Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thoughts from the COVD Webinar with Dr. Sue Barry

A couple of nights ago I attended the free webinar that COVD  put on with Dr. Susan Barry, author of  Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions.  The webinar was entitled "School Crossings: ...A Neurobiologist's View of How Our System Fails Children With Vision Problems". With August being National Children's Vision and Learning Month, and my child headed off to school in the upcoming days, the webinar was particularly timely. 

Having read Dr. Barry's book, I am familiar with her story and hold her up high as an expert in the field of Vision Therapy and the brain/eye connection.  Amblyopia, after all - is a neurological disorder. For me, it is not the first neurological condition that I have had to dig deep with and learn as much as I can. My son has autism, which - oddly (or not so oddly enough) was another topic that came up during the webinar with Dr. Barry. For more info on autism & vision issues definitely check out the College of Optometrists in Vision Development research.

The August 26th "School Crossings" webinar consisted of Dr. Sue Barry and Dr. Leonard Press having a conversation that lasted about 30 minutes followed by brief question and answer.  It began by Dr. Barry sharing her story of growing up without stereo vision. The first thing she addressed had to do with learning to read and the struggles that she had. She illustrated how a child who has convergence insufficiency will struggle with reading. In simple terms and via very easy to read diagrams she showed how someone with normal vision would read a single word and then how someone like her, or like my daughter would see the same word.   Dr. Barry struggled with reading yet she loved to read and her mother encouraged reading. She has her mother to thank for being able to read - albeit slowly for many many years, until she improved her stereo vision.  She boldly shared how educators labeled her "a dim bulb" and put her into special education classes with children who had written off by the system.   When I think of Dr. Barry - the last thing I think of is a dim bulb.  She is highly educated, a professor in Neurobiology at Mt. Holyoke, an established author. Yet as a child, she was written off. And, thankfully - she overcame it.

I don't want my child to be written off.  My daughter is struggling to learn how to read.  She loves books and she loves to be read to.  When we work with her on reading she tells us it is too hard.  She isn't lazy.  She isn't stupid.  When I sat in on the webinar and watched Dr. Barry illustrate on the screen how my daughter could be seeing words vs how I see and read words - I had a moment. I have often shared how I felt her struggles with reading and writing had to do with her eyes, but I didn't realize just how difficult of a mountain she has to climb here.  Dr. Barry also shared her struggles with driving and how at one point she just opted to walk everyplace vs risking driving.  I hadn't given much thought to driving as my daughter is only 5, but yes - that is also just more reason that we need to get her binocular vision functioning.

You can listen to Dr. Barry's NPR interview and learn more about her at: Do You See What I See? A Scientist's Journey Into 3-D
I also highly recommend picking up a copy of Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey Into Seeing in Three Dimensions (now in paperback).


  1. I'm so glad you were able to watch the webinar and found it useful. I love "Fixing My Gaze" and am always amazed at how easily Dr. Barry communicates very complex information about eyes and vision.

    Thanks for posting this and the link to the archive.

    -Dr. Nate

  2. Hi there! My daughter just turned two and recently started patching (she has ambylopia although no one used that word--I had to ask them!) and even more recently started vision therapy (I'll be blogging our whole journey). I read Susan Barry's book and attended the webinar, too. Like you I found it enlightening but also sobering, in that Barry helps us realize just how difficult ambylopia can make everyday activities, like reading. Just glad to have this information, and grateful to Barry and people like yourself who are empowering parents to find the best possible treatments for their children's vision challenges! Thanks!