With Better Reading

"Before therapy, reading was a chore.  I couldn't study and hardly ever read for fun.  Since therapy, however, reading is much easier and even enjoyable.  Everyone used to tell me that I just wasn't working hard enough.  "You are so smart, why don't you apply yourself better?" was a common phrase around the house when grades came.  Now I realize that I wasn't just lazy.  there was a real problem.  Thanks to vision therapy, that problem has been corrected."

At Cook Vision Therapy, approximately 80 percent of our patients come to us because of unexplained struggles with reading.  

All too often these unexplained reading problems are related to undiagnosed problems with the "7 Visual Abilities." To understand this, let's look at a passage from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as it might appear to someone with an eye-muscle coordination problem as the letters run together. In the paragraph below, a dozen letters have been moved as they frequently are for those suffering from eye coordination problems:  

The old lady pulled hers pectaclesd own and looked overt hem about the room; then shep ut them up and looked out under them.  She seldom or neverl ooke dthrough them for so small a  thing as a boy; they were her state pair, thep ride of her heart, and wereb uilt for "style," not service--shec ould have seen through a pair of stove-lidsj ust a  swell.

Now let's reread this passage without the visual interference, with the print stable, not running together. 

The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She seldom or never looked through them for so small a thing as a boy; they were her state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built for "style," not service—she could have seen through a pair of stove-lids just as well.

If we study the first, distorted paragraph again, we can, with effort, figure out the words; the letters are all there and in the correct order.  For someone struggling not to see this way when reading, the amount of work would very rapidly cause fatigue.  Anything would be preferable to further reading.

And how about phonics, the ability to match letters with there sounds? How would an eye muscle problem affect phonics? Suppose a reader has been taught all the sounds of the letters A, C, F, I, T, and SH.  Now, suppose you show the reader the word CATFISH and the letters dance and move and run together to look like this:

Rather than have to confront this mess, the reader finds it easier to look at just the first letter or letters and guess.

For the child or adult who understands easily when being read to, and who can already sound out words, and who reads well for a sentence or two and then rapidly fatigues and loses comprehension, vision therapy, all by itself, can make an immediate and significant improvement in reading ability.

But what about readers who are still struggling to learn how to recognize words?  Such reading problems are covered on our What is Dyslexia? page.

These readers have to work so hard at decoding the words that the effort triggers the eye-muscle coordination problem we've already discussed, and now the reader has to sound out the word with the print "dancing," blurring or running together. The effort is too much. Readers who have problems with reading itself cannot get by with "average" eye-muscle coordination. They need "exceptional" eye-muscle coordination to compensate for the difficulty sounding out words.

After working with a reading specialist, the reader may be able to decode words. However, even though the reader can now figure out the words, poor eye-muscle coordination can still cause the reader to tire out, especially when the print is smaller. The child or adult who can read large print or words on flashcards, but rebels when asked to read smaller print in a paragraph, or automatically closes the book when the print is smaller, frequently has difficulty with eye-muscle coordination.

In summary, a program of vision therapy can allow a reader with an "unexplained" reading problem to begin to respond to good teaching. And if that reader can already decode words, then vision therapy can turn a labored reader into one who has the eye-muscle coordination to become a fluent reader.

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