Cover one of your eyes with your hand for about 5 minutes. At first, you may not even last the entire 5 minutes and give up covering that eye out of frustration and indifference, which is understandable!
Now imagine at the age of 6 having no choice but to patch one of your eyes for over 11 hours straight, on a daily basis, and for over 4 years.
This scenario is not just a made up story, but these events actually occurred to a young girl named Jillian Benoit. After failing a routine school vision screening, Jillian was diagnosed with amblyopia at a very young age after being referred to a children’s ophthalmologist, who in turn ordered her to wear the dreaded eye patch for years with NO improvement.
Patience had run out for Jillian’s mom Robin, and she demanded answers from the ophthalmologist. Being told there was nothing left to do for Jillian’s visual problems, Mrs. Benoit took matters into her own hands. Robin discovered the Optometric Extension Program Website and nearly shed tears while reading testimonials of children and parents with similar visual issues as Jillian. She also discovered the resolution to Jillian’s problems in an unfamiliar procedure known as vision therapy. Jillian immediately began vision therapy, despite extreme skepticism from the ophthalmologist, and went on to progressively show visual and major improvements in school – even achieving honor roll placement!
Robin and Jillian Benoit are now big advocates of vision therapy and other subjects of behavioral optometry. They have just released their story in a book called “Jillian’s Story: How Vision Therapy Changed my Daughter’s Life”, in order to shed light on the fact that vision therapy works and can change anyone’s life for the better, no matter the age.
In order to continue informing many people around the world about vision therapy and its benefits, HOYA® and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation made it possible for Robin and Jillian to visit several of the optometry schools in the United States and Puerto Rico to share their story. Being present during the IAUPR School of Optometry’s Skype Presentation with the lovely, fun, and energetic Benoits, I could sense that as future optometrists, it is important to be able to see first hand how we can change a person’s life.
“You may not offer vision therapy in your practice when you graduate, but please know what it is and what it can do. You hold the key to changing someone’s life in your hand” – Jillian Benoit, age 13.
To book this and other similar live or Skype events at your school, please contact KKitchener@oep.org and make sure to follow Jillian’s Story on Facebook and Twitter. “Jillian’s Story” can be purchased at JilliansStory.com and at OEPF.org
Jeannine Gutierrez M.S.
Chief of Private Practice Optometry; OptometryStudents.com
IAUPR COVD Liaison
AOSA OEPF National Liaison
IAUPR School of Optometry ℅ 2015
Low Vision-Vision Therapy-OEP Committee Chairwoman