A Sit Down – with Melissa Snyder COVT
This post appears as part of a series called Sit Down – candid conversations with real people detailing their journeys and experiences with Vision Therapy.
A Sit Down – with Melissa Snyder COVT
Interviewed by: Melody Lay COVT
For the benefit of our readers, can you explain how you are involved in Developmental Optometry?
I am a certified optometric vision therapist working under the supervision of two wonderful developmental optometrists at Roswell Eye Clinic in Roswell, GA. Dr. Sharon Berger, FCOVD and Dr. Jennifer Dattolo, FCOVD offer our patients the benefit of primary optometric care guided by the compassion and understanding of the developmental approach with vision therapy available for those that will benefit from the program. I serve as the lead therapist in our practice over-seeing the daily operations of the therapy department, train new therapists, and provide guidance in the implementation of the activities programmed for each therapy session.
How did you first hear of Development Optometry?
I was fortunate enough to be offered a position (at Roswell Eye Clinic) as an optometric technician while attending college at Kennesaw State University. During those years, I remember envying the vision therapists that were there as I passed the vision therapy room. They were having so much fun with their patients! That was where the interest sparked and my understanding of developmental optometry grew from there.
Congratulations on completing your COVT last week in San Diego. Can you describe your preparation in all phases of the process?
The certification process has three stages; the nine open book essay questions, the written exam, and the oral interview. Perhaps it was intimidation of the unknown, or simply insecurity with preparedness, but the open book questions were the most challenging for me. I had read and learned a great deal in the six years I had been a therapist, but I felt there were pieces missing. So, in preparation for these questions I read even more! I borrowed books from my doctors and asked for recommended references to try and fill any gaps in understanding that were present. I focused a great deal of attention on the literature that was written by some of the optometric “Great minds”. I reviewed notes of previously attended courses from COVD and sought a more comprehensive understanding of the why and how vision therapy is effective. And I asked my mentor and doctors questions to clarify when I felt I needed help. This was definitely the most rewarding part of the process! I did fill in the missing pieces and the knowledge I gained through such intense study has made me a better therapist! It also lessened some of the anxiety I may have felt before the written test.
For the written test, I studied areas from the COVD suggested outline of topics. I concentrated my time on the areas I felt the least familiar with, but gave some review to all of the topics listed.
In preparation for the oral interview, I further investigated the areas of comment from the open book questions. And the night before the interview, I went over once more, my responses with the doctors. I am so grateful for the doctors and my mentor that supported and encouraged me through this entire process! Thank you to Dr. Sharon Berger FCOVD, Dr. Jennifer Dattolo FCOVD, Dr. Nadira Shadeed FCOVD, Dr. Joe Rouw FCOVD, and Melody Lay COVT. I truly appreciate all you did to help me through this process!
Since the COVT process is designed to be a process of learning, how would you qualify and quantify your learning as you progressed through certification?
The certification process has been carefully designed to guide the continued learning of those seeking the certification. And it truly accomplishes that goal! I believe that a truly talented, skilled therapist has an intrinsic motivation to seek out answers and problem solve in an effort to achieve the most beneficial and effective outcome for the patients. It is this desire to help others that drives the therapist. And through this, if we are aware, we learn from every patient, every class, every activity. We begin to ask ourselves questions that lead us to those “A-HA” moments when we truly gain an understanding for a new skill, a new technique, a different approach. While I have learned a great deal though the certification process, it is the interaction and feedback from the patients from which I learn daily. But is has been this process that has bonded together all those moments of understanding into a unified concept.
Many candidates are in the process for COVT for the April meeting of COVD in Vegas. What advice would you give them?
Never stop learning. With every answer you find, there will be more questions. That is one of the most wonderful things about this profession. However, seeing the reward in changing lives for the better is the ultimate gratification.
Study all you can, but know that everyone beside you in this process is truly here to help. Ask your doctors and mentor questions to help guide you to the answers you seek, but be motivated to research the topic first. Follow the study guide and when writing the OBQ’s, reread them on different days to be sure you have expressed your thoughts in a concise, effective manner.
Learn about the pioneers of vision therapy and their approaches. Gain a solid understanding of the mechanics of the sight and the difference between sight and vision. Visualize your achievement, seek clear expression and good communication…and last but not least, Breathe! It’s an amazing journey. Try to enjoy the ride!
Having just gone through your oral interview, can you describe that process?
