All children with reading disabilities should have an exam by a Doctor of Optometry.
The office of Dr. Hollis Stavn in Santa Rosa, Ca offers assessment and a computerized
therapy program for children and adults with reading difficulties.
The assessment of reading difficulties begins with a visual and perceptual skills
Vision Therapy is a program of activities and exercises taught in every Optometry
School and used by specially trained Optometrists that has been shown to be
effective in improving reading difficulties and certain other vision conditions.
While often used in a multidisciplinary approach in conjunction with educational
therapies, Vision Therapy is often more effective than special education, tutoring,
and speech and language therapy, and often succeeds where other treatments have had
The office of Dr. Hollis Stavn in Santa Rosa, Ca. offers assessment and a therapy
program for children and adults with reading difficulties. The assessment of reading
difficulties begins with a visual and perceptual skills evaluation.
Vision Therapy Background
Optometrists have taken the lead in investigating the
important links between reading and vision.Over the last century people have come to
Doctors of Optometry for difficulty with reading or comprehension. Many have been
labelled and more often mislabelled as dyslexic. Today they are often mislabelled with
ADD or attention deficit disorder. The word optometry virtually means "to measure the
eyes." Optometrists began to measure what we now call "visual skills" to see if they
could define differences in these "visual skills" between good readers and poor
readers. By improving these skills can you also improve reading ability? It turns out
that this is the case. It is possible to determine why a child has trouble reading and
to eliminate reading difficulties in most cases. Many different skill areas have been
defined, and hundreds of activities are available to work on improving them. Most of
these activities differ from the academic level instruction taught in the schools,
rather they are perceptual level or pre-reading level skills which are not taught in the
schools. This explains why tutoring alone is often ineffective- it is usually
academically based and not perceptually based! Modern vision therapy is the culmination
of decades worth of work by a few dedicated individuals and only one profession-
Optometry. Vision Therapy is taught only at Schools of Optometry in the United States.
Vision and Reading - Developmental Skills
The visual system is dependent on developmental experiences. We are not born with
good vision, but rather with the ability to develop good vision. If this development
is interfered with then amblyopia may result- or poor vision due to a lack of proper
developmental stimulation. The lack of a clear image in the eye early in life can
lead to a lack of nerve connections with the eye in the brain. There is a critical
period for this proper development to take place- usually the first several years of
life. This is an example of development requiring proper stimulation at certain
critical ages. This can serve as a model system for the development of other visual
attributes as well. Visual and perceptual development is hierarchically based. The
perceptual mechanisms of vision develop in a sequential way. A child who is 4 may be
able to draw a circle but not the more complex square. A child of 5 may be able to
draw the square but not the more complex diamond. A child in second grade may be
able to read and track large print short second grade words but not the longer
smaller words a third grader can read. How does a child acquire these visual skills
from one level to the next? Does it happen automatically or is it dependent on
interaction with his environment?
Some of the important visual and reading skills are:
- Binocular Vision- The ability of the eyes to work together well. Common problems that can affect reading are over and under convergence of the eyes.This is also referred to as eye muscle balance.
- Refractive - undiagnosed farsightedness can contribute to reading difficulty.
- Accommodative ability to easily and quickly change focus without fatigue. This is a common contributor to reading difficulty.
- Visual Tracking- the ability to read without skipping lines and losing ones place.
- Visual Perception.
- Auditory Perception.
- Visual Memory.
In the model system these skills are related to each other. For example good
binocular vision and tracking skills are needed for the development of visual memory
which is needed for reading.
The Vision Therapy Eye Exam
If you want to have a developmental eye exam to test for reading or learning
difficulties, you need to make an appointment with a Doctor of Optometry who has
received training in vision therapy. Only about one in twenty optometrists do such
testing. This testing cannot be done by ophthalmologists. Despite their medical
training ophthalmologists receive no education in reading difficulties. In addition
to a standard eye exam additional tests should include:
- A developmental,academic, and behavioral history.
- A dilated eye exam.
- Binocular Vision tests.
- Focussing facility tests.
- A tracking test.
- Visual Perception tests.
- Reading tests.
Unless these tests are done your doctor will not be able to help you find the cause of
or help you correct a reading difficulty. Many times people expect a standard eye exam
to tell them these things but in fact a standard eye exam will determine if you need
glasses and if your eyes are healthy but additional testing is required when evaluating
reading problems. Every child with a reading difficulty should be examined by an
Following are the results of
questionnaires that parents have filled out
after their children completed a three month program of Vision
1. How valuable was
Vision Therapy?(Ranked from 1 to 5 where 1 is not helpful and 5 is extremely
Average response 4.8 (83% selected 5,
and no one selected less than
"We have gone one
year since therapy with our son and he has gone from D's and F's last year
A's and B's one year later. Everyday there is improvement. What can I say?
Thanks a million!!!"
"Andy got a B+ in reading.
This was the first year
he was not in special
"We noticed definite
improvement in reading ability
and eye hand coordination."
