Eye clinic gets at the root of problems that have often been
mislabeled as learning disabilities
Dr. Jill (Hadler) Schultz has a complicated title. She’s a pediatric/functional/neuro-rehabilitative optometrist. But to her patients at Bright Eyes Vision Clinic in Otsego and Minnetonka, she’s just Dr. Jill.
Dr. Jill sees everyone. She has patients as old as 90, dealing with blurry vision, and as young as six months, coming in for InfantSEE, a free first checkup for children under one year old.
But a lot of eye patients have vision problems that are a little more complicated — or don’t even know they have vision problems, because for many years their impairment has been misdiagnosed as a learning difficulty or attention deficit disorder.
They come to Dr. Jill, too, for cutting-edge technologies and therapies available only at a few clinics in Minnesota—and one of them happens to be Otsego’s Bright Eyes Vision Clinic.
“A lot of kids are diagnosed with learning problems. Parents wonder if they have ADD. Teachers are frustrated because the kids don’t perform well in school,” explains Dr. Jill. “What they don’t realize is that vision problems can cause learning problems. If you reach these children early enough, you have the potential to change their lives.”
The difficulty with relying solely on screenings at the pediatrician’s or at school is that a screening typically tests for distance. However, a lot of learning is done close up, like reading a book or working on a math problem. So, Dr. Jill checks for distance and close-up vision.
She also makes sure a child’s eyes are able to work together, track across a page and focus properly. An issue with any of these can make it hard for children to read, pay attention and concentrate.
Eye exams and evaluations are recommended for children at six months, three years and five years.
Interesting gadgets fill the rooms in Bright Eyes Vision Clinic, and they all play a role in diagnosing and treating the common and less common visual problems Dr. Jill sees in her office. There is the visagraph, a goggle-like headpiece that follows a patient’s eye movement, and a retinal camera. But you’ll also find familiar tools of the trade: eye drops, eye patches and puppets for little ones whose attention wanders from the task at hand.
Bright Eyes recently added a Neuro Optic Vision Assessment VEP System. VEP stands for visual evoked potential, which doesn’t mean a lot to the average person, but to Dr. Jill it’s an invaluable tool that helps her measure electrical activity between the eye and brain. When a person looks at something, that visual message is passed from the eye through the optic nerve to the brain.
But when that pathway has been disrupted — for example, when someone has suffered brain injury due to stroke, emotional trauma (PTSD), chemical trauma (chemotherapy), accident or in-utero trauma — symptoms arise. Some of those include dizziness, sensitivity to light, double vision and headaches. The VEP system works to diagnose conditions and measure responses to treatment.
One of Dr. Jill’s patients was in a workplace accident five years ago, which caused some visual impairment. He saw a number of eye doctors, but no one could target the problem. Then he was referred to Bright Eyes.
Dr. Jill gave him glasses with a prism and put him on a therapy plan. He worked with a visual therapist once a week, and gradually saw an improvement in his vision, his confidence at work and better family relationships.
With a second clinic in Minnetonka now, Bright Eyes still calls Otsego home because Dr. Jill grew up in Elk River. And this year, she has designs on a revamped Otsego clinic.
“We’re adding more space, remodeling the entire clinic and revamping our optical. We’ll have homework stations so kids, whose sibling is here for an eye appointment, can do their schoolwork while waiting,” says Dr. Jill. And if she gets her wish, “We’ll also have a fireplace. A fire and hot chocolate with the snow falling, wouldn’t that be nice?”