Help Jon keep from going blind

Have you ever gotten poked in the eye? Remember how bad that hurt? Have you ever gotten poked in the eye bad enough to require going to the ER? Now imagine doing that about every other month. For all 8 years of your life.

Last month, Jon was joyfully chasing a friend around a bush, bumped into a branch eyes-first, and then spent another 4 hours screaming in pain until he finally got yet another round of numbing eye drops and yet another round of antibiotics. The same thing happened just a few days ago.

He and his mom spent yet another beautiful Summer day hiding out in his bedroom with double shades drawn because it’s just too bright otherwise and he doesn’t want Mommy to be too far away from him. Earlier he listened to The Lego Movie because it’s just too bright to look at a screen. This month he's been listening to Nova Science Now, as he’s quite the little scientist. His teachers, afterschool and summer camp caregivers often exclaim about how much fun it is to spend time with him because he’s funny, creative and loves to share his wonder for all things.

But, this time (or next ) he might be unlucky enough to be blinded. He’s already got permanent scars.

He's gone to lots of different eye doctors to find out what’s wrong, since he also has a very hard time reading – missing half of words, skipping over entire lines of paragraphs, getting headaches and getting very tired after only a small amount of reading. And he’s great at throwing a ball or a frisbee, but can’t catch one to save his life.

His parents wear glasses; does he need glasses? No, no. Physically, his eyes are just fine. So what’s wrong???

Finally an occupational therapist at his school suggested seeing a behavioral optometrist. Some medical doctors discount the visual therapy provided by behavioral optometrists (just as chiropractors used to be disparaged), however, respected institutions such as the American Optometric Association have even published guidelines for such therapies (

And, it simply makes sense that it is possible for the eyes to be physically fine, yet the processing between the eyes and the brain can be faulty, rather like wiring problems between the sensors, controllers and mechanical systems that his mom, an adjunct teacher, builds with her students.

They went to a behavioral optometrist. Yes, glasses won’t help. Yes, Jon has “significant difficulty changing focus from one distance to another.” Yes, Jon has “significantly low fusional ability” so he’s not even seeing whole words, never mind whole lines in a paragraph. Yes, this causes “headache, eye fatigue, short attention span for close work, double vision, letters that appear to swim.” Yes, this is exactly the kind of therapy that would substantially alter the world for him academically and socially, for example, being able to read a whole paragraph and to play catch with his schoolmates.

Ok great! Let’s do it! But wait: 9 months of therapy costs over $9,230, it’s not covered by insurance, and his mom wouldn’t be able to teach some of her usual Math and Engineering classes. The total hit: over $20,000. Not exactly feasible compared to a “contingent Faculty” annual income of barely $24,000.

Can you make a donation to help keep one young scientist from going blind? Any amount is very much appreciated! $250 covers a single vision therapy session; $1000 covers a month of vision therapy. But even $10 gets Jon one step closer to being able to see well enough to improve and protect his eyesight.

Attached is an old picture of Jon with his robots. His mom hasn't taken any recent pictures of him with his creations, but will when he can open his eyes again. The caption was: "You might be an engineer if ... playing with "Mommy's toys" means 3 hours of building robots (resulting in Zoom-bot, Frog-bot and Dancing Crab-bot) instead of make-up, K'nex are supposed to be for age 7+ and you're 4, AND Mommy's tired of it after 3 hours, but you're not..."


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Johanna Steen 
Albany, NY
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