"My son went form a non
reader to a reader. He
maintains a solid B average in Jr High School. He is able to do this on his
"It not only helped Marc
with reading skills, it
seemed to help his self esteem as
"My son jumped about 2 years
in reading level in 3
months of vision therapy. It was extremely
"Three months ago my son
could not read. When asked
to cross out letters of the alphabet he would track right to left and was unable
to follow a line. By using the techniques Dr. Stavn gave us each week my son can
now read and showed progress in almost every
2. How valuable was
vision therapy compared to other things that you did before vision therapy such
as special education or tutoring?( Ranked from 1 to 5 where 1 is less effective
and 5 is more effective.)
Average response 4.7(80% selected 5 and none
selected less than
"Our son had 6
years of special Ed plus one year of private tutoring. He always showed a
success but not the success he has had since vision therapy! Read, read,
That's all the teachers said before we found out exactly what the problem
All the reading in the world would not have helped! The private tutoring
get him to a certain point but we could not get him over the next hurdle. At
school they put allot of pressure on Mom. You aren't reading enough they
The blame and pressure on parent and child were intense- it just made it
Even holding him back in 1st grade did not
"It increased our awareness
as to the complexity of
the learning process."
"Vision Therapy took the
pain, trauma, and hysteria
out of doing his homework. Tutoring helped but he still read slow and
"I have spent countless
hours tutoring Jeff and he
just couldn't get it"
"Special Ed, tutoring, and
testing with a
psychologist helped but didn't solve the
"Vision Therapy was the most
effective of anything
tried. It worked well in combination with speech and language tutoring which is
slower in showing results."
"Tutoring helped but when we
found out Gary had a
tracking disorder, vision therapy helped him even
"Visual training attacks the
problem of learning
disabilities. Often the schools only treat the
"When my son entered KDG
trouble began. His behavior
changed to anger frustration and violence. He was unable to stay on task. His
medical doctor thought he might be hyperactive. The principle said if I did not
do something he would end up in juvenile hall. The psychologist said he didn't
qualify for help. I said if my son is above average why doesn't he know his
alphabet? I was never told to have his eyes examined. I had no idea he could not
see close up. The glasses and vision therapy have changed his whole attitude
toward himself, learning, and he is actually
After Vision Therapy, did reading ability and school performance improve?(
Ranked from 1 to 5 where 1 is no improvement and 5 is much
Average response 4.7( 80% selected 5, 18%
selected 4 and one person selected
" My daughter is
finally experiencing success without tremendous effort. Her reading and
handwriting have improved greatly."
" He likes school. His
reading has improved a great
"My son can sit down now
with a book 2-3 times more
difficult for 2-3 times as long and he enjoys reading. All of this in 3 months!
He is spending 30 minutes at least pleasure reading per
"Katy's reading, confidence,
and maturity have all
advanced noticeably during this
"Jeff said after 6 weeks of
vision therapy, "I used
to read and the words didn't make any sense. Now I read and I understand
" Andy had asked for 2 years
in a row to be held
back because schoolwork was just too hard. Now he is at grade level and
confident and content for the first time in his
4. Did vision therapy
lead to any improvements in behavior and self esteem?
Average response 4.7
"We work on homework now,
not argue. What a
"He realizes he isn't dumb
anymore. He is in control
of the learning process!"
"Katy reads much more
"He is able to handle his
schoolwork better. He is
more confident, more
"He likes school now. His
reading improved a great
deal. He knows he is good."
" She finally was
experiencing success without
tremendous effort. She concentrates better because the frustration of tremendous
effort is not there."
"Andy received his first A
in a book report and he
wanted to read aloud for the first time in his life. His comprehension is 100%
"Andy was in a special
reading class every day at
school before vision therapy. It did not benefit him other than allowing him to
save face because he was 2 grades below level. I wonder why I wasn't told about
vision therapy when Andy was in 1st Grade. There is a day and night change in
Andy. He stopped crying and screaming when he had to do his
"After tutoring Mariah for 1
and 1/2 years and
seeing marginal gains, I was delighted with the progress of her vision therapy.
Being a teacher of the deaf, I feel a number of my students would benefit. I
feel very lucky to have discovered this as soon as I did. I feel grateful that
Dr. Stavn was available to correct/direct this process.
"The quality of life in my
household is better
because of vision therapy. Andy caught up one grade level in 6
" We would like to extend
out thanks to you and your
eye therapy program. Cassi's self esteem is so high she feels great about
herself and all subjects in school. Her teacher has lots of wonderful things to
say about her and believe me we haven't had such a wonderful conference since
first grade.We sent a copy of her report card to you at Cassi's request.We
appreciate what you have done and have recommended you many times to
" I really think Bobby would
have been one of the
children just passed through the school system learning nothing if it had not
been for vision therapy. It's too bad it was never brought up by other eye
doctors, the child's doctor, Special Ed teachers, or the school nurse or
psychologist. None of the people we saw knew much if anything about vision
child with a reading disability should have a vision examination by a Doctor of
Optometry. If you would like more information or an appointment in the Santa
Rosa area or a referral in your local area you may call the office
at 707-527-9137 or send us an email message.