(Also appears in the Gateway Gazette Online Edition)
Just about a year ago, I introduced this new service to help parents help their children through reading and learning problems. Because it’s difficult to describe, I just call it ‘eLVT’ which is short for ‘Electronically-mediated Learning and Vision Therapy’. In short, it’s a program that does mainly three things:
• Teaches about vision, reading and learning disorders;
• Trains parents to be therapists;
• Provides a library of great therapeutic activities to help overcome the most common problems with reading and learning.
This program (it’s not really an ‘approach’ or ‘technique’) stems from an interest of mine first cultivated while I was studying optometry. The optometry college where I studied (www.pacificu.edu) was renown for a tradition of developmental optometry, and so you might say my ‘eyes were opened’ (sorry!) to a world I did not even know existed when I was a teacher. My studies were concentrated in the functional side of vision and what happens to reading and learning when visual function breaks down.
I was fully astounded at what was going on right under my nose in the classroom – how vision problems can and will interfere with reading and learning. Often enough, I would struggle to teach some students, knowing that they were clearly well-intentioned and more than smart enough. In the end, I found that if I emphasized more physical manipulatives in the classroom and less ‘reading’, even the most difficult to teach would climb the ladder of understanding. These days, there is an increasing trend away from manipulatives and more towards text-based ‘learning’ in the classroom. At the same time, the incidence of reading and learning disabilities is reported to be on the rise. As we increase reliance on what I call ‘intangible’ learning methods, that is, text/technology-based and not reality-based instruction, children who have problematic visual skills and perceptual abilities will fall further and further behind. My job is to help them get on an even playing field without pills and with very little wasted time.
In the last year, the eLVT program has helped dozens of parents with a variety of specific learning and reading problems. In some cases, the children were very young and taking medications for mood and behavior problems but no longer needed the medications after therapy. In most cases, children and parents were told the child had ‘dyslexia’, along with any number of other labels. At this point, all but one of my clients has succeeded in overcoming the most significant obstacles to reading/learning. Parents have learned to challenge their children in a joyful yet therapeutic way, and to strengthen the children’s physical and mental abilities. There is always work to do, but at least now the children can catch up – this is all thanks to the many hours spent by dedicated parents to learn to work with their children. Congratulations to you all (and you know who you are)!
As with anything ‘new’ (I say ‘new’ because the principles I use in therapy are rather old already, but the concepts are new to many child development professionals), there are always detractors and doubters. As far as cynics are concerned, I’m the biggest one of all and never adopt any new technique or technology simply because it’s new; however, my knowledge of visual function, learning, and technology comes as a result of more than 25 years in formal study and clinical practice. People who know me know that I’m not one to waste my time clinically on frivolous things or marginal science. I don’t expect people to understand the details, and so I write this column, educate parents, and appeal to the schools and other child development professionals to incorporate formal vision management in their plans for remediating reading and learning problems. Currently, vision and visual function is mostly ignored in the schools except for a few programs that seem to always be ahead of the curve. I applaud these schools for their common sense and foresight.
eLVT is undergoing a major overhaul, which I hope to complete by the end of December. The new program will include a short, intensive course on learning and reading disorders, and a practical guide to intervention. The intent is to rescue parents from the brink when they are told their children have learning disabilities, and show them what to do about it. You can follow along as the site is built at www.drboulet.com. As it stands, I have parents using eLVT from across the Province, and soon it will be available to an international audience. eLVT is designed from the ground up to be accessible, inexpensive, and highly effective. If you are interested in learning more, please contact us or visit the website.