In the mid-1980s, ACTG’s founders, Bob and Kathy DeBoer, brought in Dr. Robert Zwicky, a pioneer in vision therapy, which goes beyond basic eye examinations to look at how visual information is processed by the brain and how the body responds to it. This approach became the foundation of the clinic’s approach today. Dr. Zwicky brought in Dr. Janyce Moroz in 1989, a Developmental Optometrist whose training in reflexes brought a new dimension to the practice. She recognized, without reflex integration, there wouldn’t be a solid foundation to help higher-level visual skills function at a basic level.
Over the years, other optometrists brought in additional perspectives. In the early 1990s, Dr. Garth Christiansen brought programs for binocular vision and dyslexia, while, from 1998 to 2019, Dr. Michele Taylor expanded the clinic’s capacity to provide full functioning eye exams and vision therapy. In 2011, powered by Dr. Moroz’s deep commitment to help children within the community, the ACTG Mobile Vision Clinic was started, providing greater access to vision services for young children from low-income families. Headstart provided basic screenings and referred children to the clinic. Dr. Moroz then performed developmental eye exams and provided recommendations for further services. Children who needed eye glasses would get them from the clinic if their caregivers approved.
In 2019, after more than three decades of service at ACTG’s Vision Clinic, Dr. Moroz and the Vision Team retired. We knew it would take a special kind of doctor to fill her shoes, one who could carry on her commitment to improving lives through vision therapy and continue her legacy of providing innovative, highly effective services to children and adults. We are thrilled to announce that Dr. Shelby May, O.D. is joining the Vision Clinic on July 7. Dr. May is a Developmental Optometrist who, while thoroughly grounded in the multidisciplinary approach that has made ACTG’s clinic unique, will help bring us to the next level in providing vision services that address the whole person.
We’ll let her introduce herself:
ACTG: Who are you?
SM: I’m a Developmental Optometrist. Basically I’m an eye doctor that looks at the eyes and brain as a whole and tries to help those systems work together as well as I can.
ACTG: Tell us about your training.
SM: My dad is an optometrist, so I learned at his knee. I’m a fairly recent graduate from Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, TN, where I had the absolute privilege of working with brilliant people with really powerful thoughts on how developmental optometry works. Then I was lucky enough to have an elective class on special needs in optometry. It really changed how I approach therapy, mostly because it got me to look at vision as a whole, not just as an eyeball in a brain in a head, but an eyeball in a brain in a body in a process and a surrounding socioeconomic situation and a surrounding family. All those extra variables have to be part of the treatment.
So instead of going broad and doing everything, I decided I would focus on vision therapy and just dive super deep, be a specialist essentially, and it’s made me very very happy. It's so much deeper even than I expected it to be because it goes so beyond eyes, which is why we’re here.
ACTG: What is Developmental Vision?
It’s important for people to know that vision is more than 20/20, is more than seeing clearly. It is seeing well, interpreting that, and then doing something with your body that is what you want, that creates a learning space.
Developmental vision is first of all figuring out what the conversation is between your eyes and your brain and your body, then seeing what we can do to make it as strong as possible, and that manifests in a thousand ways. No two patients will ever look the same, so tailoring that program to you is the biggest part of success.
ACTG: What is the prevalence of developmental vision issues, how many children are likely to have them?
SM: The easy number for vision-related learning changes or disabilities, we say one in four. Now that does not mean that one in four children needs vision therapy. It means that one in four have some sort of hiccup in the road, either that child overcomes that hiccup, or has enough power essentially to reteach or learn on their own, but not everyone compensates and not everyone compensates in a healthy way.
ACTG: Can you compare and contrast the approach used by Drs. Zwicky and Moroz and what you do?
