Perhaps you have heard of the saying that you must walk a mile in someones else’s shoes in order to know them.
My wife and I have two daughters. It would be an understatement to say that they are different and how amazing they both are in unique ways. Clearly they are individuals, yet still good sisters. Our eldest daughter struggled with school, and with general day to day activities. It was clearly difficult for her, and the older she got, the more challenges we saw and heard about. During a eye exam the doctor noticed something “different” in Hannah’s eyes. Soon we were referred and were making an appointment with Dr. McCrodan to get a specialists opinion.
When we first met Dr. McCrodan the thing that struck me the most was how he greeted Hannah in the waiting area. He was enthusiastic and caring and spoke to her while squatting down to look her in the eyes. Dr. Cam as we soon got to know him, spoke to Hannah in terms that made sense for her and made her feel comfortable with what was going on in the initial assessment.
Our whole family came to the assessment where there were lights in the eyes, reading off charts on the wall and other such tests. Personally I did not understand what my daughter saw when she stared at a book and struggled to read, or when she reversed letters, or whole sentences. It was when Dr. McCrodan put a special pair of goggles on Hannah’s head and asked her to read a story that I finally knew what it was to see like my lovely daughter sees. As our daughter read, it seemed to take forever, and as a parent I agonized over how slow she was going and how much trouble she was having. Afterward, Dr. Cam showed us how our daughters eyes do not work in cooperation with each other, rather they would do their own thing independently like a Chameleon exploring the world with one eye focusing on one area of the page and the other eye doing something else. As parents we found out that the reason it took our daughter so long to read a single page was that each eye was reading the page independently about five times over. It was an epiphany to hear Hannah say that the words moved on the page. I never new! At the time I felt like a really bad parent. How could I let it get so far? Why didn’t I notice this before?
The testing seemed a little overwhelming for all of us as a family. It was when Dr. McCrodan explained to Hannah that he could help her, and that she was not at all dumb, in fact she was very intelligent, but that her eyes need to do some training like muscles going to the gym. The radiant glow on our daughters face made everything seem great.
We made the financial commitment to help our daughter and entered into a weekly pattern of hour long training sessions. At first there seemed to be little change, but even after a few weeks there were different things happening that we started to notice with our daughter. We were all excited and enthusiastic. Let me be honest: that changed. After a time it was like Hannah hit a plateau and she really struggled with some of the exercises. She seemed exhausted after a couple of times and she became grouchy. We did stick with it and with the help of Sue her coach we found fun ways to get through some of the more challenging exercises.
It wasn’t only Hannah who was reluctant at times to do the daily exercises. With school homework, friends, birthday parties and just life in general it was sometimes that as parents we were just so wrapped up in things that the daily exercises were just too much. We felt guilty that not every week was full of checkmarks that showed our completion of the tasks. As always we were simply encouraged to continue and practice. I think there is a double reason why Dr. McCrodan gave the red, blue and white ball to us as part of the exercises, as the ball also makes a great stress reliever that as a parent you can squeeze. It was like our eldest daughter inherited what seemed like the worst of both mine and my wife’s vision. We went on.
While Hannah was doing the training it was a nice atmosphere in the waiting area. Peggy and other of the trainers were always friendly and made everyone feel so welcome. I would chat with other parents and it was very much like seeing friends each week when we came for our appointment.
One of the huge milestones for our daughter was to see her blossom with self-confidence. Or when she was able to catch a ball that was thrown to her. All of our worries started to disappear and the stages that Hannah met were affirmed by teachers at her school. The letter reversals stopped, the homework at school became much less a chore with far fewer times when it just ended up with tears. Closer to the end of our time of training Hannah started asking to visit the library. Now Hannah is a enthusiastic reader. I would never have thought that she would have come so far in such a short time. From tears, to reading bus ads while we drove, to finishing an entire book in the car ride home from the library. Hannah learned more than just reading, she developed social skills, interacted with the Vision Development staff, gained confidence, and continues to be a life long learner.
Perhaps I will end with another proverb-like statement – Seeing is believing. Well, now I believe because my daughter can see.