Stephanie Natalie of Mokena was skeptical when her son's eye
doctor told her there was a new kind of glasses that might help
with Steven's reading problems.
"But I thought, 'Why not give it a shot?'" she says.
Steven, 9, had struggled with reading since kindergarten and
received special help at school. Anything that might help was worth
Dr. Jennifer Johnson, an optometrist in Mokena, Crestwood and
Manhattan, had just been certified to treat patients using
ChromaGen lenses, which can help correct color blindness and some
reading problems. Johnson thought Steven's type of reading issues
might be something the lenses could correct.
"A lot of these kids will notice that words move on them," she
says. "They look like they're popping out of the page."
Johnson asked Steven to read a paragraph of simple words in
different fonts and sizes.
"She timed him for a minute and asked him to read it. He was all
over the place. He skipped words and rows," Stephanie
Then Johnson began working with the 16 different colored lenses
that are inserted into a frame. The filtered ChromaGen lenses work
by re-synchronizing and selectively changing the wavelength of
light entering the eyes, which is the cause of many of the symptoms
associated with dyslexia and color blindness.
"We go through all 16 colors starting with one eye, and the
patient will look at a page of nonsense words and we ask them which
one makes the pages look better," Johnson says. "They will do it
for each eye and will have a different color in each eye." The
entire process takes about 30 minutes, and Johnson and her patients
can see the results immediately.
"She asked him to read the exact same paragraph, and in one
minute he read seven rows without missing anything," Stephanie
says. "He said, 'Wow, Mommy, that was so much easier because
nothing was moving.' I was like, 'Oh my God, was it that
Johnson says it's not so simple for everyone-only about 50
percent of children with reading problems can be helped with the
lenses. And the glasses or contacts cost $700-$900, which isn't
covered by insurance.
But for Steven, the glasses have made a huge difference in the
four weeks he's been wearing them.
"He came home last week from school and said in the regular
class with 30 kids (he is usually in a special classroom for
reading), he raised his hand to read," Stephanie says. "I was so
proud of him. He realizes the difference and it's giving him
confidence, which is half the battle."
The colored lenses look like transition sunglasses and are
offered through certified optometrists. To find a list of doctors
in Illinois, visit ireadbetternow.com
Liz DeCarlo is the former senior editor at Chicago Parent.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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