VT and Special Populations
It can sometimes be a challenge to try to understand the visual processing mechanism of a patient in the Vision Therapy room. Somewhere in there we are hoping to understand what they see, how they interpret, what their filter allows and dismisses, and how they are using that information to create a response. Under the best of circumstances we ask endless questions, constantly shaping and molding the environment in hopes of leading our patients into the relative visual unknown, and forever striving towards that “ah ha” moment. It’s not always easy, and to be perfectly honest, it’s a process that has humbled even the most gifted Vision Therapists.
So what about the patients who cannot communicate verbally or the patients who are developmentally delayed? Or patients who are constantly stimming or need some special something or other to make it through a session? What if a patient is wearing adult diapers, or who has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome or a Spectrum Disorder? What about the patients who have had a serious head injury or neurological event and now require around the clock care?
Please turn up your computer speakers and listen carefully to the following message:
We are still going to try.
Vision Therapy from my side of the table is a challenge. Tapping into a patient’s visual world and hoping to help them see and visually process more efficiently is a challenge day in and day out for many reasons, but never has that challenge been so great, or so rewarding, as when one of my special needs patients is in the office. My reasoning is simple – they keep me on my toes.
Parents of special needs kids can be protective of their children – even over protective at times – and I get it, I really do. The world can be cruel place, and for kids with special needs the judgment and social resistance can be even more fierce. It’s sad, but true. But what’s also true is that in my little bubble (aka my VT Room) that judgment ceases to exist, as it does in many VT rooms around the world. Quite simply put, if we need to get on the floor with them and sit in the dark, we will. If we need to adapt to their over-sized wheel chair, we will. If they need to bring a stuffed animal with them to ease their stress, we’ll work with it. If they are 10 years old and still wearing a diaper, it’s ok.
Not long ago I received an email from the mom of a 10 year old young man who has been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. In part, she wrote:
“…there are days he has to wear diaper to school and is laughed at incessantly. Most of the time he is oblivious, so we are thankful for that, but I’m always careful about where I take him and who he will see. His spirit is so pure and fragile, and I fear that when he grows older he will start to realize why people are laughing. New doctor’s offices can always be an adventure, and not always a good one, so my husband and I would like to visit first before we introduce (our son) to a new environment…”
Now that’s commitment. If I could bottle up a message for those families of special needs patients who are considering Vision Therapy, it would simply be this:
Come as you are. We want to help.