Friday, December 14, 2012

Younger Son's Reading Problem Solved!

It has a name!

He has a diagnosis!

He is not crazy! I am not crazy! This is not his imagination, or mine!

The problem is solved!

In August 2012 when we began the homeschool year my younger son age 12, suddenly had trouble reading. He did not like what he was asked to read for the class we paid to enroll him into so at first I mistook his complaints for exaggeration and complaining about the work load.

His complaints were of "eyes tired", "I can't read that long", "I read and can't remember anything", "getting dizzy", "distracted", "hard to pay attention", and feeling tired, fatigued, and headache. After a few long car trips on weekdays when he tried to do schoolwork in the car he complained of carsickness for the first time. The first two times I thought it was what he ate for lunch but on the third time I realized that it was the reading, and the other two times it must have been the reading also. This was confirmed on a fourth episode when nothing was eaten and he felt nauseated after reading in the car. In the past he never got nausea or headaches while reading in the car. Also he would get so tired even in the morning, after reading, that he would fall asleep with the book in his hand.

So at first I attacked the issue as one of laziness or apathy for the new homeschool co-op we had joined. I thought my son was rebelling against the new program which he disliked and felt was too rigorous. I thought this was a character issue. That did not seem to work.

The next thing I did was put in a system of consequences for schoolwork not getting done. That didn't seem to work much.

Next up I took away some temptations such as taking away the Kindle Fire which he ONLY used for video games.

Meanwhile I was doing accommodations with him by me reading aloud to him so he could keep up with his schoolwork. He also listened to some audio books.

Since none of that was fixing the issue, I sought expert advice.

The first thing I did with an expert was take him to a regular optometrist where I paid $175 for a full exam. He read exactly six upper case letters at near range and was deemed 20/20 and didn't need glasses. His distance vision was a bit off but not enough to justify wearing glasses for nearsightedness. I demanded that it simply could not be since by that point he was unable to read for more than 20 minutes in a day without feeling sick.

The optometrist referred us to what they call a pediatric optometrist. I have not been able to find a behavioral optometrist in this new area where we moved.

The diagnosis after the exam is ACCOMMODATIVE DYSFUNCTION. The optometrist explained that my son was born with the ability to focus well on distances mid and long range but close reading takes his brain much too much strain to focus. The overstraining causes the headache, dizziness, nausea, and tiredness.

The treatment is to give prescription eyeglasses to magnify (I am not sure how these differ from cheap drugstore cheaters to be honest but they are over $400 full retail).

As soon as my son got the glasses he was able to read. He said the text is magnified and is easy to read. He began reading a lot immediately. On day two he sat and read a book for 90 minutes without stopping. He is able to get through all his close work in books, workbooks, and on the computer without a single complaint of being tired, getting a headache, or dizzy.

My son is back to loving reading and learning and comprehending what he reads.

(Now I will have my older son tested by this doctor since he has fewer complaints and used to wear prescription reading glasses until he said they caused him headaches.)

The optometrist said this is the way some people are born. I say this is further proof that not all humans were intended to read up close. If evolution is true humans have had millions of years requiring distance and mid-range vision but were not required to read intensely from a young age or at any age until the last 500 years or so. Five hundred years, or even two or one hundred years is not long on the evolutionary timeline. My point is that not all humans seem to have brains that can naturally do up close reading of small text for nearly all of their waking hours.

Lastly I need to underscore that reading challenges involve a brain process with visual processing. The issues are not just a biological eyeball issue. Typical testing for vision i.e. 20/20, 20/30 results do not test for challenges with reading. Specialized testing is required to figure out visual processing challenges such as the one my younger son has.

Click on the label on this post "eye tracking" to read about my older son's past challenes with CONVERGENCE INSUFFICIENCY aka an EYE TRACKING problem.

Confession: I honestly hate these projects and figuring out problems. I want my kids to be healthy and happy. I do not go looking for problems. However with all I know about older son's challenges and how they were improved I cannot believe I did not seek expert care sooner for my younger son. I have to say that it was surprising to me to find how quickly this problem appeared. He taught himself to read at age 3 and we started and finished phonics at age 4. He has always loved reading.

Medical History:
The only change in his medical history is he turned 12 in May then got Lyme Disease and Strep Throat in June while in Connecticut and Massachusetts on a long summer vacation trip. His reading problems began in August. He barely read anything in June and July since we were busy on vacations, camping, and spending active time outdoors. It is quite possible that my son's issues are neurologically based and a direct result of the new case of Lyme Disease. He also had a terrible case of Lyme and Erlychiosis in June 2006 but had no symptoms of chronic disease or learning struggles from 2006 to 2012.

Further Reading:

Article at American Optometrist Association: Care of the Patient with Accommodative and Vergence Dysfunction


Ahermitt said...

This is wonderful. It's reminds me of when my son was first learning to read and could not do it. My husband got the idea to blow up the words real big on the screen, and that is how we taught him to read.

Once he learned how to read, he kept reading, and moved back to regular size books, but to this day he suffers from migraines and nausea.

Not saying my son has the same issue, but it certainly makes me wonder if there is or has been some kind of medical problem.

Leah said...

We have just gone through the same thing with my daughter, age 10. She started out at age 2 knowing all her letters, loving to be read to, and looking at books. But, when school started she had great difficulty learning to read, and for the past few years of homeschool, she would complain that her "head was hot", getting headaches and eyes hurting. She had 20/20 vision.
It wasn't until we took her to an optometrist that did vision therapy that she was diagnosed as far sighted, and is getting prism glasses to help magnify the text for her. She is also going to be doing vision therapy, so you might want to look into that as well.
Glad to hear that you found an answer to the reading issues. I hope that through this blog more people can realize that their child has far sightedness or accommodative dysfunction, and get help for their child.