Those who read the blog weekly and follow my facebook page will know I have been pushing for assessments for my eldest son as he struggles with writing and his teachers and I have no idea why. Since his Educational Psychologist report and his behavioural optometrist report things have become much clearer and a diagnosis has been made. This has been a huge relief not only to be able to understand Ollie but also help him in the classroom environment. Without these assessments I’m not sure what the future would have held.
Whilst filling in the numerous questionnaires for professionals the optometrist one I found really interesting. ‘Does your child rub their eye? Do they have tired eyes? Are things blurry for them sometimes? Do they read with one eye covered? Are their eyes watery? Do they get frequent headaches/migraines? All this I wanted to tick ‘yes’ for but not for Ollie. For me…
I phoned the optometrist and asked if I could make an appointment for me to see the behavioural optician as I explained that I was exhibiting some of the symptoms on the form and so one was made. I had to do the same drawing of a clock and a house as he had and talk about how much I weighed at birth (not known until recently!) and the investigations began.
I had lots of tests done with various different machines, lenses, letters, numbers, colours and pictures. It’s the kind of thing you can’t fake because you have no idea what they’re doing or looking for as it isn’t a pure sight test. He stopped after a few mins and said ‘I think I’ve found a problem, are you serious about doing something for your eyesight as this could take while…’ I was a bit taken aback but said that as sew to earn a living not doing close work isn’t an option. More tests were done and after the last one was complete and the notes looked at he found that although I have perfect eyesight my eyes don’t focus together easily. If you stick your finger in front of you and move it towards your face there comes a point where you see 2, I see this way too early for my age. Also once my eyes have gone into double vision I find it very hard to get them back into focus. I totally agree with this and admitted that if I relax my eyes they automatically go into double vision, he looked at me and said ‘that shouldn’t happen…’ He also asked about headaches and migraines and whilst I’ve always been a headachy person the migraines started when I had our second son. They are frequently infrequent in that I have 2/3 per year. I’ve not had them officially diagnosed –I don’t much like going to the Drs – but I have the painful nose, flashing lights, violent sickness and need to go straight to bed in a dark room so I think I can safely say that’s a migraine. I also feel like I’m hungover the next day and it takes up to 2 days to fully recover. He listened with interest and said that he recommends me to have 10+ vision therapy sessions (like physiotherapy but for your eyes!) to learn and practice eye exercises but he also wants me to have a colorimetric test to see if coloured lenses might help with my headaches as he found I get ‘glare’ from the page. (I was given a circle with black lines with white spaces in between and I saw yellows and greens!) This might explain the reading with one eye shut when it’s too bright, the fact I squint way earlier than anyone else I know due to brightness of light and why I can’t bear overhead lights.
In short I found out an amazing amount about my eyes and that they weren’t working properly despite having perfect eye sight and perfect eye tests each time I went to the opticians.
I was so pleased that something can be done that might have a huge impact on my life. The thing that I was annoyed about was after expressing the same concerns to many opticians over the years, headaches, watery eyes, reading with one eye shut etc, not one optician told me about behavioural optometrists or ever recommended I saw one…
Maybe it’s got to do with the fact that the tests I had aren’t covered by the NHS. I had to pay for Ollie and me. I have to say that I don’t really understand why this should be anyway, vision is a fundamentally important part of who you are and how you interact with the world and if this is in anyway impaired it can have major consequences on your life as an adult and your life chances as a child. I now wonder how many children I have taught who were ‘a little disruptive’, ‘ not keen to write’ and the ubiquitous ‘is easily distracted’ might have been due to a behavioural eye problem? My son doesn’t read with his eyes and moves his head and as the optometrist said ‘you try writing when the letters keep moving and you can’t find the place where you were working’. Writing must have been hell for Ollie plus knowing that what he was managing to write wasn’t as good as his friends in the class. The marking from the teacher’s ‘You haven’t finished this Oliver’, and ‘you seemed distracted today Oliver’ all slowly hammered his self-esteem into the ground and when I joined in getting cross about why he wouldn’t write he simply shouted back at me ‘BECAUSE I CAN’T!!!’
I feel awful now. I’ve sat him down and apologised for how I was with him, for the fact it took me so long to get the answers for him and turning those answers into diagnoses and help. He’s lovely, hugs me tells me he loves me and says it’s okay and although it’s going to take me a while to forgive myself I think it’s okay with him.
So my son is under the Dyslexic umbrella though his needs within that umbrella are very specific. There are things we can change but there are things that are with him for life and learning strategies to deal and cope with them is the way forward. Finding out about my eyes has been amazing too and if I can work for longer without becoming so tired and even if I prevent 1 migraine then that, for me, would be fabulous.
I just wonder how many other adults there are out there with a similar problem who have been to the Drs or opticians and this hasn’t ever been mentioned to them. I also wonder that maybe if it had the cost would be prohibited for many. My son and I are lucky to have the funds to pay (incredibly lucky) but some children I’ve taught in the past would never have this open to them. Another thing that concerns me is that I never learned about this whilst I was training to be a teacher and I can honestly say that through my own reading and research from having a special needs child I have now learned so much about things that can hinder children’s education. Through identifying problems with my own child, gathering my own evidence (as I would a teacher) and then researching like heck I have taught myself so much about special needs in the classroom. Dyslexia was never mentioned during teacher training; neither were many of the common problems children in mainstream schools face. I think this was because the course I was on hadn’t caught up with the political changes when the government closed special needs schools and integrated them with mainstream school. Our college certainly wasn’t churning out teachers who were equipped to deal with the classrooms we would be faced with.
My story, though it’s taken years, has a happy ending. He and I are getting help – though we are paying for it and the things that are wrong with our eyes can be fixed and maintained. I really want, with this blog, to raise awareness that this science exists and that it can be a possibility for so many young children if their performance at school isn’t what it should be and I’m not talking about pushy parents I’m talking about children accessing a curriculum that gives them a bright future that they should be looking towards rather than years of hell in the classroom feeling they are not good enough.
Is this your child? Is this you? (It was me!) If so I have enclosed a link below to the British Association of Behavioural Optometrists. There are some explanations as to what it is and how it can help.