Ten-year-old Julia Morrison re-enacts a visual therapy exercise she used to train her eyes to focus at different distances. Morrison's visual development diganosis and resulting therapy led her mom to co-found The Visual Process

Seeing beyond the problem: behavioural optometry a growing field

Saanich student, 13, has vastly improved at school since undergoing treatment for hard-to-identify visual issue

Helena Murray-Hill didn’t know why she was beginning to bump into walls.

Her anxiety was also on the rise – she recalls having to escape a crowded room – but it wasn’t until Helena happened upon an attentive optometrist that she discovered her problem had a relatively straightforward solution. The optometrist began by asking Helena how she reads.

“I close one eye,” she responded.

Since that fateful day a year and a half ago, Helena, 13, has been working with Cameron McCrodan, a Saanich optometrist with a primary focus on behavioural optometry. McCrodan uses a method called visual therapy to treat vision inefficiencies.

“Standard eye exams do not test someone’s tracking efficiency and accuracy,” McCrodan said. “Headaches, crowd anxiety (can be) related to the inability to focus.”

Helena was an A student in Grades 4 and 5 at Arbutus Global middle school, so her behavioural shift seemed odd to mother Anita Murray-Hill.

Helena wouldn’t touch a book outside of school, and as other issues arose, Anita saw enough of a pattern that she and Helena spent the better part of two years trying to figure out what was wrong.

Medical doctors, a counsellor, an occupational therapist and other experts all had their say, but none could get to the root of the problem. At one point, Helena was falsely diagnosed with dysgraphia, a form of writing deficiency.

McCroden is now assisting a new non-profit society, The Visual Process, created by Anita and Sooke teacher Jenn Gibson, which educates parents and teachers about learning and behaviour-related vision problems and the subsequent quality of life impact on children.

“I was once working with a 50-year-old man,” McCrodan said. “Once diagnosed, he said, ‘I always thought I didn’t like to read because I was stupid.’ People also assume these are personality faults. I’ve seen a few dads break down in tears because they’d called their kid lazy.”

Tracking assumes the eyes move together, but it’s estimated that as many as one in four people unknowingly struggle with the problem. In kids with learning disabilities, poor tracking can be seen in 80 per cent of cases, McCroden says.

Gibson, who lives in Colwood, said her 10-year-old daughter was in a similar situation.

After Julia took the College of Optometrists in Vision Development Quality of Life Checklist, Jenn said she recognized some of the symptoms in her students as well.

“Kids scrunching their faces, laying on the desk and peeking out with one eye, acting out,” Gibson said. “We want The Visual Process to teach educators and parents to recognize these issues early, but it’s also for people of all ages. There is a 91 year old in therapy. It can always be treated.”

To find out more, visit thevisualprocess.com.

reporter@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Three Greater Victoria schools claim climate awards

Awards handed out by British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association

Tips from BC Ferries for travelling this Canada Day long weekend

Tips from BC Ferries for smooth sailing this Canada Day long weekend

Field named for longtime Hampton Little League volunteer

‘Curt Waldner Field’ recognizes years of dedication put in by former little league dad

Saanich honours lifetime of conservation efforts

Mary Haig-Brown wins environmental award for 40 years of extensive volunteer work

Sidney lowers flag to half mast in honour of former fire chief

Mel Baldwin died June 21 at the age of 83; served Sidney Fire for 46 years

Video shows fireworks shot at swan in Alberta

Alberta Fish and Wildlife is investigating the incident in Grande Prairie

WITH VIDEO: Two endangered marmots released on Vancouver Island

With three new pups born in May, two more Vancouver Island Marmots… Continue reading

Surrey RCMP raises Pride flag amid din of protesters

There were about 30 protesters on either side, and 20 Mounties doing crowd control

Should B.C. get rid of Daylight Saving Time?

The province wants to know, as state governments down south make the move

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Canadians crash out of Women’s World Cup in 0-1 loss to Sweden

Canada missed a chance to tie the game on a penalty shot

Four-year-old boy assaulted at B.C. soccer game

It happened at a weekend tournament in Ashcroft

Two bear cubs saved near Revelstoke after mother hit by car

Conservation officers trapped the cubs and transported them to a wildlife sanctuary

Heroism medal for B.C. woman who tried to save wheelchair-bound man stuck on rail tracks

Julie Callaghan awarded Carnegie Medal from U.S.-based foundation for ‘extraordinary heroism’

Most Read