A forward looking eye doctor, writing in an official magazine, offers a demand which makes a plain man wonder. His proposition, plainly stated, is to the effect that every infant should have its eyes examined. He implies that most of them have defects. He asserts that if these defects are not corrected in the first few years of early life, the eye will degenerate into a chronic incurable condition. His bold, bald finality is that, if glasses should be settled upon the eyes of infants when they are eighteen months old, well, then, it is the thing to do.
That writer protests against what be calls eye exercises as a substitute for glasses. He does not explain what he means by eye exercises. It would seem that his plan would deprive the eye of its inborn right to exercise its own function, and yield itself passively to the domination of the artificial lens. As he offers no corrective treatment for the eye of a child which is acting in an abnormal manner, and condemns the efforts of those who undertake to correct the dysfunction, his pronouncia- mento has the effect of offering an obstruction to even the thought of some constructive effort for the cure of the condition.
Suppose we consider deliberately some established facts which concern such a remarkable contention. The first fact that suggests itself is the impossibility of proving that any infant’s eyes should have artificial lenses, or would be benefitted by theta. At that time of life there is nothing to be found in the eye that could determine its inability to develop a natural function. The text books offer several different theories as to the varying changes which seem to take place in the growing child’s eye. These differing theories are all more or less contradictory. But there are some significant statements. One statement is that the changes in the growing eyes cannot be estimated in advance. These changes are so variable, so uncertain, so irregular, that it is plainly indicated there is no fixed rule as to what will take place, or when it will happen. Apparently the course of the progress, like that of every other human function or faculty, is dependent upon circumstances.
We are told that five per cent of children are born nearsighted. At six years of age there are nine per cent. At sixteen there is a larger number. During the period of rapid body growth, more and more cases develop along the road. Besides that, those who are myopic get more and more so all the time. But the developing myopia. so it is explained, will often change its rate, increase more slowly, or stop increasing for some years, and then start a new rate of increase. Moreover, the progress in one eye may differ from that in the other. That stated fact is most significant. The books explain that the development of myopia in children is the net result of two opposing forces going on simultaneously. The excessively curved infantile lens keeps flattening, and the eyeball continuously grows longer. By the time full growth is reached, so we are told, the eye has a normal optical system, but is absolutely too long. This excess of length is blamed for almost all of the refractive error. In some cases, so one ophthalmologist claims, the front end of the eye is distended, and not the rear end, as most research workers claim. Such a radical difference of opinion necessitates some explanation of the different theories; but it is not offered. Meanwhile, one cannot help asking an explanation for the development of those eyes, which after all compose the great majority, that certainly do not grow more and more nearsighted, but do de- velop in a manner which eventuates in a good normal eye. Certainly environment, variable, suitable or the contrary, has to do with the great variations recorded. Is it reasonable to pay no least attention to that proved necessity in the consideration of the “wherefore” in this question of what to do for a developing eye?
The writer of the article referred to offers as a saving grace for his cases of defective eyes, nothing but glass lenses. But what warrant has he for saying that his glasses will per suade the defects in the eyes to reform? How many children who have glasses put on them ever have them taken off? One would not say there are none. But who would say there are more than a very few? That writer says nothing as to when his glasses will have saved the young eyes sufficiently so the artificial lenses can be permanently discarded. That is very discreet on his part. The common experience in those cases is that elm.=Vg-la -are ehanjed periodically for different ones, with the explanation that ‘stronger lenses are required.
Why should one expect glasses to correct any defective functioning of the mechanism of vision? Especially in a developing organ, why should one expect any artificial substitute for the function of the organ to develop the function of the organ itself? Such a proposition is contrary to all the science and art of modern medicine. It is exactly opposite in conception to the basic principles of the modern methods of education. The fact is that no claim is made by the ophthalmologists that glasses do correct the abnormal function of the eyes.
The artificial lenses are put on to assist the eyes. But when the artificial lenses refract the rays of light they do so with an unvarying precision. Meanwhile every dysfunction of vision varies constantly in degree. This means that there must be submission by the lens in the eye to meet the refraction made by the glass lens. Often there is conflict. In some cases it is serious. In any case there is a situation which is unnatural, and there are inevitable secondary effects consequent upon the submission of a human faculty to a constant outside interfer ence. Some children show this plainly in their conduct. Very few of the laity seem to have any consciousness of this most important truth.
