Isabelle has enjoyed doing art for the past couple of years. She’s taken a couple of art classes. However, despite the instruction, most of her masterpieces look like this:
I appreciate these pieces since they feel like modern art. However, there aren’t any discernable objects most of the things she creates. Ever since the ocular motor dysfunction diagnosis, I understand why she struggles. Therefore, when I picked her up at art class this afternoon, I looked at her oil pastel creation and felt tears prick my eyes. But they weren’t tears of sadness; they were tears of happiness.
“Is this a self-portrait?” I asked.
“What do you mean?” she responded.
“Is this a picture of yourself?” I asked.
“Yeah, how did you know?” she replied.
“Because it looks like you, honey!” I responded.
Sure, her eyes aren’t that big nor are her lips aren’t that red. But I could tell it was a self-portrait prior to reading note the teacher sends home with each child.
“You should be very proud of yourself,” I told my daughter. “This is a masterpiece! We should hang this in your garage gallery.”
“Okay,” she said as a small smile spread across her face. “When can we hang it up?”
“We have lots of other pieces to hang up along with this one. Would this weekend be okay?”
“Yes!” she replied with more enthusiasm.
Progress takes time. Today was a reminder that she may be taking small steps forward, but they are, indeed, forward.
Anyone who knows me well knows I’ve been making decisions by listening to my gut for the past decade. Every time (except for one) I haven’t listened to my gut, I’ve regretted it.
My gut told me something more was at-play with Isabelle who has been having reading difficulties. Despite hiring a tutor and buying Elephant and Piggie books for at-home reading practice, my gut told me there was a bigger problem well-before Isabelle declared “I hate reading!” in late June.
Last year, Isabelle’s occupational therapist informed me she was having trouble with visual perception. Upon her recommendation, I subscribed to Puzzle Buzz and helped her with the hidden pictures pages. I thought she was making progress, but my gut still told me something was up. However, after she passed her most recent eye exam with 20/15 eyesight, I told the optometrist about the visual perception issues and trouble with reading. The optometrist referred me to a vision therapy specialist who we saw in mid-August. It was my hope I was spending money just to rule something out.
Nothing was ruled out. Instead, a diagnosis of Ocular Motor Dysfunction was given. I cried despite being happy my gut was correct — again. The treatment for OMD meant weekly vision therapy sessions and nightly vision therapy homework. The eye doctor reassured me that diagnosing this now would help Isabelle as she progressed in school. I continued to cry so she handed me a cheat sheet about OMD. Upon reading it, I quickly realized my six-year-old could be an OMD poster child.
I waited until the school year was underway for Isabelle to start vision therapy. She had her first session yesterday. This afternoon, I mapped out what our afternoon would look like:
This doesn’t look horrible, right? I’m hoping it isn’t. In fact, the first, second, and fourth activities actually look fun. (The third one is tedious. I tried it myself. It’s challenging!)
We’ll get through the vision therapy homework — and everything else — this afternoon. I’m more nervous about what happens three weeks from now. You see, in three weeks, Isabelle will begin having nightly homework. She’s been dreading it because she thinks it’ll be too hard. Now that I’ve created a schedule for how her afternoons will go, I am dreading it, too, since it means she’ll have virtually no free time after school. She’s six. That’s not okay. Kids need unstructured time to play after being in school for a full day.
I’ve been chatting with some of my TWT colleagues about homework for a while now. I’ve also been reading articles — scholarly and popular — about homework in the past six months. I plan to share some of my thinking about the impact of homework in the elementary grades soon. For now, please send positive vibes. It’s my hope vision therapy will be the key to helping my daughter become a confident and successful reader!