Why VT? – Part 3 – A Disorder of Your Deficit
Attention Deficit Disorder vs. Vision Therapy
How in the hell can you have a disorder of your deficit? ~ Dr. Donald Getz
Did you know that many of the symptoms listed for diagnosing A.D.D. actually mirror those of an inefficient visual system?
When it comes to those who believe in Vision Therapy and those who do not, it’s often been my contention that we should disengage from the turf war, focus on our own strengths, and not offer energy or credence to the direction of the wind when the naysayers blow their smoke. After all, your positive energy, and mine too, is best spent focusing on the amazing changes we make in someone’s life; not the he said/she said battle with our adversaries. Negative can only lead to one thing; more negative.
With that in mind, you’ll have to forgive me this time around because I’m about to break my own rule. There are dark sides to why people mislead about the benefits of Vision Therapy, and to help you appreciate the full picture, we need to discuss them. Hopefully you will understand that there’s a benefit in a close consideration of the factors involved that might help us to understand the elements of the battle, and in that knowledge, there is power.
So here we go…
There’s plenty of research based information out there about Vision Therapy and why it works, from CITT to PEDIG and beyond. But still, after speaking to another professional who criticized Vision Therapy, many parents will ask for evidence that Vision Therapy works on the specific diagnosis they are facing. They don’t want anecdotes, they don’t want musings, they don’want testimonials. They want – no, check that – they demand evidence demonstrating that this is the proper choice for them. Considering the commitment of time and resources, it makes perfect sense. In their shoes, if my child were struggling, I’m sure my approach would be similar. They want to know that this intervention is actually going to help.
And that’s when it happens…
“Doctor So-and-So says there is no evidence that Vision Therapy works on (insert your particular diagnosis here) and in fact, he/she got very defensive when I asked about it. They told me VT is just a waste of time and money. Can you provide proof that what you’re saying is true?”
If there was ever an appropriate name for this moment, it might be the abyss. Because another professional has referred to Vision Therapy as ineffective, Developmental Optometry is expected to fill a bottomless pit with research to justify what we already know and what has already been proven. Invariably, this is also the moment when many prospective patients decide to partake in Vision Therapy, or not, depending on how the presented research is perceived. Sadly, once cast in a negative light by other doctors, Vision Therapy is sometimes never given the chance to improve the lives of those who may need it most. That is a painful pill to swallow, and yet this has been a battle we all have been fighting for years, and the fight continues.
The same principles don’t seem to apply to ADD/ADHD medications though. Many parents are led to believe that the best solution out there is running to their doctor to request the latest and greatest pharmaceutical cocktail to treat their child’s inability to pay attention or follow the lesson in class, because somehow it’s abnormal for 8 year-olds to run, jump and be silly. Most parents give their kids these medications willingly without asking for research demonstrating its effectiveness or curative value because someone they trust has led them to believe that medication is the only answer. These are the same doctors, by the way, who are referring to Vision Therapy as witchcraft.
So let’s step back for a moment and consider the big picture. Why does putting a chemical into a child’s body not raise cause for concern, but asking them to perform exercises designed to increase ocular strength, build binocular coordination, improve efficiency of eye movements and enhance visual perception and attention raise red flags? Seems a bit backwards, does it not? Why not try rehabilitative care first and use the medication as a Plan B if the symptoms persist? How many kids are on their fourth, fifth, or sixth different medication and still searching for the desired result? Why don’t we ask for research based evidence demonstrating that this next round of medication will actually help their child’s challenges in the first place? This is one phenomenon that will never make sense to me.
Just to remove the appearance that I’ve become some sort of conspiracy theorist, I want to clearly state my belief that A.D.D. is a real thing and I know many people, including kids, struggle with it. But my point here is very simple. There is very little evidence that medication has curative value with A.D.D., the way antibiotics fight bacteria. ADD and ADHD medication makes the symptoms more manageable, yes, but that’s all. Conversely, Vision Therapy actually impacts neurological function and among other things, improves attention, all through exercise and repetition. One is managing symptoms and one is treating the cause.
Oddly enough, the Wall Street Journal posted this article back in 2013 which details how little effect ADD/ADHD drugs actually have on academic performance, and yet their use it at an all time high.
This link may explain why.