Madame Montessori conceived a method of developing the mental deficiencies of subnormal children which surprised the world. In her wonderful work she cured extremely ab normal mental conditions by encouraging the subnormal qualities of the mind to develop along natural lines into normal efficiency. It is by chosen impressions carefully made upon the subnormal minds of mentally defective children that the Montessori system secures such wonderful changes in the working of their minds. The incomparably simpler changes re- quired to correct mere visual dysfunctions are easily accomplished by the same natural method of treatment. Very few would undertake to deny that statement. It is in accordance with the known physiology and psychology of the function of vision. It has been amply proved during many years. It is questioned only by those who have never tried it.
If one has interest enough to consider deliberately the case for those children who are having difficulty with their eyes, it will be necessary to lay aside whatever beliefs or prejudices or predispositions one has, for otherwise one cannot examine the evidence with an open mind. The unquestioning compliance of parents in placing spectacles on their children is sufficient proof of the impressions which have been produced on the public mind in the last few years. This strange new mental attitude is the result o€ the practice which has developed so rapidly in a short time. It is growing to seem natural to meet every trifling difficulty that children have with their eyes by the simple procedure of fitting them with spectacles.
We have gradually grown accustomed to seeing children with glasses on. As the ranks increased there began to appear very little ones among the small army. The relative number of children wearing glasses is trifling, as compared with those who- do not. What about those childrens’ eyes which refuse, as they develop, to follow the rules laid down in some of the literature on the subject? I mean those eyes which do not grow more and more near-sighted. Why the difference be- tween the few who develop some dysfunction, and the great majority who do not? The theory of an inevitable progressive maladjustment, predicated upon some unexplained distortion of the parts of the eye, takes no notice, and offers no explanation, of the eyes which develop into a normal maturity. Even more than that, the theory is contradicted by any eye which develops into a near-sighted eye, and later ceases to be nearsighted. There are plenty of such eyes in evidence. In my own practice there was a man who developed myopia at sixteen yeam following an attack of scarlet fever. He wore glasses, stronger and stronger, until he was sixty-one. He then took them off for two years. After that he gradually assumed again the constant use of them. He took them off again, however, after a year, and has not worn them for the last five years. He knows that it is the attitude of his mind which determines the conduct of his eyes.
The problem involves the foundation of the method of Dr. Bates for the correction of abnormal vision and the education of the eye in the normal conduct of the mechanism of sight. This problem is discussed fully in other chapters.
The specific, practical, positive, and vital conception that is the theme of this chapter, and the thought which I hope to leave as an impression on the minds of all who read it, is that the eyes of children should not be left to the management of optometrists. They should be protected from the raw commercialism of any campaign which boasts openly that its pur- pose is to put lenses on every one of them. It is not true that for the faults of vision which many children have, there is no other known help than a pair of artificial lenses. It is not true that those eyes must develop into a permanently abnormal condition. The eyes of the great mass of children still develop normally. It has been fully proved that the different abnormal conditions are only dysfunctions, and can be corrected easily and permanently. We protect children, naturally and positively, from impositions upon their helplessness: how long will it be before we protect them from this imposition?
The developing eyes of growing children should not be left to any management which offers their eyes no other help than the domination of a pair of artificial lenses. Such lenses displace the natural function of the lens of the eye. That is obvious. The natural effects of such a substitution must be very plain. The eyes are not something apart from the remainder of the body. They should not be examined and diagnosed by the mere testing of what they can see, at the moment, at a certain distance. The foremost. standard text book on the eye, the work of a world-famous Viennese eye specialist, explains with great detail that there is a close and absolute cooperation of the sense of vision with the other functions of the body. It explains that the functioning of the eyes is often impaired when the other functions or organs of the body are not conducting themselves normally. It explains that those other dysfunctions are the cause of the abnormal conduct of the eyes, and that when those other dysfunctions are corrected, the abnormal conduct of the eyes will cease. It is obvious that such an examination, and diagnosis, and treatment of the human eye should be carried out by one who is trained in the science and art of medicine. The problem should not be stated and dismissed by the mere routine procedure of having the patient look at some letters on a card, without any consideration of the real cause of the abnormal conduct of the eye, and without any consideration of the visual center in the brain which directs and controls the eye.
