inward as with reading) had “blown out” (link: convergence insufficiency). He explained that because I was having to spend so much energy to try and make my eyes work together while reading, my brain was essentially shutting the visual system down to conserve energy. I began a visual therapy program right away and after 6-8 weeks noticed I was no longer falling asleep and I was remembering what I had read. Literally by God’s grace I received a ‘C’ in chemistry and was able to start Optometry school the next year.
That experience, the frustration and despair I felt for those few weeks will never be forgotten. That is the essence of our motto. “Enhancing vision today…to help reach goals for tomorrow.” We will do anything we can to help a patient rid themselves of the frustration or self talk of, “I’m stupid!” caused by a vision-related learning problem. It is never too late. It is treatable at any age (click to read more about Vision Therapy).
Please complete the Visual Efficiency Checklist. If the scoring indicates a potential problem for you or a loved one call or email our office with any further questions or to schedule an appointment.
D. Todd Wylie, OD, FCOVD .