It’s Mother’s Day. What’s your image of a mother? Surely, we associate a good mother with a woman who is warm, loving, and caring. When I think about mothers, all this comes to mind but so does another characteristic, one I associate with my own parent. My mother was gentle and soft-spoken. She avoided confrontation. Yet, when I struggled in school because of my crossed eyes, she took on the school principal, refused to believe his pronouncement that I was a “dim bulb,” and taught me how to read when the schools gave up on me. There is often no better advocate for a child than their own mother.

 If you want to read a heartfelt story of one mother’s struggle and triumph to improve her daughter’s life, read Jillian’s Story by Robin Benoit. Jillian suffered from amblyopia (lazy eye); she had very poor acuity in one eye even though the eye itself was healthy. The condition was discovered one day when Jillian was in preschool. Her teacher dressed Jillian up as a pirate and, unwittingly, put a patch over the child’s good eye. Jillian freaked out so badly that Robin was immediately called in for a conference. The preschool director suggested to Robin that the child might be suffering from psychological problems. Robin sought medical advice, and her daughter’s amblyopia was diagnosed.

To treat her amblyopia, Jillian’s good eye was patched in order to force a better connection between her amblyopic eye and her brain. After several years, the acuity of Jillian’s weak eye improved dramatically, but this wasn’t enough. Jillian still struggled in school – with handwriting, math, reading aloud, and getting her assignments done on time. She avoided sports. Despite good acuity in both eyes, Jillian’s vision wasn’t normal. More needed to be done.

While patching increases the strength of connections between the amblyopic eye and the brain, it does not address the underlying cause of amblyopia — a poor ability to use the two eyes together. Jillian needed to learn how to use the amblyopic eye together with the fellow eye when both eyes were open. This is where optometric vision therapy came in.

Robin found out about optometric vision therapy on the Internet. She contacted the local developmental optometrist, Dr. James Horning, whose examination probed far more than eye acuity. Jillian had poor eye movement control, poor eye teaming, poor depth perception, poor visual attention and processing speed, and poor movement coordination. After fifteen months of vision therapy customized to correct these problems, Robin writes, “[Jillian] has gone from a child who saw no value or excitement in shopping in a bookstore to one who could not wait to buy a Harry Potter, Twilight, or Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief book. Not only did she buy them, she read them with great joy…Jillian is now much more aware of her surroundings…[She] can swim like a fish, sink a basketball into a hoop, and hit a tennis ball…She loves riding her bike and scooter, and I don’t worry as much as I used to about her safety.”

Congratulations to Robin Benoit and to all the mothers out there who never stop looking for solutions to their child’s problem. Our lives are infinitely richer because of them.

About the Author

Susan Barry by Rosalie Winard

Susan R. Barry, Ph.D., is a professor of neurobiology in the Department of Biological Sciences at Mount Holyoke College and the author of Fixing My Gaze (June, 2009).

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