Although I realize the danger of repetition on this subject of spectacles on children, I am conscious also of a specific necessity. During ten years of this work I have been deeply impressed by the remarkable lack of attention given to the matter by the parents whose children are sentenced to the handicap of wearing glasses for the remainder of their lives.
My point is the thoughtlessness with which they accept, without the least question, the verdict that because the child now finds some difficulty in seeing things clearly, there is absolutely no other procedure in the premises but the adoption of artificial lenses. They are familiar with classes, private and public, for children who have different kinds of impairment of mental functions, and are familiar with the giving of medical attention to various organic and glandular dysfunctions, like asthma and diabetes and anemia. They are aware of the wonderful advances made in modern scientific medical treatment of every other part of the body. But they seem, in a strange manner, to be unconscious of the part that the eyes play for the brain. They walk into a store and let a man put a pair of glasses on their child, for the remainder of the child’s life, and think no more about it, then or later, than when they buy the child a pair of shoes which are to protect his feet for a few months. If the reader thinks that this is not a fair statement, let the reader try to prove, by simple personal deliberation, just what is untrue or unfair about it.
As a typical illustration of the contrasting attitudes of mind on the part of parents when their children are having difficulties with their vision, the following record is worth considering.
A girl from a small town in Oregon, with a relative living in Berkeley who was quite familiar with the success of the Bates method, was brought to my office by her mother two years ago last summer. When she was about four years old her parents discovered that her vision was at fault. Finally she was examined by an eye specialist, and was fitted with glasses for near-sightedness and astigmatism, before she was six years old She had been wearing the spectacles continuously for eight years when she came to me, because without them she not only had difficulty in seeing, but also was subject to symptoms of discomfort, even nausea and headache. Her mother also had been wearing glasses for several years.
They remained in Berkeley two weeks, and that was the only period during which I had personal supervision of her. She discarded her spectacles at the first treatment, and has never worn them again. Her mother worked with her, and site, also, discarded her glasses immediately and permanently. In several cases I have noticed that a mother wearing glasses, while she was trying to make the child discard her glasses, has realized an embarrassment in the situation. I appreciated the spirit of that mother, and I am sure her attitude was a great help to her daughter.
Dr. Bates felt that it was not a helpful example to a roomful of young children to face constantly a teacher wearing spectacles. In my own work I have been told by a parent, more than once, that the child’s teacher, wearing spectacles, was quite impatient with any indications of difficult vision on the part of any child in her class and that this attitude made the children quite self-conscious.
This girl was determined to be free of glasses permanently if possible. She improved from the first hour. Upon returning home, on vacation for some weeks, she practiced a great deal, exposing her closed eyelids to the direct rays of the sun. She found that this treatment was very helpful, and feels that this procedure was perhaps the most valuable of the techniques she used. She had been seen so long wearing glasses, that her appearance without them attracted real attention. Her vision was entirely satisfactory.
After she had been in evidence daily without glasses for over two years, a boy of her own age, who had seen her with spectacles for eight years, and was having trouble with his own glasses, finally decided that he also wanted to be free, and asked his father for permission to undertake the same treatment, pleading the example of his friend. His father refused to allow this, and the boy is now carrying on as best he can with the obstructing spectacles. I submit this story without any personal comment. It is just a rather extreme and con- spicuous example of a mental attitude which is not uncommon. Instead of being indifferent to the truth that is evident in the success of the method of Dr. Bates, the parents of the girl determined to make the endeavor. They realized that no possible harm could come to the child’s eyes, and their minds were open to the opportunity. In the three years that have followed those two weeks, the fruit of the endeavor has ripened.