SM: Developmental optometry is really exciting field to be in right now because it’s changing at the speed of light. A lot of things that we were doing when Dr. Zwicky and Dr. Moroz were being trained were new theories at the time and not super-well researched, but we knew it worked, anecdotally. For example, Dr. Zwicky was well ahead of his time with his use of colored light therapy to treat the full body through the eyes. The basic concept is using color to change your sympathetic/parasympathetic balance. The body responds to color, the way you feel in a red room feels very different than the way you feel in a green room. When Dr. Zwicky was doing it, it was very broad – red, red orange, red blue, we’re going to mix these and it seems to do things on this. Since then, there's been plenty of research, and now we take that in very small narrow doses in very specific colors, which does very dramatic things to the body. I'm definitely looking forward to restarting that in a way that can both help my vision patients, and others. It can be wildly successful for OT patients as well. How can we make your session more powerful, let’s get you in the right mind and body set before we get you moving?
ACTG: So part of your agenda is to do more to integrate vision therapy with other modalities?
SM: Absolutely. We know this is going to take time, but so many times, an optometrist looks at a kid and thinks, “Gosh, you really need a little OT before we get started.” That’s not something that a stand-alone vision therapy office is going to be able to coordinate. And that’s the beauty of an interdisciplinary site like this.
That’s so exciting for me because we talk a lot about the triangle of vision in my field -- this idea that the body builds the base for the eyes to function, and the eyes starts the conversation to get the body to go. The simple way to put that is “vision is motor and motor is vision.” It's so exciting because reflex talks to that in a way sometimes I can't. It does vision things in a body way that I can't necessarily do.
ACTG: You have a talent for explaining complicated things in an easy way!
SM: My whole job is to teach you what your brain is doing. If I can't communicate that, then I'm not doing my job.
ACTG: What’s one thing you’d like our clients to know about you?
SM: I am so genuinely excited to work with and come to know each one of you, your kids, and your whole families! I look forward to being involved in your development and your eye-brain connection! See you soon!
They have been through more in their brief lives than most of us experience in a lifetime. Travonte, age 4, Tramonte, age 3, and Tranayjah, age 2, are the children of single father Terrance.
Terrance had known Savalas (children’s mother) for more than 20 years when they finally came together. He knew she had a history of heart disease and had a pacemaker, and that she was already mother to eight children herself. But she wanted more, and so Travonte and Tramonte were born. Both Terrance and her doctors warned her against getting pregnant again, but she wanted a girl. Six weeks after giving birth to Tranayjah, she passed away.
Terrance and Savalas had shared responsibility for the kids. After she died, the children were embroiled in a custody battle between Terrance and Savalas’ older children, who took them away from him until a judge gave them back to Terrance. The impact on the children was devastating. “First, you lose your mother and you don’t know how, and then, at the same time, Dad, who is always there, suddenly he’s not there anymore.” Travonte, called Taytay by his father, felt her absence the most. “Her presence is very missed by him, he’s the one I’m dealing with the most,” says Terrance. “He has a lot of temper tantrums, shut downs, blank outs, he has these moments where he’ll cry and say, ‘I want my mom.’”
Once the children were back in his custody, Terrance needed to find daytime child care for them, so he could continue to support his family. “I researched a few childcare places and everybody kept saying ‘we can take the younger one but not the older ones’ or ‘I’ve got room for the boys but not the girl.’ I needed someone who could take them all.” Given what they’d already been through, he felt it was important to keep them together; no more separations. “I was giving up and one morning I got a phone call from [Turnquist] saying ‘we have a spot for all three kids now.’ I did a little research and visited, the staff walked me through, and I was like ‘You guys don’t know how much of a blessing!’ Ever since that day I thank God for you guys.”
Speaking of his little ones, Terrance says: “They are all my angels. Travonte, he’s a character of his own. He’s a bright young boy, shy and bashful, he loves basketball. Tramonte is more in your face. He’s my eater, you gotta keep the refrigerator full for him. He sees himself being a football player. Tranayjah, she’s a character among characters, she’s expressive, when it comes down to face gestures, impressions, picking things up, she’s one in a million.”
But the older children had challenges. Both Travonte and Tramonte had trouble with language. “You couldn’t understand what they were saying, Tramonte would go about mumbling. I think they were more scared to speak out, so when they talked, you had to make everybody be quiet just to get a simple sound out of them. Travante’s equilibrium was off, he was just clumsy, with bad hand-eye coordination. The guys had temper issues, they didn’t like sharing, they would get really aggressive, they would shut down.”
