When Jo was diagnosed with vision difficulties as a preschooler, I began educating myself on the complex dance that results in the miracle of sight. While the entire human body is a wonder, I find that vision is a particularly amazing piece of creation. The coordination--and communication--between membranes, lenses, nerves and brain is far beyond what I could have ever dreamed up. So many pieces to the puzzle that fit just so. So much development and such a small margin for error. It's dizzying, I tell you.
Unfortunately, many parents put in desperately few hours ensuring that their child's eyes are developing properly or that he or she has the range of vision that is appropriate for his or her age. Heck, most parents don't even know that there is a range of normal vision, and that is changes as your child--and his eyes, muscles, etc.--mature. Parents don't know how closely vision is associated with overall behavior, how sensory input through the eyes can be overwhelming or even how small things such as print size can impact a child who seems to have "learning disabilities."
Why don't parents know these things? Because the people who have the knowledge generally don't take the time share it unless there are glaring red flags. Doctors don't pick up on it. Once a year, a nurse tells your son to stand on a line and read an eye chart, and then tells you that he passed. Unless you mention that he can't read for periods of longer than ten minutes, no one's the wiser. Teachers don't point out what appears to be a vision issue until it impacts classroom performance. And, believe it or not, your friendly neighborhood optometrist won't tell you either. Their training stops and starts with a general classification of eye health and vision. Much beyond that and they're swimming in deeper water than their sheepskin can float on.
For the bigger issues, you need the big guns. You need a pediatric opthamologist.
A pediatric opthamologist can tell you not only how well your child can see, but how his or her eyes are developing. Are the muscles working in tandem? What is the ideal visual range for my child? Do his or her eyes tire easily? Is there any crossing? What print size is recommended for my child? And this is just for starters, folks.
While an initial visit to a pediatric opthamologist may be a budget cruncher, I can't recommend it highly enough. Armed with the information that this specialist will give you, I can almost guarantee that you will find some way to homeschool better, smarter and with less fuss on your child's behalf even--and this is the kicker--even if your child's vision is 20/20. If I had a nickel for every person who took my advice and saw a pediatric opthamologist and then reported back to me that their child really wasn't just complaining, he couldn't see the words on the page ... let's just say I'd be hosting this blog on a paid site instead of blogger. :-)
I posted last week about sensory issues and homeschooling and trust me, vision is one of the senses. Input that comes in fuzzy, inaccurately, cloudy or erratically hits the brain with a thud and pushes out behavior that stumps adults like us who just can't see the world the way that the little people we're charged with parenting do. The kids can't fix it themselves. They need help learning coping skills and working with the neurological wiring that God gave them. No matter how frustrating it is to parent a child who fidgets, spins like a top or can't find a specific Lego in a box full of clashing colors, you hold the key to helping your child mature through this.
I mentioned in my last sensory post that I had a sampling of the line by line readers offered by Heads Up! and was planning on giving some away. Before I give out the rules, here's what Heads Up! has to say about their products.
Heads Up! Top of the Line This reading aid has a blue or yellow highlighted strip along the top to help readers "keep their place" along a line of text, graphs, or charts. Use of color has been shown to be helpful in focusing attention, so the Heads Up! Top of the Line is helpful even for proficient readers who are distractible or have difficulty maintaining visual attention for adequate periods of time. Makes a great bookmark, too! (Size 2-3/8" by 8")
Heads Up! Double Time This reading aid has a transparent yellow or blue strip along the top that highlights an area large enough for the reader to view two lines of most texts. A visual reminder to continue reading to the next line, the Heads Up! Double Time is also a helpful tool for proficient readers who benefit by using color to help focus attention. Makes a great bookmark, too! (Size 2-3/8" by 8")
Heads Up! Frame - 4 x 4 1/2 Our own creation, these frames are made of transparent colored polycarbonate with a printed frame. The large Heads Up! Frames are 4" x 9" rectangles. You can direct attention and focus by placing the frames over workbook pages or other written materials to be examined. The frames block in key material while the color contrast helps maintain attention. These frames are especially useful for marking the place on the page for individuals who tend to look away from the page frequently. When looking back at the page they can easily and quickly find the framed-in area. Available in the following colors: yellow, pink, blue, red, green, and orange.
Heads Up! Frame - 4 x 9 Our own creation, these frames are made of transparent colored polycarbonate with a printed frame. The small frames are 4” x 4-½” squares. These frames are useful for the child who feels overwhelmed when viewing an entire page of material; the teacher can frame in just a section of the page so that it appears more manageable to the child. Available in the following colors: yellow, pink, blue, red, green, and orange.
Heads Up! Reader The Heads Up! Reader has a highlight strip of color between two strips of grey. The highlighted section aids in visual tracking and the color helps maintain attention to printed text. The straight edges can be used to neatly underline key words or phrases. The Reader is thin and flexible, and can be used as a bookmark for added convenience. Choice of yellow, green, red, blue, orange, pink or clear.
These are wonderful tools for new readers, for children with sensory input differences, for kids with ADHD, for children whose attention is often pulled away from a page, for kids who struggle to stay on task for ... EVERYONE.
O.k., now for the fun part. I am giving away two complete sets of Heads Up! readers. To be entered in the drawing, simply leave a comment that lists the age/ages of the child or children you'd be using the readers with and whether you'd prefer yellow or green frames. Leave a separate comment if you're a follower of this blog (or if you choose to become a follower) and I'll throw your name in the hat twice. The drawing will be held on Friday, March 6 and winners will be posted at that time.