I would describe myself as someone who enjoys helping people. I trained as a counselor, earning my Masters degree at age 27. Since then, I have worked as counselor, instructor of GED, ESL & literacy , vision therapist and Director of Education during my 31 years of working. All of those jobs were rewarding, as they each helped others see themselves as capable and gave them tools to help themselves. Watching people work so hard to improve themselves and seeing them experience the joy of accomplishing things they might have previously seen as impossible is the most rewarding feeling.
Personally, I am a mother of two grown daughters. One of my daughters had 4 learning disabilities. Trying to help her succeed in life started my interest in vision therapy. In 1989, there was no internet to research. I went to university libraries and read about the visual system & tried the exercises suggested to improve her visual system. Of course, this was not as impressive as the results obtained here with a doctor’s supervision & all the technology that has been developed. It did help her though, and I became very interested in learning more about vision therapy.
How did you become a vision therapist?
My daughter's own learning problems started my interest. I researched vision therapy techniques on my own & employed them, back in 1989 when she was 7. When she turned 15, I saw an ad for a vision therapist & wanted to explore it. I was hired & promoted to Director of Vision Therapy there. Later I left to work full time as Director of Education at a Literacy Council. I worked 7 years, until getting sick & retiring. After not working 5 years, I wanted to return to work and sought out work as a vision therapist thru contact with my own eye doctor. I have been here since May of 2015, and love this job.
Why do you like to work as a Vision Therapist?
I love watching the changes in the patient.
The improvement in the patients' abilities transform the individuals, their confidence soars, they seem less frustrated, happier. It is through their own hard work that they improve skills so necessary to perform well in school, at work, in sports. I like being a part of that process. I build strong relationships with the patients, and I think it helps them to persevere when they get discouraged because what we are asking them to do is difficult.
How would you describe your work style?
I like to see concrete results. I consistently adapt & update exercises for the best results. I like to prepare well for the next day’s patients. I look at what is working & what needs to be adjusted. I take a lot of pride in what I do. I also am a firm believer in developing good working relationships with patients, whether kids or adults. They need to feel a sense of you caring about their progress and being committed to your work. During follow up progress evaluations, I don’t have a set time with my former patients, but they usually find me & happily tell me about the positive changes in their lives.
What are the skills required for a vision therapist to succeed?
To succeed, you need proper training- a good understanding of the problems that patients experience, and of the exercises designed to help those specific problems. You also need a certain personality that makes this job rewarding. You must have patience and the ability to discern how much is too much. It's a lot like physical therapy. We want to challenge you, but at the same time, not frustrate you or do so much that patients experience severe physical symptoms as a result of being pushed. During binocular activities, you have to read body clues, and push to the point that is beneficial. A slight headache is normal in the beginning. If you continue too long or challenge too much, the patient can get a migraine. I tend to read body language to guide me in how much to push.
How does vision therapy help?
So many of our kids think their brains are not working well because of poor performance in school & use terms such as dumb or stupid to describe themselves. Their parents and teaches recognize their intelligence, and attribute the poor performance to laziness. The kids often have poor self image and are in trouble a lot because they don’t seem to be paying attention. They are usually trying their best, but not able to see and look distracted. That’s what makes this job so rewarding. We can help that negative self image by improving the visual system and therefore, improving performance in school and sports. The intelligence that was not able to be relayed, starts to shine and tasks become easier.