Since coming to Turnquist, things have improved for Terrance’s children. Both Travante and Tramonte have benefitted from Turnquist’s brain-based approach to child development, and both have also received occupational and speech therapy. Now, says Terrance, “they’re outspoken, you can hear every word clearly. Even my mom notices, she says to them ‘oooh, you’re talking so good!’ It’s a dramatic, dramatic change. Their physical movements are more coordinated. Travante, he still jitters side to side a little bit, but I think that’s him being silly at times.”
Terrance credits the staff at Turnquist with these gains. “They learned how to eat with a spoon. I didn’t teach them that, they were here most of the time, because I was working. Being able to have them come to the same place every day, with the same teachers and the same other kids is giving them stability they wouldn’t have had prior to that because of all the chaos. I tell everybody about you guys because I hadn’t found a daycare that took the time – and I don’t even call you guys a daycare, I call you a learning school, the services you provide these kids are way beyond being a daycare in my eyes.”
Do you need child care? Call Turnquist today at (612) 789-1236 or email email@example.com to inquire about enrolling your child in our program!
Boost-Up Plus is a 3-week multisensory summer camp for children ages 5-11 that focuses on stimulating physical and cognitive development through fun and challenging gross motor, fine motor, vision and auditory activities. Incorporating elements of A Chance To Grow’s S.M.A.R.T. approach, the program is able to influence a child’s ability to learn, think and remember, ultimately giving them the confidence they need to achieve success in and out of the classroom.
“It’s a holistic approach to help children reach their full potential,” says Patrick Dreher, a Developmental Adaptive Physical Education Teacher in the Robbinsdale district and instructor of the Boost-Up Plus program. “We work on building automatic responses in the brain, like balance, hand-eye coordination and cross-lateral skills through our ever-changing course of activities. As these abilities become more automatic, students are more likely to absorb and retain the information being taught in the classroom, because they are more prepared to learn.”
Patrick returned to school and earned several degrees, including a Master of Science in Special Education. He would later attend a conference for physical educators where he was first introduced to A Chance To Grow’s S.M.A.R.T. approach. This experience reinforced his belief that a moving child is a learning child. As fate would have it, he was hired shortly after as a physical education teacher at the Minnesota Transitions School, which happens to be in the same building as A Chance To Grow.
Patrick attended a 3-day S.M.A.R.T. workshop at ACTG and began introducing elements he learned into his own curriculum. The administration supported his efforts, and soon he was helping his students get the recommended 30 minutes of S.M.A.R.T. activities each day. Upon seeing this, the coordinators of Boost-Up Plus invited Patrick to join the team for the upcoming summer program, an invitation he happily accepted.
Since 2015, Patrick has been a Boost-Up Plus instructor and relishes the opportunity to lead the program each summer. “It’s difficult in a school environment because I sometimes only see students twice a week, which isn’t enough time to reach the 80 hours a year we aim for. It can take 2-3 school years to see any improvements at that rate. But in the summer, we have three weeks to work on specific things for each child and you can see progress happen much faster.”
“Every child has their own starting point and progress means different things for different people,” says Patrick. “We begin with an initial assessment to see where the child is and identify what skills we want to work on over the course of the camp. We make individualized adaptations as much as possible, and the obstacle course changes from day to day.”
The course includes activities like belly crawling, balance beams, overhead ladders, fine motor work stations and more. “We meet the students at their level by making the course incrementally harder or easier, depending on their individual needs. They appreciate the changes and that excitement fuels their motivation to reach their potential for that day.”
“There’s lots of different things I’ve seen and done that have worked great for some students, but not for others,” says Patrick. “This program works for everyone.”
Patrick relishes the moments when it “clicks” for the students, when they realize that they have the capacity inside of themselves to overcome obstacles on their own. “Once they know they have that power, they can do anything,” says Patrick. “It’s rewarding when they want to challenge themselves to be better or faster on the course. They begin to see that if they put in the work, they are going to make progress and find success. Confidence breeds success, and success breeds more success.”