Going Through Life Off-Balance



I've written several times before about how my son has amblyopia, which is also known as "lazy eye." If you haven't read my previous posts, amblyopia is a brain disorder in which the brain doesn't process what one of the eyes is seeing. If left untreated, the eye will become weaker and weaker since it's not being used (hence the term 'lazy'), and eventually it will stop working all together, causing blindness in that eye. After a year of patching therapy - where my son wears a patch over his good eye in order to force the other eye to work – I'm thrilled to report that his vision has improved tremendously. A year ago, when he was diagnosed, his vision was 20/60 with glasses. Now, its 20/25.


But just when I thought we were on the road to being "normal," it turns out that my son's got all kinds of other issues. It all started in June, when his kindergarten teacher pulled me aside one day and said his handwriting wasn’t progressing the way it should be. She suggested that, over the summer, I take him to a place that could help him get it down before school started in the fall. At first, I balked. His handwriting is fine, I thought. He’s only in kindergarten. There’s nothing wrong with him. But as the weeks went on, her comment stayed in the back of mind, slowly working on me. Finally, I decided to take him – once – if only just to prove her wrong.


I imagined that the place would be a handwriting turoring center, and so did my son (who was, shall we say, less than thrilled with the thought of handwriting work over the summer). He imagined rows of desks and a blackboard, with a teacher instructing the handwriting-impaired on how to properly form their letters. My mental image wasn't all that different. But when we arrived on the first day, we were instead taken to a gym with tires hanging from the ceiling, monkey bars, a trampoline and a zip line. I wasn't sure what this had to do with handwriting, exactly, but I agreed to let them assess him. He was taken through a series of exercises: walking on a balance beam, climbing a rock wall, jumping from side to side on the trampoline. Afterwards, we went to a smaller room, where they asked him to do jumping jacks, to write the alphabet while keeping his body still, and to copy the therapist when she put her right hand on her left knee and her left hand on her right ear. Imagine my surprise when I saw that he couldn't quite do any of it.


I'll spare you all of the details, but it turns out that because his brain had developed only seeing out of one eye, he had never developed a sense of balance, and the two sides of his brain just didn't quite work together they way they were meant to. Plus, he had very poor upper body strength, which made it hard for him to do physical activity for long periods of time. Well. Lets just say that it was an aha moment for me, as his mother.



I just recently went through the same situation with my then 5 and now 6 year old. He struggled in Kinder last year, but he was one of the younger children in the class so we sort of clung to that "excuse" initially and even decided to hold him back this year to assuming with some more time and maturity he would catch up. Fortunately towards the latter part of last year, his teacher recommended we see an occupational therapist...I didn't know what to expect, or exactly how it could help, but I went anyway. His therapist was the first to diagnose him with weak dominant eye muscle or lazy eye. You can't look at him and tell he has a lazy eye, but we quickly found out it was wreaking havoc with many aspects of his daily life...small and large motor skills, balance, coordination, upper body strength, reading, writing, and even some behavior issues. Once he started occupational therapy it was like it shed a light over all of these little issues Max was experiencing that I had noticed but chosen to ignored, and were nagging at the back of my mind. All of the issues weren't obvious...most of them you didn't really notice on a daily basis, It's not like they were asking him to do chin ups @ age five, and as far as his awkward running style, I found it to be "endearing" and always assumed he'd grow out of it. I even used to joke that Max runs like Elaine from Seinfeld dances. If you're a Seinfeld fan you'll understand the reference. This just shows that as a parent you don't want to believe that there might be a problem with your child, so looking back I realize that I downplayed these seemingly small issues and "disabilities" that we were encountering with Max's educational and physical performance. Soon after starting therapy he was referred to a pediatric vision specialist who further tested his vision and diagnosed lazy eye along with double visions and some minor color blindness. She prescribed special prism lens eye glasses that he wears during class activities. It's only been a few weeks, but the therapy coupled with the new glasses have made a HUGE difference. I'm so thankful that we've finally connected all the dots and that this is a treatable problem that won't plague him all of his life. By the way, if you're experiencing the same issues and you've gone to see a regular eye doctor or even a specialist who has not diagnosed this issue...I can tell you that seeing a vision specialist who specializes in children with this particular kind of issue made all the difference. The tests that the specialist administered were completely different from the vision tests that were given by his normal ophthalmologist and other specialists. I recommend if you're experiencing these same problems that you get your child tested asap...as the author mentioned...if left untreated it could lead to a lifetime of problems that are correctable and even to possible blindness. Hindsight is 20/20...next time I'll be quicker to the draw.

Grateful Mommy of 3 Crazy Boys!


Mommy of 3 Boys


Great post, and nice credit to the teacher. Good luck with physical therapy!


What a great story! Thanks for sharing with us.