The oral interview is the final phase (and perhaps the most intimidating) in the process. I strongly recommend taking the written portion prior to the annual meeting if possible. Once the written test is passed, if taken early, it lends plenty of time to prepare for the oral interview. Because the interview is based on the comments received on the OBQ’s, it is clear what you will be asked. While I was anxious to be speaking to my esteemed peers, I felt prepared in my understanding of the material. I arrived at the meeting room 20 minutes early. Not that they expect that! I just felt I needed to be calm more than anything. I reviewed my thoughts and all the comments the night before. The day of, I focused on being relaxed and in the moment. I visualized myself being calm and speaking clearly. I took countless deep breathes. And when my two interviewers welcomed me into the meeting room 10 minutes early, I was ready. They were kind and calm. Smiling, we all shook hands as they introduced themselves. They asked the questions just as they had been written on the OBQ comments. What a relief! There were no surprises. And if I didn’t say exactly what they were trying to get the first time, they asked another question that guided me to the information that wanted to verify I knew. And some things we simply talked about. It was far less nerve wrecking than I had imagined in the beginning. And the OBQ’s and written exam were wonderful prep so that I felt secure in the knowledge. My advice, just stay calm and you’ll do great!
What advice would you give to therapist who may be considering certification?
Do it! I had reservations for years. It seemed like far too great a challenge. Now, I am so thankful I changed my mind! I am proud of my achievement. I am honored to say I am a part of COVD. I have found the greatest reward in knowing that by completing this process, I am a more capable therapist.
How would you describe yourself in the therapy room?
The title I would give myself is a spirited guide. My demeanor and expressiveness largely depends on the patient I am working with at the time. If it is a very young child, I am playful and often silly. If the patient is very sensitive and/or someone with special needs I am softer and less animated. With adult patients, I feel much more like a teacher that explains the “why” of a certain procedure. But, I am always their personal cheerleader….celebrating a high score, a goal that has been met, or a challenge that has been overcome. I would like to think I am inviting, warm, and supportive. I attempt to connect with every patient I am fortunate enough to work with.
Are there any particular cases or an age group you enjoy working with in therapy?
Earlier in my career I appreciated working with children the most. I felt a great sense of satisfaction knowing that I was making a difference early in their life. That the gains they made would assist them throughout their life. And while I still feel that way, it is the adult population that I find personally more rewarding at the moment. These are people that have often lost what they once had….a functional visual system. They know what they have lost and their motivation to regain it is an inspiration to me! On a more person level, I have a close family member that has gone blind. I have witnessed the slow progression of vision loss. I have seen what this loss does to someone. It closes in their world, it strips away all that they once loved to look upon…the faces of family members, books they read, the ability to drive or even navigate their own body independently through space. It is debilitating. And in this circumstance, there is no solution currently available. I believe this is why the adult population of vision therapy patients resonates so strongly with me. If I can help them regain what they have lost, then I have truly made a difference.
It is actually quite the contrary. Vision therapy has help to mold me into the parent I am today. I am blessed to have experienced working with so many other children before I had Jacob. I have learned how to guide learning. I have played with every age group. I owe a debt of gratitude to all the young patients that have shaped my understanding of human development and the milestones along the way. They have been my teachers and my son has reaped the rewards. I know I would not be as supportive, as patient, and as flexible in my approaches with him if it hadn’t been for all those wonderful young patients! As for what parenting has taught me….well, I say “no” much easier now! 🙂
COVD completed another fabulous meeting last weekend in San Diego. Apart from your accomplishment of COVT, what were some of your highlights?
What an amazing time! The beautiful bay area with all it has to offer was such a fabulous location! I was lucky enough to plan a little extra time to spend with personal family and friends before the meeting started. And celebrating my newly acquired COVT was the icing on the cake, so to speak. I love the annual meetings for a number of reasons. The courses that are offered always bring a new insight or new activity that I had not yet experienced. This year it was the neuro-rehabilitation presentation that grabbed my attention and the amazing results that are coming from working with prism and the vestibular system. I gained three new activities to share with my patients and will be getting a book recommended by Dr. Torgerson that should further help to shape my understanding of human behavior and encourage better cooperation and teamwork in the office. Of course, I always enjoy seeing friends/colleagues from other states and catching up at the meetings as well. I’m looking forward to Las Vegas! Hope to see everyone there!
Some Closing Thoughts – A great thanks to Melissa for this interview! It was my privilege to mentor her through the process this year. Her spirit and compassion are contagious to anyone who has met her! Developmental Optometry is fortunate to have her! Please join me in congratulating Melissa on her recent COVT, and in wishing she and her son the absolute best! 🙂