It is not only that the girl has fine normal eyes, instead of weak eyes, helpless without spectacles. Her keen eyes are a help to her mind. There is no mental inhibition from the certain constraint which dependence upon glasses always causes. Besides this, there is another reward, one which is a source of tied happiness to the young lady herself, and to her parents and her friends. There are those who are persuaded, by the blandishments of sales-talk advertisements, to add a pair of modish spectacles to their adornments, They fancy it must be true that the glasses add to their attractiveness. In the words of the “ad”, beauty puts on its glasses. In this particular case, there is a remarkable improvement in the appearance of the eyes themselves, and there is a new charm in the happy face which is not obscured.
Because of my interest in this field, I can hear, in the atmosphere of spectacles, the whisperings of revolt against the propaganda which plans, with open frankness, to fit all children with glasses. These whisperings can be beard in the medical profession. They are also among the voices in the popular magazines. A prominent member of the medical profession trade a brief statement recently which is louder and plainer than usual. He said that he did not agree with those who expected the use o€ glasses to keep on increasing. He said he believed that the practice had reached its climax, and would soon begin to diminish. But such a radical reformation can come only through the efforts of the medical profession. It is not reasonable to expect it to originate with any element which believes that glasses are the only possible relief for all defective vision.
I have had more than one surprise recently, aroused by specific indications of the personal interest of practicing physicians. These men are beginning to realize that this most vital field of the work of the healers of the race has not received the critical, unprejudiced analysis which original workers in the other fields have given to their research work. Research means marching over again, examining the decisions that were made by other men. Strong men they may have been, leaders and pathfinders, but they had less knowledge to work with. They trade mistakes, too, some of them vital. In every other field of medical science such mistakes have been discovered, and they are still being discovered. In the field discussed in this book Dr. Bates was a research worker. He made discoveries; he found mistakes; he proved that the eyes of children can be taught to act in a normal manner. He showed that the way to help them to use their eyes in a natural manner is to have them try to use them right, and not to stop them from using their own eyes by making them use glass lenses instead.
It must be remembered that Dr. Bates was not an academician. He was a clinician. His laboratory was the constant procession of human eyes that he studied in a lifetime of daily work, in private practice, and in hospitals and clinics. For years he worked even in special Sund4y clinics, to treat those who could not come during their working hours. It was in this work that he discovered the specific causes of the common dysfunctions of the mechanism of sight. He demonstrated the truths of his beliefs daily by saving children from being obliged to wear spectacles. He relieved children who were wearing them, so that they had fine normal vision without them. His patients came even from distant parts of the world. His system is being practiced now in South Africa, and in Australia, and in India as well as in Europe. In Germany there is an organization today which is spreading what is called vision schools. They are practicing the method of Dr. Bates, and give the credit for the discovery to him, and the published success of their efforts is arousing national interest there.
More recently this same work has been organized in Eng- land. The published statement, issued by the chief of the movement, from its headquarters in London, announces frank ly that the principles of the method they are using are founded on the original discoveries of Dr. Bates. As usual, what originates in our own United States, is again being made use of in other countries, while it is being ignored, in a large way, by our own people. Such things must have happened in those early years. It was written: -A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country.”
My acquaintance with Dr. Bates’ work began when I read his book and put it into practice by freeing my own eyes from glasses, after wearing them for thirty-seven years. It is ten years now since I have worn them. A large part of my practice with the Bates method is with children. I have found it quite easy, as a rule, to relieve the difficulties children have when they are beginning. Many cases require only a few lessons. Children learn the method quickly when they are in terested. If their parents have an active interest it makes the children happy, and it is a pleasure to watch their young eyes sparkle, and their minds thrill, as they find the letters coming out plainly, which they could not see a few minutes before.
Even those children who have worn glasses for years genorally respond promptly to instructions, and very soon their eyes give perfect satisfaction without the use of the glasses they were wearing. Young life has a natural tendency to correct any dysfunction. Its tendency is to be normal physically and mentally. It often corrects automatically different kinds of abnormal functioning. Young minds are plastic. Their imaginations are vivid and direct. They have the power to make believe so that things become real. Their receptive and acceptive qualities are not yet burdened with the false conceptions and feed mental habits which inhibit free will and free mental and physical conduct in their parents. If one can interest their alert minds, it is easy to induce autosuggestions. They are eager, not indifferent. To have watched their response to the new delight of seeing things again with a vision that was lost, is to have an experience which is a perfect proof that the method of Dr. Bates is not a theory, but a reality.
