“My son is having a difficult time at school!” “I think school is boring!” “I hate school!” These all may sound like common complaints, but to optometrist Dr. Gary Sneag, they are also potential warning signs.
“When a child comes in with their parents complaining of problems with reading or difficulty staying focused, I do an initial eye exam to make sure the eyes are healthy. I look at the child’s eye vision skills, but that doesn’t always tell the whole story.” said Dr. Sneag of Family Vision Care in Clairemont. If a child has 20/20 vision but has trouble keeping up in school, Dr. Sneag sees that as a sign to dig even deeper.
Sometimes, misdiagnosis is the culprit. Many of Dr. Sneag’s patients come to him having been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD; oftentimes, the underlying issue is visual perception. One of Dr. Sneag’s patients was in special education, diagnosed with ADHD, and couldn’t ride a bike or throw a ball. After a short time with Dr. Sneag and attending regular therapy, he was able to write in cursive, ride a bike without training wheels, and is no longer in special education.
Dr. Sneag is one of very few experienced optometrists in San Diego offering Vision Therapy for both kids and adults; in fact, most of Dr. Sneag’s patients are six to twelve years old. Vision is a learned skill, and nearly 80% of what a child learns in the classroom is through the eyes.
So, what is vision therapy? It’s essentially training for the brain and eyes. The goals are to make the muscles around the eyes stronger and for the brain to improve focus and how it processes information. Visual Therapy ultimately creates seamless communication between the brain and eye muscles.
How does it work? First, the patient goes through a series of exams and assessments. If something is functioning below average or there are inefficient visual skills, then Dr. Sneag will create a customized treatment program for the child. The treatment course ranges from six weeks to a year, depending on the severity of the patient. Dr. Sneag insists that parents be completely committed to the program: “If the parents are involved, I don’t know how we can fail. If the parents aren’t involved, I don’t know how we can succeed. That’s how important it is.”
Since Dr. Sneag began practicing in 1977, several former parents have returned simply to tell him how much vision therapy helped their child – how much he or she hated going to school when they were younger, but are now going off to college. “It is the part of optometry that still fires me up because we have a child changing their lives permanently and in a positive direction. They will never go back.”
Exam and evaluation fees are $554 and each vision therapy session is $109. For more information, visit the Family Vision Care website or call his office at (858) 560-5181.
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