Kenneth A. Lane, O.D., founded the Lane Learning Center in Lewisville Texas, in 1985 to help learning-disabled children with vision therapy. Vision therapy is specifically directed toward resolving visual problems that interfere with reading, learning, and educational instruction.
The visual system has long been ignored or ridiculed as a source for improving children’s reading ability, but after more than thirty years of working with children who were poor readers, Dr. Lane has seen the results of visual activities that increase children’s reading speed and proficiency.
When children find out that they are faster at reading, they realize that reading is not drudgery, and they read more on their own. Once they are reading on their own, they are on their way to being better readers. And because they often equate reading speed with intelligence, their self-esteem improves.
Dr. Lane became interested in vision therapy when he graduated from optometry school. He had seen a demonstration of a machine (the eye trac) that recorded children’s eye movements before and after they had vision therapy. The improvement in their eye movements and reading speeds was dramatic, and to help children, he dedicated his optometric practice to vision therapy.
In the early years of his practice, the medical community resisted vision therapy, saying that visual exercises were a waste of time. Many times a parent would schedule an evaluation for his or her child, only to cancel it after receiving advice to do so from an ophthalmologist or pediatrician. Developmental optometrists persevered, however, knowing that through vision therapy, children would have better lives if their reading skills improved.
Most of the children who benefit from vision training have similar symptoms. These include:
Dr. Lane writes: “Reading is more complicated than most people think. It is not as easy as seeing a word and then finding that word stored in the brain. And learning to read is much more than learning phonics. The key to understanding how to help children with reading difficulties is to understand other concepts such as eye tracking and spatial attention.”
When children were re-tested after completing vision therapy, three things were noticeable. The first was that their reading speed improved, the second was that their visual attention improved, and the third was that their ability to copy geometric shapes, which is a visual motor function, improved.
Dr. Lane explains: “What I could not understand was why copying geometric shapes improved. My training program did not spend much time on this; it was mainly designed to improve eye tracking—the ability to move one’s eyes quickly across a line of print, which is what we do when we read. To get answers, I did some research and found that the areas of the brain that deal with eye tracking are also involved with visual-spatial attention and visual motor activities. Therefore, training eye tracking also trains visual attention and visual motor skills.”
The activities in Dr. Lane's workbooks aim to improve reading speed and proficiency by training visual tracking, focused attention, visual scanning, and spatial attention. All the activities are based on scientific research. Like any other exercise program, children get the best results if they are dedicated to doing the activities. Dr. Lane suggests that children spend at least one hour a day for five days a week on these activities. This does not replace normal reading instruction and is only intended to supplement current reading activities.
Children should have a professional eye examination performed by a developmental optometrist before starting a program. It is also recommended that children have a visual evaluation by a member of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development or of the Optometric Extension Program Foundation.
There is no quick solution to reading difficulties. Beware of anyone who tells you that he or she can solve a child’s reading problems with a quick fix! Children who have severe reading problems may always have some difficulty with reading, but the good news is that they can be helped.
This is a complex topic, and Dr. Lane has tried to make it as accessible as possible, but it is still somewhat technical. The more you understand the concepts, the more you will be able to help the child. Remember that the most important activity children can do is read. They should read every day.
More about Dr. Lane:
Kenneth A. Lane, O.D., was raised in the Philadelphia area and served for four years in the Marine Corps after graduating from high school. He graduated from the University of Delaware in 1969 and moved to Texas in 1970. He attended the University of Houston College of Optometry from 1973 to 1977. He founded the Lane Learning Center to help learning-disabled children in 1985.
Voted Best Optometrist in Denton County in 1998