It is untrue that for the faults of vision which many children are now developing, there is no known help but a pair of artificial lenses. It is not true that their eyes cannot be pre vented from developing a permanently abnormal condition, dependent upon glasses. The eyes of those unfortunate ones can be taught to develop with the same power as the mass of their playmates. We protect children, naturally and positively, from impositions upon their helplessness. How long will it be before we protect them from such a serious imposition?
In support of the statement I have made, and to show how really simple a proceeding it is to teach most children how to use their eyes so they will behave in a normal manner, I will report here a few typical cases in which that has been accomplished. Each record is a specific report, and every case is in evidence today.
Little Jimmie D., eight years old, was having such trouble seeing the letters on the board, and even seeing the words in the book, that the school nurse finally called in the evening on ]immie s widowed mother, who was at work all day. She explained that he must have glasses if he was to keep up with his class. His mother had heard of the Bates method, and brought him to me one evening at eight o’clock, all the way from West Oakland. His bright little mind was interested in the Snellen Test Card at once. Even with a 200 watt light, over his head, through a translucent shade and ceiling reflection, he could not see the letters on the fifty-foot line at ten feet. But when I used a 340 watt light in front of a reflector, placed close to the card, the same letters became clear, and smaller letters began to appear.
This discovery aroused him into an animated attention. By questions and suggestions he was led to imagine the letters he was trying to see, and presently one after another new ones took shape and became real. It was a pleasure to see the thrill with which he looked up into his mother’s face, as he stood with his back against her knees, when he became possessed of each new letter. In half an hour he owned three new lines. This was accomplished by the simple procedure of giving him a strong light, and getting his own imagination interested.
Specific directions were given for home work. He was to let strong sun shine on his closed eyelids for ten or fifteen minutes daily. There was to be half an hour of soft relaxation in the evening, lying with closed eyes while the radio gave soft music, and mother talked with him about his eye practice. He had a small card for near work, and a large card to be placed ten feet away. He blinked softly at the different letters, in the special way I showed him. He had practices for the school room, blinking at the writing on the board; and he had practices for objects in the street to and from school. Simple techniques, no straining, but a job to perform, like a game, which kept his mind in an attitude of attention to the power of his eyes. His eyes improved so rapidly that he had no further trouble in school; and soon his sight was a very good normal. I saw him in my office only seven times during a period of five weeks.
Albert C., ten years old, a different type, rather nervous. Three months before, because he was blinking and complaining of poor sight for some weeks, his father took him to an optometrist who gave him a pair of glasses. After a month with no relief, his mother went back with her complaint. This seemed to annoy the optometrist, who explained that she must realize the condition of her boy. He then told her that she must be patient for a long time, because her son’s eyes had never developed, and he was nearly blind. Frightened, she had her husband take him to an ophthalmologist in San Francisco. That specialist claimed that the discomfort, and the poor sight, had developed because his lower eyelashes turned in, and this condition must be corrected first. He used a cautery on the skin a few times, to produce scars which he promised would contract the skin, and pull down the edge of the lower lid. This scheme was a failure, of course. There was no change after the treatments. The specialist had promised to give the boy more suitable lenses, after correcting the eyelashes; but when his father made a final inquiry about the vision and the glasses, he received the reply that the local optometrist was correct, and there would be no advantage in giving the boy any different lenses.
The parents had been waiting for this final reply before bringing the boy to my office. They had delayed the de cision for a month. They felt that the eye specialist should be relied upon until they had his final answer. That is the history given to me.
An examination with the ophthalomoscope showed nothing unusual in his eyes. At his first attempt he read at ten feet the line he should have read at forty feet. He could not distinguish any smaller letters at that distance. In other words, he was really near-sighted. But he was not badly nearsighted. I did not concern myself about the diagnosis of undeveloped eyes. There was no excuse for such a statement. It was simply brutal.
That boy did not show much interest in the effort to cure his eyes. But fortunately his parents did. His mother was a great help. She made him practice daily. It quickly developed that the tragic situation conceived by the optometrist, and indorsed by the ophthalmologist, had no foundation in fact. What they may have thought is their affair. There was an improvement in his vision even during the first lesson. In three weeks he could read the ten-foot line at a distance of more than ten feet.
