From Jose’s Mom” Vision therapy enabled Jose to change directions in his life, perhaps even saving his life”.

Jose’s mom-

When I adopted my son, Jose, from Guatemala at age 2 years and 8 months, it was clear that his early life and even the fact of adoption had left him with behavior challenges. He was a bright, energetic toddler with an engaging smile, but he had some language delays and had trouble complying with everyday activities. This was not surprising given the hurdles that had been placed in his path in his first two years. He proceeded through the usual toddler stages of accomplishments and went to pre-school for two years before entering kindergarten at Roxbury Central School. He thrived in his first two years, then had to face increased academic expectations that came with reading decreased print-size. At the same time, his non-compliant behavior at home had increased to a level that required therapy and eventually medication, and teachers began reporting “defiance” at school. At home and at school he did not respond to incentive plans that required him to recognize the link between behavior and consequences. School physical did not reveal any vision problems and testing by the school psychologist did not indicate any actionable learning disabilities, though some of Jose’s scores were close to the numbers that would have brought help. He was placed in a one-on-one reading program in first grade that was very successful, but in subsequent years the group approach for slow readers was not successful for him. Was his non-compliant tendency becoming defiance or at least getting in the way of reading?

Jose’s behavior at home became more challenging through 4th and 5th grade, with increased counseling, medication, opening a Department of Social Services case, aggressive behavior requiring police calls, trips to crisis centers, and respite stays at DSS group homes, and eventually a week-long stay at a children’s psychiatric hospital for evaluation and medication adjustment. During this period Jose developed a condition called encopresis, withholding the bowel which caused difficult to control hygiene issues at home and at school and eventually damaged his lower digestive tract. But from the point of view of his school, he was a normal kid who refused to do his classwork and homework and who was so determined to manipulate adults and get his way that he purposely refused to take care of his condition in a hygienic way. They also believed that his reports of stomach pain at home and school were more evidence of his attempts to get his own way and not go to class. At the end of 6th grade, Jose returned to the children’s psychiatric hospital and was put on a list for an adolescent home for 7th graders. He returned home for 8th grade, challenging his own school by refusing to attend classes. At home he returned to his aggressive, physically dangerous and self-destructive behavior patterns.

It broke my heart to have to charge him with property damage which led to probation, and then a commitment to foster care. By this time his self-esteem was at a low ebb, as evidenced by his depressed and careless demeanor and sloppy appearance. At this point it looked like Jose was on a downward spiral that would result in his spending the rest of his childhood in “the system” hopefully not actually incarcerated. But just before he started foster care at the end of 8th grade, Roxbury Central School referred him to a behavior management classroom through the regional BOCES program. Jose was immediately relieved of the punitive school process that had deprived him of playing soccer, one of his few areas of success and satisfaction. The teacher found academic areas in which he could achieve, and encouraged him to manage his hygiene without the accusations he had experienced in regular school. By the end of his three months in this progressive educational setting, the teacher and Jose’s counselor were convinced he had problems with his vision and referred us to Dr. Robert Fox, who had successfully treated the teacher’s own daughter. With support from Delaware County DSS, Jose was evaluated and found to have three vision disabilities: little peripheral vision, difficulty tracking, and convergence issues. ln other words, he could only see well directly in front, his eyes became painfully tired when moving from one word to the next in a sentence, and his brain did not make one image out of the two images seen by his two eyes – leaving him with double or at least blurred vision, most likely since birth.

When Jose began foster care in a county group home, DSS made sure he was transported to Dr. Fox’s clinic every week where he received a detailed therapy program that continued for over a year. During that year Jose’s increased vision skills began to emerge, with the result that in the spring he could play baseball for the first time and no longer had to twist his head back and forth to keep his eyes on the ball in soccer. At a BOCES special education high school, similar to his previous behavior classroom, he has encountered greater and greater success academically and is a successful member of the district school’s varsity soccer team. He went from failing grades at Roxbury Central School, to passing grades in his first behavior classroom, to the honor role at his high school. By the middle of vision therapy, he was reading chapter books for the first time since third grade!

Now at the end of vision therapy everyone can see the difference in Jose’s appearance and self-presentation. He goes to school willingly, takes his medications regularly, and has been able to return home where he is making progress in compliance with hygiene and household routines and is working to control anger and aggressiveness. He is a sought-after volunteer at a local living history museum, at church events and music festivals and was successfully employed this past summer in a teen work program.

Jose is definitely an example of the association of convergence therapy with improved behavior. Better vision skills can most likely be credited with Jose’s improved school performance and increased self-esteem. Less clear is how vision therapy improved his behavior. Has his behavior improved just because he feels better about himself? No doubt that is a factor. But in his behavioral recovery, Jose has shown a great increase in his ability to evaluate the connection between his behaviors and positive or negative consequences, a thinking tool that he did not have previously. Perhaps there is something about convergence, a brain function, that affects Jose’s behavior or his thought processing about behavior.

Whatever the case, vision therapy enabled Jose to change directions in his life, perhaps even saving his life. He is now thinking about college and careers, confident that he can access and master the materials and resources he needs to succeed. I offer my unending thanks to Jose’s teacher and counselor, and to Dr. Fox and his staff, for their insight and skills that have given my son a chance to live his life – a chance that was so nearly taken away.

Category: Success Stories

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