Brainwear Helped Her Overcome Learning Issues; Now She Helps Others Do the Same
Mind-Eye Institute Puts Erika on Path to Master’s Degree, Teaching Career
She struggled with learning disorders during most of her school years. Now, Erika Cannon is a successful middle-school teacher in her own right, certified to instruct children who have learning disabilities – many similar to those she once experienced — and thankful to the Mind-Eye Institute for “putting me on a whole new career path.”
In fact, the LaGrange Highlands, Ill, resident says she was tested and diagnosed with dyslexia – difficulty in processing words and, in her case, numbers, too – at age 20. Three years later, she received punctal plugs (tear plugs) at the Mind-Eye Institute to help resolve a problem with dry eyes, but the plugs appeared to do more than that.
“They seem to have wiped out my dyslexia, too. After the plugs were inserted, I started to comprehend what I was reading. I could spell. I could understand punctuation. I was able to do math,” she says.
“When the college required a re-evaluation of my learning issues to maintain my eligibility for specific accommodations, the same independent company that did the first test was stumped. I showed no evidence of dyslexia on the second test. The company said it had never experienced anything like that before,” Erika recalls.
Now that Erika could read and comprehend, she decided to switch majors from fashion to teaching. “I went on to obtain a master’s degree in education in 2012 with a 4.0 grade-point average and earn certification to teach middle school-age students, including those with disabilities,” she says.
“Today, I am teaching students how to read and write” – the very subjects in which Erika struggled for years.
Of course, the “magic” of the Northbrook, Ill.-based Mind-Eye Institute is nothing new for Erika. She has been a patient of Deborah Zelinsky OD, Mind-Eye founder and executive research director, since fourth grade when her reading issues seemingly first surfaced.
Dr. Zelinsky is recognized worldwide for her studies of retinal stimulation and her innovative work in evaluating and addressing retinal processing disorders. “Retinal processing” refers to the ability of the brain (partially beneath a conscious level of awareness) to take in many external sensory signals (from eyesight, hearing, smell, taste and touch) and synthesize the information, reacting and responding, depending on many internal sensory signals.
When intact, retinal processing enables people to have their internal body systems (such as balance, posture and pupil size) running automatically. This “cruise control” allows a person to understand and respond appropriately to the external world around them. If brain circuitry is out of sync because it has been disrupted – or, in the case, of younger children, perhaps under-developed — people can become confused about their surrounding environment and exhibit inappropriate reactions and responses,” Dr. Zelinsky explains.
“The retina is an overlooked part of the central nervous system,” she says, “and by changing the way light enters the retina, we can simultaneously affect body posture and biochemistry, as well as a person’s spatial awareness, movement, perception of surrounding environment and selective attention to sound.”
Through careful modulation of retinal signaling using customized therapeutic “brain” glasses – Brainwear™, the Mind-Eye Institute is helping patients who have learning challenges to develop new visual skills, and often helping those with damaged brain circuitry as the result of injury or disease to redevelop their lost skills, says Dr. Zelinsky. She has devoted her career to neuro-optometric rehabilitation and development of advanced methods for assessing brain function.
“As a young girl, my parents had asked me why I was falling behind in school, and I told them reading made me sick to my stomach – literally. I would get nauseous; words seemed to jump around on a page. They took me to a local optometrist who was unable to help me; I tested as having normal 20/20 eyesight,” she says.
Erika was referred to the Mind-Eye Institute where Dr. Zelinsky performed a complete assessment of her and then provided Erika with color overlays to place over a page when she was reading.
The overlays worked; the words stopped moving, Erika says. But, as she grew older, new problems emerged.
“I had difficulty comprehending what I was reading. I could not grasp the concepts of grammar and punctuation and had trouble with phonics – recognizing the sounds of letters,” she states. “In high school, I always had to have a math tutor and I continued to struggle with writing. I would have people edit my assigned papers before I turned them in.”
Because she maintained passing grades “by sheer determination,” her elementary and high school administrators declined to have her tested for learning disorders. Meanwhile, she continued going to the Mind-Eye Institute at regular intervals, updating her prescriptions for the specialized glasses she wore to help her overcome her learning problems.
“It was not until I was in college and seeking accommodations, such as using a calculator for math or getting extended time to complete a test, that I was approved for a learning evaluation,” she remembers. “That’s when I was diagnosed as having dyslexia.”
As many as 10 percent of Americans – children and adults — reportedly have dyslexia. The disorder, which often runs in families, is believed genetic-based and is characterized by slow reading; difficulties with comprehension, writing and spelling; and a tendency to mix up words. In some instances, the problems extend to numbers as well.
What continues to amaze Erika is being told she is no longer dyslectic, after being diagnosed with the disorder earlier. “At the time, Dr. Zelinsky did a kind of EKG of my eyes to check eye movement and then inserted the tear plugs,” Erika says.
Although life – and learning — in general has been easier ever since, Erika remains a Mind-Eye Institute patient.
“The [Mind-Eye] glasses allow me to function in comfort,” she says. “When [as a teacher] I am struggling with the artificial light in my classroom or developing headaches and visual fatigue from staring at a computer screen, I know it is time to go back to Dr. Zelinsky,” Erika says.
“I trust her and the entire Mind-Eye team,” Erika says. “I have been going there since fourth grade. Whatever Dr. Zelinsky prescribes, I go with it.
“Mind-Eye has changed my life,” she adds.
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