7News Special Report: Do you see what I see?

Lawton_When most of us think about our eyes it's when we wonder whether or not we need glasses.  But, it shouldn't be the only thing that comes to mind - have you ever thought about how your eyes work together as a team?  The answer is probably no.  Most people are able to control, coordinate and utilize both eyes together.

But one out of four can't - because that 25% have what's called an "eye teaming" problem.  Its most often caught during childhood as children exhibit reading problems, but it's not just kids who are diagnosed.  7News reporter Andrea Charles has an eye teaming problem, too:

I was one of the kids who slipped through the cracks.  I didn't realize I had any sort of problem with my eyes until I started working at 7News.  It was then that I discovered I had problems reading the teleprompter and would sometimes skip lines as I read.  So, after my doctor diagnosed an eye teaming problem, I began treatment to teach my eyes to work together.

I've been working with Dr. Damon White for four months and visit him on a weekly basis.  Dr. White is a Visual Skills Specialist who treats learning related vision problems and it's his job to help patients eyes learn to work properly.  "We're changing the way the patients brain uses their eyes," he says.  And, with Dr. White's help I've been practicing eye exercises that should significantly improve

Similar to dyslexia, the eye teaming problem could cause a person to flip lower case B's to D's and vice versa.  That's exactly what was happening to me.  I've had problems focusing my entire life and was always told that I have Attention Deficit Disorder or ADD.  But, after I became a reporter for 7News and started skipping lines while reading on the air I knew something was wrong.

So, after a lot of research on my own, I sought the help of a specialist.  There are quite a few symptoms to eye related learning problems so it's always important to consult a specialist before diagnosing yourself or your child.  But, Dr. White told me that there are some definite signs that someone could have an eye teaming problem.  They may include:

  • Headaches
  • Difficulty reading
  • Comprehension problems
  • Sleepiness while reading
  • Blurring of words
  • Flipping letters and words
  • Getting lost
  • Skipping words or lines

If these warning signs sound familiar - it may signal you have an eye problem - specifically, an eye teaming problem.  Vision deficits tend to be more noticeable in children while they're in school.  Often teachers will notice if a child is starting to strain while reading.  "They're in school starting to struggle they're being compared and something will be detected just because of the fact they're not being successful," says White.

That's what happened to third grader Calysta Burnett.  She was seeing double, had blurry vision and her eyes would get watery and red.  That's when Dr. White stepped in and after six months of treatment she's a changed girl.  "It's a lot easier because its clearer and also I wont be embarrassed to go on a double line and I like not having to read the same line over and over again," says Calysta.  And, her mother says she sees a huge difference.  She's glad they caught her vision problems early.  "She loves to read now, she'll finish chapter books in 2 or 3 days as before it was really a struggle, she really loves to read now and spelling has been huge for her," she says.

Dr. White says eye teaming problems aren't always recognized by a general eye doctor because the deficiencies wouldn't always be spotted during a routine exam.  "There are tons of people who struggle with these problems and they're not getting identified right now.  I think the word has to get out, and we will have to start talking about it," he says.

Disabilities in learning or otherwise can also create significant self esteem problems.  And, it's nearly impossible for someone with eye teaming problems to understand that others don't see the world the way they do.

"You're sitting in that class room, you're working hard you're not successful at it," says White.  "You began to think you're slow or someone else is smarter than you, and it can actually be a physical correctable problem."  So, if you or your child is struggling, consider the possibility that it may be an eye teaming problem.

I've been in eye treatment for the past four months and can already see a big difference.  I still have a long way to go, but I'll get there.