Living with a Vision Processing Disorder

Living with a Vision Processing Disorder

She sits at her desk, scrawling quickly as she focuses on copying information from the board to her notes, her head bobbing up and down at a quick pace every time she finishes a word or so. She can see the words clearly on the wall in front of her. It should be easy and quick to do, but for some reason, she can’t comprehend what she is trying to write on her piece of paper. Her own, quick scribbles of notes are illegible, even to her. They will be of no use to her during study, and yet she still tries to get the information down. Within the next second, after looking back up at the board, she realizes the notes are gone, and her teacher has continued on to the next portion of the lesson. The only thing she has received through trying to get simple information down is a headache from the constant up and down movement of her head and the slow crumble of her self-confidence.

Examples like the one above are results of a vision disability called Visual Information Processing Disorder, which is an umbrella term for multiple disorders in the brain. Visual Information Processing Disorder makes it difficult for the eye to fully process what it is seeing and send it properly back to the brain.

“When the eye sees an image, the image itself may be clear, but it may not get back to the brain clearly,” Dr. Jeslyn Sabol said. “Visual Information Processing Disorder means the eye is not correlating with the brain to get the individual information they need. This can impair learning, reading, writing, perceptual issues, understanding math and memory, following directions or copying directions. Eighty percent of learning is visual, so you can imagine if you have a problem processing the information that you’re learning, it can greatly impact your education.”

When the eye sees an image, the image itself may be clear, but it may not get back to the brain clearly

Most people have never heard of Visual Information Processing Disorder. Most children with this disorder are diagnosed with more commonly known visual and behavioral disorders such as dyslexia or ADHD. The majority of children with Visual Information Processing Disorder are being deprived of the resources and needs to strengthen the weaknesses in their eyes. Some people have gone their entire lives thinking they weren't good enough because they were diagnosed with something they don’t have.

“A lot of times, vision processing disorders get treated as a behavioral issue and the root of the problem is never solved,” Peoplefund developer Amber Cooney said. “People go through their entire lives potentially missing out on their full potential. They never learned how to read correctly, and they never developed a love for learning as a result.”

LOVI, acronym for ‘Let’s Overcome Vision Impairment’, is a nonprofit created especially to help underserved children, such as foster children or poverty stricken children, get the diagnoses and therapy need to overcome vision impairment disorders.

“We went to the visual processing specialist, we watched a DVD that gave facts of children in the juvy system and adults in the prison,” LOVI founder Monica Miller said.“The percentages of people in these institutions with processing disorders were in the high 80s and 90s, and their needs aren’t being met. The main goal for LOVI is to become a national organization, instead of just working in central Texas right now, because this need is everywhere. Right now though, we are working on applying for grants. Eventually we want to be able to have the money, which is at least five thousand per child for a six months time frame.”

Unlike dyslexia or ADHD, Visual Information Processing Disorder is mostly caused by a weak muscle in the eye, that can be strengthened, and fixed easily. The way to strengthen these muscles is by vision therapy, which is similar to physical therapy, only it’s a collection of physical and visual exercises meant to strengthen the muscles in your eye. Despite the word vision in the title, vision therapy is also meant to help the child’s brain and body.

“Vision therapy is an individualized program, meaning it can be tailored to whatever the individual needs help with,” Dr. Sabol said. “The program is usually six to twelve months long that helps students or even adults learn to compensate for their vision or processing issues and even overcome them in most cases.”

LOVI is a relatively young nonprofit, and has only been established for a few months now. The process to establish this nonprofit began in February, and has taken of soaring since then. The usual length it takes for a nonprofit to become registered is around four months. For LOVI, it only took five weeks and five days, which is record-breaking time.

The most important thing we’re doing is providing better, improved access for underserved youth, to be able to get this vision therapy that is so important,” Sabol said. “Unfortunately, vision therapy does come with a high financial cost. There’s a reason for that, I mean it’s an amazing service and it’s just one of those things, but being able to provide that therapy for students is going to be amazing.”

Because processing disorders aren’t commonly known, LOVI has been working on spreading awareness around the community, and educating the public. One of LOVI’s biggest goals is to educate and inform about vision processing. The more the public knows about this issue, the more that awareness will help optometrists understand just what is going on with their patients’ eyes. And it’s not just doctors that LOVI is trying to inform. It seeks to help educate  social workers and counselors become more aware of vision processing disorders.

“Understanding vision processing disorders, how to determine if they know someone with a problem, and understanding what can be done are the first steps people can do to help support us,”  Cooney said. “Also, I say donating, but what that means a lot of times is donating time, talent and treasure. People always think that if you’re going to donate, it’s donating cash. But really it’s about donating time. If you have a weekend, or a special skill, such as speaking Spanish, then that is a good donation in itself. There are all different ways to give to an organization. Time, talent and treasure is always something that’s helpful.”

According to Miller, the astounding speed of the progression and registration of LOVI has made the board members, along with everyone else just stand back in awe and wonder  at the progress. It showed them just how important LOVI is and the great need that it has been created to fulfill. And they are more than ready to fulfill it.

If we can get these kids help and vision therapy at a young age, they won’t fall far behind

“If we can get these kids help and vision therapy at a young age, they won’t fall far behind,” Cooney said. “They will be able read and learn, have an education, and they will be able to go to college and do great things. And who knows? Maybe the next Einstein will have some vision therapy and be able to cure cancer.”

- McKenzie
written at age 17

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