It was an exciting day when Real Connections warmly welcomed Dr. Derek Tong, who works with children as well as adults as a vision development optometrist. I was looking forward to the training session because in the past I wanted to be an optometrist and I was curious to see how it connected with special needs children. I have a strong passion working with children on the autism spectrum because of their positive energy and high spirits. Dr. Tong provides services for vision therapy, reading problems, brain injury, and stroke rehab. I along with other floortime therapists and family consultants attended the training in order to gain a better understanding of how our clients on the autism spectrum view their world.
Vision therapy is a sequence of neurosensory activities that are monitored by the doctor to enhance visual skills and processing. Many children on the autism spectrum or special needs use vision therapy to correct vision problems. By participating in near-point convergence tests, our faculty became aware of children with autism or vision problems have an altered perspective of how they see the world. With this altered perspective it can become frustrating for the child when reading, doing homework or other activities. The attention span is impaired by vision which begins to affect the senses and body’s movement.
Dr. Tong looked closely at 20/20 vision and I along with staff members participated in a convergence test. With a partner I held up a string of three beads to my nose. After focusing on the middle bead the string split in two and I was able to see five beads instead of three. This experience was altering my vision and completely skewed my perception of what was actually there and what was not. This was a great visual example because I truly saw and understood how children with autism can struggle with visual processing and convergence difficulties. I found out how meaningful it was to see for myself how children with autism could possibly be interacting and engaging in the world with vision deficiencies. Before learning about vision therapy I never thought about how children see the world differently, I was challenged today to put myself in the shoes of those who have vision deficiencies.
Along with examples of blurred or doubled text, eye test, and videos of children before and after wearing the prism lenses, I can use techniques to find out where the client’s visual and spatial awareness is at. The training session allowed myself and the faulty to have questions answered about what their client may be experiencing during a session. When vision is altered the movement of the body is unbalanced causing children to lack eye contact, slower response time along with body movements to become unstable.
Something as simple as walking or completing an easy task can become difficult as well as frustrating. By gaining a better understanding of where the child is at with their vision development, it can help the floortime therapist and consultants recognize and target the child’s needs by providing effective care and support.
Today I was challenged, by my own curiosity and visual perception which reinforced what I already knew but opened up a window to immerse myself as if I did have a vision deficiency. I enjoyed the training from Dr. Tong along with his insightful knowledge and information about vision development. I look forward to applying this knowledge in the field with my clients in the future.
By: Priscilla Jouvin