Lake Worth Eye School has just celebrated its one-year anniversary. “Students” at this vision therapy practice have their binders and their homework, and when they achieve their goals, they earn an Odee. When they accumulate enough Odees, they can turn them in for prizes.
Odees and the make-school-fun approach of Lake Worth Eye School are the brainchild of Trina Lieske, OD. The eye school is now a part of her practice that she initially opened in January 2006, Vision City of Lake Worth, in Lake Worth, Texas. Here’s how the expansion developed.
When the issue of board certification arose, Dr. Lieske decided that “I didn’t want to be last to be certified. In fact, I wanted to be among the first.” So she began studying in 2012. During that time, she came across sample questions on vision therapy. “I remember thinking, ‘Why do I know nothing about vision therapy?’ I was looking up all the answers,” she says. The subject hadn’t been part of her coursework when she graduated optometry school in 1998.
At SECO in March 2013, she really hit her stride. She began taking CE courses on vision therapy and connecting with other vision therapy providers. “The more I learned, the more I realized what I could be doing for kids around here. There are children with strabismus and convergence issues, and there’s no one around here to help them.”
It quickly became her passion. As a parent of a special-needs child, she knows the stress that parents undergo. “The frustration for a parent who knows that there’s something not quite right with the child is so high. What’s the right answer? Drugs? Surgery? These parents are looking for anyone who can help them,” she says.
When vision therapy does help, the impact is tremendous, she says. “It can be the difference between a kid who drops out of high school or one who goes on to college. So often, children are labeled as dyslexic or ADHD, and that becomes almost an excuse. When we can work on these issues, we end up with high-functioning students,” she says.
That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though. In fact, so far it hasn’t even been tremendously profitable. Dr. Lieske trained her own technician, taking her along to courses. The two spend about 90 minutes preparing for every hour of vision therapy delivered. Dr. Lieske has about an eight-patient load at Lake Worth Eye School, and she and her practice partner Jon Valamides, OD, see patients at the primary care Vision City location.
For this first year, she didn’t advertise. She didn’t want to be overwhelmed with a demand she couldn’t accept. Even so, patients kept finding her through dyslexia support meetings and occupational therapists who have seen the impact on previous patients.
As she enters her second year, she anticipates that she will start advertising. She’s also hoping she can begin to bill medical insurances successfully. So far, most families have paid for vision therapy as an out-of-pocket expense. “But the value to families is that their children can get homework done in 30 minutes instead of an agonizing two hours. Their visual perceptions improve, so these teenagers can drive safely. That’s tremendous value,” she says. She’s particularly interested in working with autistic children, those with learning problems and more severe strabismus. “I was able to use prisms on a 15-year-old autistic boy that changed his spatial awareness. That’s my vision of power, to be able to change spatial awareness for someone,” she says.