Behavioral Optometrist Steven Goedert
By Carrie Schmeck
Life in FocusNovember 2014
By Carrie Schmeck
Photos: Betsy Erickson
When we think of optometry, our thoughts turn to eyesight, glasses and 20/20. In exams, we ramble off increasingly shrinking letters from a chart, decide whether “this” or “this” lens is clearer, and leave the office with a verdict for how well we can or can’t see.
Our seeing problems solved, we go on our merry way. According to Dr. Steven Goedert, a behavioral optometrist in Redding, we may only have half our story. While we addressed the clarity of sight, we likely missed addressing true vision, a holistic system that questions the relationship between our eyeballs and brains. “Vision is being able to have meaning in what you see,” says Goedert. “Actual seeing is in the visual cortex. It’s highly integrated with movement, hearing and sensory modalities.”
If our vision is off, we might find ourselves losing track of words on a page, partially closing one eye to read, or having difficulty with handeye coordination and depth perception. These are all signals our vision system is not working as a wholly functioning team. Quite often, Dr. Goedert finds the breakdown in eye teaming, or the ability to coordinate both eyes together. We learn to adapt, but miss our full potential in comprehension and decision-making. But we are often unaware of the deficiencies, and more so, that we can improve them.
We figure we were just poor students or that we have lousy memories, but Goedert says, “Vision can be trained. It’s learned.” Football players, tennis players and professional golfers know this, as many have made vision therapy, a treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive difficulties, a part of training regiments. “How fast can you recognize the position of an incoming baseball pitch?” Goedert asks. At his office, college athletes glimpse slides shown at speeds of 1/100th of a second and learn to combine recognition with rhythm and timing. Over time, he asks them to add movement and balance to fully integrate their whole body systems.
In an everyman’s application, vision therapy might add to an executive’s ability to effectively read, process and make decisions when faced with large doses of information and external stresses. Goedert also works with those who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, strokes and neurological disorders that may have compromised the nervous system.
After a full 30-year career as a primary care optometrist, Goedert reaps great satisfaction from devoting himself fulltime to vision therapy, where the bulk of his clients are children who have moved from learning to read to reading to learn, and have been classified with implied learning
disabilities. “They hit a wall around third or fourth grade,” he says. “You often have a smart kid who is good in math and fine if you read to them, but they’ve lost interest in reading because comprehension drops off.” For parents who wonder at the child who fights them to read, he says, “Sometimes the rebellion is an adaptation.” These kids should have a full developmental exam
that measures binocularity and near sight. “It’s an easy thing to rule out.”
Though it is a clinical practice, vision therapy, while it requires time and likely frustration, looks more like child’s play. A trampoline, hulahoops, colored balls and balancing boards dot the office decor. A few flat-screen TVs and high-tech media equipment disguise exercises as games. “If it’s not play time, they don’t want to come back,” says Goedert.
So while patients chase cartoon frogs on a screen and race down speedways to hone vision, it’s not just sight they’re after. It’s real vision, a life vision that will come into focus. Says Goedert, “There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing a child turn around and be successful.”
Dr. Steven L. Goedert • (530) 722-0200
1465 Victor Ave., Ste. D Redding, CA 96003