Environmental Tweaking Over Artificial Remedies!

The fact that millions of schoolchildren require vision remedies on a daily basis so they can more readily assimilate into the culture of public schooling does not mean that these children are damaged. It means something is very wrong with the whole idea of shooling!

Some are better at seeing things up close, some see things better afar, but that does not mean that anybody can feel at liberty to try to remedy their vision with unnatural appendages to their faces.

My perspective is one of a parent of an elementary school aged child. There is now an inordinate amount of time spent sitting and testing of these children and it seems to worsen every year. The high stakes tests are now tied to teacher performance and most importantly their pay raises. This has led to rampant (mis)diagnosis of nearsightedness and farsightedness of very young children by people that are far from qualified in making this call. My child was “diagnosed” by a new principal after a five minute classroom observation. The classroom had a substitute teacher that day and the child was squinting and grimacing. The principal called me at home to tell me the child needs to be remedied in order to perform well in school.

I just thank my lucky stars I went to school in the 70’s and 80’s before it became the “in thing” to remedy anything and everything. I don’t take or wear any remedies (strong tea excepted). Never have, never will. I don’t want a loused up body expression, thank you! The line between bored genius or gifted child and one with vision deficits and motor issues is razor thin, and the test to determine that heavily biased towards the latter.

The “disease” model diagnosing poor vision is nothing more than a creation of the vision alliance as a profit model to keep unfortunate sufferers on their products for life. Children who are made to start wearing eyeglasses at a young age may well turn out totally dependent on this remedy forever after.

The financial and relationship ties between the opticians and eyewear manufacturers are well documented and a matter of public record. That vision remedies have no record of long term efficacy is also well documented, there are close to no documented cases of eyewear users who have kicked the habit successfully, even with extended and intensive therapy.
That there are numerous factors and possible reasons for vision deficits that fall *outside* the disease model championed by the opticians and eyewear manufacturers and their sales reps is also well researched and known among those who care to look.

The intricately shaped pieces of glass or plastic that children wear on their innocent faces are closely related to telescopes and microscopes, yet the advocates of vision remedies claim that there is no danger of one turning into another. It does not take a lot of research into the revered titles of optician, optometrist and ophtamologist reveal that they all derive from the word “wish” or “want” in latin. And what is it that they want? Well, their field of interest is the “oculum”, the eye, which is accidentally almost the same word as occult, meaning hidden or secret, and “occulo”, meaning to trample down!

We must all admit that wearing glasses must obviously affect a growing brain. We simply do not have good enough long term studies to conclude that those remedies are safe for long time use. And as long as those who make glasses are the same people who do the eye tests, is it any wonder they conclude that so many people need glasses? It’s not even as if poor eyesight is one clear condition, they promote glasses as the answer to completely different symptoms, such as nearsightedness (is that not purely a definition issue?) and astigmatism. Many people have eyes that are slightly crooked, but are there really any good reasons why we should burden them with a diagnosis such as astigmatism, especially when we see the stigma attached to such diagnoses (stigma is even a part of the word astigmatism!)?

Surely, eyesight is just one of those conditions that exist on a scale. One simply cannot say that John has perfect vision, while Jen has poor vision, when the scale is as oversimplified as to consist of just 20 points. Where is the line drawn? Does good vision start at 10/20, or do you count everything below 15/20 as poor? Should such a scale really be enough to rate whether someone has vision problems? It could be enough that a parent says the child cannot read the signs on buses indicating their direction, and a teacher concurring that the child never reads properly on the blackboard, yet can sit for hours and read from a book held way too close to the face to properly participate in any appropriate classroom activities.

Do we really want that for our kids? Much of what is termed an “illness” is nothing more than being guilty of the “crime” of falling outside what “educated” optometrists and opticians define as “normal”. There are strong incentives from various directions to use remedies as a preferred approach to dealing with the messy mismatch of human abilities with environments. I think it’s important to recognize individual differences, and also to recognize opportunities to use medical treatments when they make sense, but that we should use the big hammer of the disease model more sparingly than we do.

I think a helpful analogy would be obesity. Obesity is not itself a disease, it is more like a mismatch of aspects of our biology with aspects of our environment and over time that mismatch leads to disease.

Kids who don’t fit a very narrow specification of what is deemed “acceptable” in school get medicated. Adults who don’t fit a very narrow specification of what is deemed to be a “cultural fit” in the workplace don’t get employed.

There is also a huge range of experience. For some, remedies such as eyeglasses may be enormously helpful, and I am not discounting that. I also would not discount the correlation between classroom conditions and diagnoses of poor vision. Many thousands of kids are treated for trivialitied — the very significant percentage of kids being diagnosed suggests that there is more to this, and that environment is a part of that picture.

There are biological dispositions and there are environments where we express those. When we have a mismatch we can try to change the disposition, change the way it is expressed in the environment, find a different environment, or create new environments where it is better adapted. Changing individual differences in attention is not something we can currently do. Changing the way it is expressed in environments is something we can marginally do with eyewear and even contact lenses. Changing the environments in which we function is something we can actually do right now.

Especially where children and vision remedies are concerned, I consider it both advisable and preferable (in my non-medical opinion) to make adjustments to the learning and home environment to achieve a better fit first, before physically altering the child’s eye/brain coordination and behavior. Of course, both may be necessary before all is said and done.

None of us have a crystal ball. We cannot see any child’s future clearly. When we remedy, we may be altering brain structures and behavioral patterns that may turn out to be useful and adaptive to them at a later date and/or in a different environment.

Most of the biological dispositions we consider important to human life are almost impossible to define without giving them a cultural context. Poor vision, obesity, and other problems can be quite important and quite serious and quite real without being technically diseases if we respect the way the underlying differences are expressed in different environments.

Is it not up to us, as a society, to change our environments to suit people of all visions? There is a cultural problem that needs to be addressed before implementing solutions that involve remedies, but that needs to be solved in a case-by-case analysis.

Surely there is no real need for furniture to have such sharp edges? We ought to make it mandatory that all walls should be padded. Every classroom should have three or four whiteboards projecting the teaching in different sizes and clarities. And if some children still need to move around to see what is going on, let them! Tweak the environment as far as possible before remedying the child!


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