School closed then, and he went with his mother and his sister to the ranch of his uncle. For more than a month his mother secured a great deal of sunlight treatment, and in sisted upon a regular practice daily of the different directed techniques with the Snellen cards, and other methods.
Two weeks after he had returned to school in the Fall his mother came to the office and reported that he could always read the ten foot line at fourteen feet, and he was having no least trouble with his eyes. This result was secured with a very poor interest on the part of the little patient. His intelligent mother demanded his attention, and that secured the result. Such an improvement might be called a development of the eyes. In the Bates treatments we think of it as a simple education of the eyes.
Max S., twelve years old, was told by the school nurse that he must get glasses. He was having some difficulty with the board, but not much. Finally his mother had a talk with the nurse, and she insisted that he must be fitted with glasses. That was when his parents decided to see if such a course could be prevented. After a few treatments, and about three weeks of practice Max was able to read the teas-foot line on the card in the sun at the full length of their front porch, which was fourteen feet. His mother then arranged with the school nurse to have a test of his eyes while she was present. Tested in the school room, at a distance of ten feet, Max was able to read all the letters on the ten-foot line, but one. Grasping at that one straw, the nurse maintained that she had now proved that his eyes certainly needed glasses. She even volunteered the warning that if he persisted in trying to get along without them, he would ruin his eyes.
At the request of his mother I called at the house that afternoon and made our usual test at the distance of fourteen feet. He had no difficulty in reading all the letters. Relieved of the tension caused by the plain opposition of the school nurse, his eyes worked normally. When school opened again in the Fall he had no difficulty with his vision, and I have not heard of him since.
The case of E.M., now a fifteen-year-old girl, is interesting and instructive. When she was about three years old, it was noticed that she was nearsighted. Before she went to school at six years, it was necessary to have her fitted with lenses. The glasses enabled her to see things better, but were so unsatisfactory that a different ophthalmologist was tried. The new glasses proved even less satisfactory, so her parents tried again with the eye specialist who gave her the first pair.
When this first ophthalmologist took charge of her case a second time, he informed her parents that she would have increasing difficulty with her eyes until she was eighteen years old. They understood this to mean that she would require new lenses frequently. In five years she had four new pairs of glasses. The last new pair were to replace a pair broken on her face by a basket-ball.
She never was able to see, with any glasses, the difference between a man and a woman at the distance of a short block. She was uncertain often, even about nearby objects, and was limited in playing, and in school exercises. This developed a noticeable embarrassment in other ways, even in familiar personal contacts, caused by the realization of her difficulties in seeing persons and things.
When she came to me three years ago, she was wearing the glasses prescribed after the ball broke the ones she had on, a short time before. She complained that these glasses always felt heavy, especially the right lens. They were much stronger than the previous lenses, and tired her eyes. She was very cordial to a proposition that she find out whether she could learn to go without them. At the end of a week, during which she alternately wore the lenses and went without them, of her own choice she discarded the spectacles. She soon found that she could read and play with much less difficulty than she had experienced while wearing the lenses. For a few months she was favored with a front seat in the classroom. Her vision steadily improved in every way, and before long she could read everything on the blackboard from any part of the room, without any difficulty.
During the three years she has had the glasses off, her vision has steadily improved. She has no difficulty in seeing everything. Besides this, her mental attitude is quite different. It now has become evident that during the years she was wearing the spectacles her outlook upon everything was cramped and unhappy. From a pessimist she has developed into an optimist. Her relatives, and her friends have all remarked this. Her teacher was quite frankly interested in the novel experiment. She is now quite positive in her statement that her scholar improved in her vision, and in her work, and in her attitude toward social contacts and toward every aspect of her environment.
In this case the efforts of two prominent eye specialists were of little help, even in refracting the rays of light so that the child could see clearly. 4n the other hand, the glasses, so it seemed, quite disturbed her mental attitude. The promise of the ophthalmologist, that she would have increasing difficulty in seeing until she was eighteen years old was in keeping with some of the explanations recorded in books on that subject. She is now only fifteen years old. The future is still unknown. But in this case it seems fair to quote the words of Patrick Henry: “1 can only judge the future by the past.”
