Parents often are surprised to discover their child’s learning problems in the classroom can be improved after their youngster has a thorough diagnosis of their vision.
Visual performance is much more than the acuity of focus, said Damon White, OD, who owns the Learning Enhancement Clinic Inc. in Edmond.
White is a residency-trained visual skills specialist. He specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of medical, visual skill disorders that effect children’s academic and sports performance.
White said because learning is 80 percent visual, even small visual deficiencies interfere with learning potential. His diagnosis and treatment of more than 40 vision skill deficiencies is not addressed in standard eye examinations.
Most of his patients’ inability to read or their lack of comprehension and speed has nothing to do with intelligence, he said, adding some children are frustrated while knowing they are not performing well at school.
"They feel a kind of self doubt at times or have a poor self-concept," he said.
However, their self-concept and self esteem improves as the result of proper diagnosis and treatment, said his wife and office manager Carie White.
She has a professional background in early childhood education. Students’ reading fluency and time needed for homework often are improved, she added.
Dr. White explains to young patients the scientific basis of their vision problems.
"But you have to make it pretty clear to them that it is something that can be resolved," Dr. White said. "…You can’t just go in their and say, ‘You have this medical, visual problem.’ They shouldn’t be scared of these things because they can be solved."
He said he entered his field of medicine so he could make a profound impact in children’s futures. He earned his doctorate from Northeastern State University College of Optometry, which is only one of 16 such schools in the United States.
His specialty practice does not offer prescriptions for glasses and contacts. How the visual system performs efficiently and automatically is his focus.
"Being able to coordinate the two eyes together is probably one of the biggest things," he explained.
Regular eye examinations often do not identify such disorders that need referral to a specialist. "Certainly, school screenings don’t pick up on them," Dr. White said.
Micro misalignment in the brain can produce eyestrain, resulting in eyes becoming tired when reading, he said.
"They will either see double, see blurry or one eye will be shut off," he said. "It comes from the fact the two eyes aren’t pointed exactly at the same spot."
But the children are not aware their vision is abnormal because they have no comparison to base it on.
Few of Dr. White’s patients have dyslexia. Dyslexia is diagnosed by ruling out other visual problems, said. Some of the other types of disorders he treats can be mistaken for dyslexia because symptoms cause a perceived reversal of letters.
Vision disorders also can be solved later in life. However, it is important to curtail the deficiencies early before symptoms possibly lead to other problems, such as depression, he added.
One of his adult patients sought treatment when entering medical school. His intense reading assignments made him realize he suffered a disorder that needed to be addressed.
Children are geared in their mind to make life choices — even career wise, Carie White said, adding that benefits from diagnostics and treatments last a lifetime. She said first through third grades are key periods of learning for children since first grade is when children learn to read and third grade involves reading to learn. So, she hopes teachers catch potential visual problems.
She said teachers often are frustrated because they don’t know how to counsel parents about seeking methods of treatment.
"If you [treat] them early, they don’t even remember what it was like before hand. They leave it behind them," she said.
Dr. White’s practice does not have an educational component, he said, but his wife’s educational background sometimes helps parents place in context the educational challenges their children face with vision disorders.
A typical patient has a diagnostic evaluation to determine how well vision functions in about 20 related skills. If deficiencies are noted, a regimented treatment program is recommended to normalize function.
"That’s one of good things about what we do— people talk about dyslexia a lot and [attention deficit disorder] — but they don’t offer solutions," Dr. White said. "And the neat thing about what we do is that these visual problems are able to be solved."