Case Studies


I come from a very private family, so discussing personal experiences is not what I’ve been taught to do. Yet, I feel compelled to base my first case study on my oldest child, Joshua. I have also asked his permission, and he understands how many people he could help by revealing what we learned this past year.

As a mom, I like to volunteer in my child’s classroom because it’s a way to see my child during the day (once a week) and get a feel of how my child is functioning in the classroom. I walked in quietly one Wednesday to my son’s second grade room; to my surprise, I heard the teacher asking Joshua why he was clicking the wrong icon on the computer. He replied that he was following instructions the best he could. She reminded him that he had not chosen the correct icon the last time they had computers. I walked a couple of steps further into the room and noticed the following: my son’s face was practically pressed against the computer screen as he desperately searched for the math game he loved to play. He was on the rug alone, meaning that he was not talking with anyone or fooling around. You also have to know that he is a real rule follower, is extremely engaged in learning, and performs consistently above grade level. My heart sank to the ground as I realized, “Oh no. He can’t see the small icons.” I ran to the hallway and called Dr. Gary Polan, an optometrist I recommend often for visual therapy.

At the appointment, I looked at my husband. He looked so wise in his glasses. We communicate so beautifully about every topic, but suddenly I thought: “We have never discussed when he got glasses.” As the doctor put the first letters on the wall and asked Joshua to read the line, he with a smile on his face, said, “I will when there’s something on the wall to read.” After he couldn’t see the first line of letters, the doctor flashed another on the wall. This time Joshua excitedly exclaimed, “I can read all those numbers!” The only problem was that the entire row was composed of letters. My husband and I looked at each other in despair, as he revealed that he had gotten glasses at age fourteen and that was probably many years too late.

Had there been any signs? I’m the Tutor Whisperer – wouldn’t I have noticed? Well, the truth is that I had taken a couple of notes about Joshua in my organizer: sometimes skips lines when reading; eyes get puffy after reading; sometimes skips problems on tests; will skip a sentence or two when copying a rough draft into a final draft. Because of my profession, the optometrist remarked, I actually caught Joshua’s visual issues really early. Typically, they would not be noticed until around 10th grade. This is what I learned: a child can have 20/20 eyesight – – what we call 20/20 vision – – but that has nothing to do with the coordination of the eyes. (For a more in-depth understanding, please see the article under the section titled “Learning Obstacles”).

Joshua was diagnosed with oculomotor dysfunction (poor eye tracking), accommodative dysfunction (poor ability to focus eyes), and refractive amblyopia (lazy eye). He started wearing glasses and began eye therapy, consisting of half-hour sessions two times per week. After thirty minutes of visual therapy, he looked like he had just participated in a reading marathon, and for his eyes, it was probably comparable. By the end of the five-and-a-half months, he was reading many more books for pleasure, qualified for John’s Hopkins and participated in the summer program, and received a report card most only dream about (he was able to improve because he was no longer skipping problems on tests and losing credit). My precious boy comments on how it’s no longer blurry when he looks at his friends walking by and then looks back at his workbook. He was already confident, but discovering and overcoming this issue have heightened his experiences as a student and as a person.