D.L., twelve years old, daughter of a physician in a town across San Francisco Bay, came to my office with her mother one year ago. Last spring her sight was normal. When she returned to school in the Fall she found difficulty in seeing the letters on the board. After a few weeks it became apparent that she must have some help. Her father sent her to an eye specialist in San Francisco, and she returned with a diagnosis that she was quite near-sighted, and must have glasses.
It happened that her music teacher was the sister of a librarian who had had difficulty with her eyes, and came to me for treatment. The sisters both knew of others who also had tried the Bates method with success. So the music teacher suggested that her young pupil come with her mother, and try the Bates method before she put on glasses.
The girl had an alert mind, and did not want to wear glasses. The first day I tested her eyes on the Snellen card, in a sunny room at ten feet, and found she could read, with either eye or with both eyes, the line that should be read at seventy feet. The line below, which should be read at fifty feet, she could not read at all. There were some other minor unpleasant symptoms.
After some conversation, I began by having the pupil look continuously at a 1000 watt electric light. She blinked softly, most of the time, and the light was placed three feet from her eyes. Following that she closed her eyes for five minutes, while I talked with her about the Bates method. When she opened her eyes she began to see the lower letters, finding them gradually, one at a time. I impressed upon her mind the necessity for eliminating the urge to see the letters. By sustaining an alert interest in her mind, with her eyes closed, or while she was looking at a letter she could not see, we managed between us to make her visual center respond to her wishes, and presently a letter which she could have seen perfectly a few months before, but had lost as an acquaintance, became visible again, because she had been encouraged to relax the strain in her mind. In twenty minutes she could read easily the letters on the thirty-foot line, instead of balking at the letters on the seventy-foot line. Her mother, a college woman and a doctor’s wife, said: “That is a miracle.” I answered: “No, it is simple physiology and psychology.”
She did not return for over two weeks. She had been ill, and had not been able to practice. She could read the same letters, but had made no improvement. That day she captured the remaining four lines on the card.
Her home work was to let the strong sun shine directly on her closed eyelids for ten minutes twice a day, the time to be increased gradually, according to her experience and im provement. She was instructed how to practice on the letters of the large and the small Snellen Test Cards she was given. There were specific directions for practices to be carried out in the school room and on the street. There was a half hour in the evening, lying with closed eyes and listening to soft music. There were other special reminders.
I saw her once again, in a few weeks. She was quite happy, her sight was entirely satisfactory, and she enjoyed the practice. Her mother was grateful. Just another simple case. Relax the tension, interest the mind, encourage the spirit, show them what the eyes will do – if you treat them the way any other deliquent function of the system is being treated daily by the medical profession.
The last record i will mention, in this chapter, which is “The Case for the Children,” has a vivid significance as an illustration of the menace to their freedom. There is a family of six. One parent and three of the four children, wear spectacles. The children are in their late teens; there is no prospect that they will ever be freed from the “windows”. The second parent is disturbed by an apprehension. It is not that there is any want of good vision yet. It is that a fear is forming in the mind — a fear engendered by four spectacle wearers in a family of six. The latter half of that sentence is just my guess, of course. But the fear is acknowledged – the fear that there will soon be a fifth member in the circle. With five in the house wearing glasses, what chance will the youngest child have? Already the sixth vision had become so poor when school closed this summer, that the eyes could not read any letters on the fifty-foot line placed ten feet away. The spectacles were just as near to the eyes as that.
During the first hour in my office a considerable improvement in vision was secured. There were a few more visits, and one day the sight was good enough to read the ten-foot line at ten feet. There is no doubt that this child could have good normal vision, free from spectacles, with very little further effort. But the case has passed out of my charge. All that is left to me is the interest I have, which is to hope for the best, and I shall continue to hope. There is a further hope I cannot refrain from expressing. When I think of the wrong that is being done to these children, I can hear the echo of a plaint wrung out of a spirit that lived in the days of the Prophets:. “How long, Oh Lord, how long?”