Listen up autistic spectrum parents! ADHD? You come too.
If you have a child on the spectrum, I would suggest running, not walking, to the nearest book store (or on-line store) and ordering Dr. Melvin Kaplan’s Seeing Through New Eyes.
After reading his book I made an appointment and he evaluated both my kids on Thursday and Friday.
First of all. My children have 20/20 visual acuity. They can read a chart like nobody’s business. Any “typical” eye doctor would say they see just fine.
But imagine this scenario….
The doctor has a whiffle ball hanging on a string from the ceiling. He tells Riley they will play catch. He lets it go, and as it travels toward her, she flinches. It hits her in the face as she unsuccessfully tries to grab it. They try several times. She never does catch the ball.
He puts a pair of prism lenses on her and sends the ball in her direction. She reaches out and snatches it. No flinching.
Next he takes a rolling pin, and asks her to hold both ends. With the prism lenses still on he sails the ball her way and she bats it with the surface of the rolling pin. She nails it every time. The look on her face is precious. She’s stoked. Without being asked, she continues, counting to 100. She doesn‘t miss once. Until this moment I’ve never seen a determined look on her face when doing anything physical or athletic.
I could go on and on about the exam, but the gist is, her ambient vision is incredibly messed up (while her focal vision is fine). This doctor claims we can fix that, and he says when we do, her anxiety will go out the window. Well, ladies and gentlemen, anxiety is the major issue left here. Get rid of that and this girl is going to FLY!
Dr. Kaplan is an older gentleman with a calm relaxed demeanor. During Riley's evaluation he said offhandedly in his NY accent,
"This one is really bright. She's gonna be just fine." I reached out and snatched his sentiment like Riley snatched that ball and tucked it in close to my heart. I believe it.
She'll need to wear glasses for a about a year and it will require a commitment from us to do vision therapy using prism lenses at home, for twenty minutes, twice a day.
But wait! There’s more! Let’s talk about the boy.
Since we were there with the expert we had Seth evaluated too. Turns out, Seth’s eyes are not functioning in tandem. They are taking turns. Therefore, he can’t attend to anything for too long. Therefore, he is up and down from the dinner table, 100 times during a meal because he literally can’t sit still. Therefore he jumps on the couch constantly rather than just sitting to watch TV. This explains why he is constantly butting into us like a little ram. The doctor did a bunch of exercises with him that called for using both eyes together and after less than 20 minutes Seth was slumped in his chair, rubbing his eyes, exhausted from the effort.
Might we have just saved ourselves an ADHD diagnosis down the road?
Dr. Kaplan says kids like Seth often become class clowns to cover up the hard time they are having in school. (We already see this in him to some extent).
He says once the eyes are working properly, new permanent maps in the brain will be made. The kids won’t need glasses once those maps are locked in place.
So, by next week, both my babies will be wearing glasses and looking cuter than ever, (if that’s even possible)?
It’s gonna be a great year.
*There are a lot of doctors doing “vision therapy” but few are doing what this guy is doing. I would suggest reading the book if you are interested in prism lenses/vision therapy. Dr. Kaplan also works with adults. He's in Tarrytown NY.