An Indigo Dilemma: Learning Disabled or Not?
An Indigo Dilemma: Learning Disabled or Not?
By Dorene Graham
With so many of the Indigos being diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, and other learning disabilities, I thought some might find the following of interest. We experienced these difficulties before we discovered the Indigo information, but my daughter, Jessie, displays many of the Indigo traits. I should add as an aside that visual training proved beneficial, but we are also exploring “whole-brain” educational methods such as multiple intelligences. Also, if you look at natural learning models, such as the Sudbury School model, you’ll see that the only learning disabled they encounter are those who have lost the ability to learn naturally through play. I’ve no doubt that the Indigos will teach us many new ways of learning. Meanwhile, I hope the following information will prove helpful to some.
According to Natural Health magazine, twenty five percent of all children having trouble in school and seventy-three percent of children labeled with learning disabilities such as Dyslexia, or Attention Deficit Disorder actually suffer from visual processing problems. Dr. Jeffrey H. Getzell, a behavioral optometrist, puts this estimate at eighty percent for those labeled with LD. Symptoms like distractibility, fidgetiness, impulsiveness, low self-esteem, reading problems, and reversal of numbers and letters associated with LD are also frequent results of vision problems.
I stumbled on the world of behavioral optometry quite by accident, and am forever grateful I did. I suspected for a number of years that my oldest daughter was mildly dyslexic. She reversed letters well into the 5th grade, hated to read, and struggled with reading comprehension. I went through years of teachers’ conferences where they kept telling me she was fine, all the kids were having similar problems, and Jessie consistently made the honor roll, so I shouldn’t worry.
In the 4th grade, where the curriculum became much more reading intensive and texts dropped to a smaller font size, she started bringing home D’s and F’s. She complained of headaches and her self-esteem plummeted. Homework became a nightmare. I can’t tell you the number of times we stayed up past midnight trying to get her through it. She’d cry and say she was stupid. My heart was breaking.
Nearly a year later, I stumbled on an ad for a local optometrist who practiced behavioral optometry, which relates vision to not only the eyes, but also the brain, and the body. I had had Jessie’s vision checked and her acuity (her ability to identify letters on the eye-chart) was fine, but what I didn’t know was that reading involves much more than acuity. A myriad of problems can occur when the eyes don’t function together as a team, and none of them will show up on a regular eye exam. Nearly 80% of visual perception and comprehension depend on the efficiency of over 20 visual abilities.
Jessie was diagnosed with a convergence insufficiency. Basically, that means she couldn’t cross her eyes. The eyes are supposed to each take a picture of the same image, and then relay those pictures to the brain where the brain overlaps them into one image. Her eyes didn’t converge enough when reading to take a picture of the same object. When reading the word “cat” for instance, one eye would see “c”, the other “a”, and her brain would overlay them and try to make them into one image. It’s amazing she ever learned to read at all.
The solution was so easy, it was anticlimactic following the years of torment we’d suffered. After three months of vision therapy, where she did eye exercises for five minutes twice a day, her vision problem was corrected for life. She immediately became a voracious reader. To this day, one of her greatest rewards is a trip to the bookstore.
According to Parents Active for Vision Education (P.A.V.E) nearly one in every four school age children suffer from learning related vision problems. Many of them are misdiagnosed with learning disabilities and develop behavioral problems. You can only imagine what this does to self-esteem. When looking at juvenile delinquents the numbers rise even more.
Following are some symptoms to watch for in determining if your child might have a vision-related problem (taken from P.A.V.E.’s “Hidden Disability” brochure):
* Red, sore, or itching eyes
* Jerky eye movements, one eye turning in or out
* Squinting, eye rubbing, or excessive blinking
* Blurred or double vision
* Headaches, dizziness, or nausea after reading
* Head tilting, closing or blocking one eye when reading
* Avoidance of near work
* Frequent loss of place
* Omits, inserts, or rereads letters/words
* Confuses similar looking words
* Failure to recognize the same word in the next sentence
* Poor reading comprehension
* Letter or word reversals after first grade
* Difficulty copying from the chalkboard
* Poor handwriting, misaligns numbers
* Book held too close to the eyes
* Inconsistent or poor sports performance
* Smart in everything but school
* Low self-esteem, poor self image
* Temper flare-ups, aggressiveness
* Frequent crying
* Short attention span
* Fatigue, frustration, stress
* Day dreaming
When visiting an optometrist, ask for a comprehensive learning related vision exam that will evaluate eye movement control, focusing near to far, sustaining clear focus, eye teaming ability, depth perception, visual motor integration, form perception, and visual memory.