Riverdale—It became clear that optometry was Dr. Joel Warshowsky’s calling when Professor Nathan Flax, Chief of Optometry at the SUNY College of Optometry, taught him that instead of refashioning contact lenses, he could actually reshape a person’s way of seeing by utilizing vision therapy and related therapeutic practices.
Before starting a career as a behavioral optometrist, Dr. Warshowsky had planned to be a dentist. He decided to switch to optometry after having difficulty with the spatial relationships questions on the dental entrance exams, a challenge he was able to later resolve with vision therapy. Today, it is his career.
Seeking to help individuals who are suffering from visual misdiagnoses and related symptoms such as poor concentration, headaches, and blurred vision, Warshowsky uses various exercises developed specifically for vision therapy. Because of the results, Dr. Warshowsky has helped many patients, most of whom are children, to have a new lease on life—one in which they can see clearly.
His successful results, both from his own personal experience treating himself (self-remediation) and his patients, have ultimately enabled him to become the founding Chief of Pediatrics at SUNY.
A soft-spoken man, Dr. Warshowsky exudes enthusiasm regarding vision therapy. Children in particular, because of a variety of symptoms that might indicate visual dysfunction, often end up with feelings of low self-esteem. What are some of these symptoms? Losing one’s place and skipping lines while reading, having to reread sentences over to grasp the meaning, omitting or substituting words, having double vision or seeing words that appear to move or jump on the page, are some of them. Significantly, symptoms such as “…a lack of concentration, focus, and attention, when involved with visual demands such as reading, writing, spelling, and math,” said Dr. Warshowsky, “may be misdiagnosed as ADD, ADHD, and/or dyslexia. Before any of the diagnoses are made and certainly before medication is given, a behavioral visual analysis should be obtained. Ruling out variables that might signify other conditions should be accomplished by evaluating visual, auditory, and motor functions first.”
In his accessible-to-the-lay-person book, How Behavioral Optometry Can Unlock Your Child’s Potential: Identifying and Overcoming Blocks to Concentration, Self-Esteem and School Success with Vision Therapy (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2012), Dr. Warshowsky explains that the symptoms of ADD and ADHD are very similar to those of visual dysfunction. “The major difference is that ADD and ADHD are typically experienced in two or more separate environmental settings—for example, school and home—whereas visual dysfunction is task-specific. In other words, the symptoms are most present when involved with visually demanding situations such as reading and writing.”
He also speaks extensively of convergence (“the ability to turn one’s eyes inward so that each eye meets at the same single point in time”) as being, perhaps, the most common indicator of one’s sense of self, since the degree of convergence consistently affects one’s sense of self in space. After a time, one may often be affected by feelings of anxiety, frustration, and low self-esteem if she or he cannot escape the rigors of the dysfunction.
All in all, Dr. Warshowsky’s main concern is how various impediments can impact a child’s development. His diagnostic skills in conjunction with the use of therapeutic lenses and prisms, as well as his openness to working with other professionals—such as occupational therapists and school psychologists—have proven to be very effective in raising a child’s self-esteem and in changing his or her life, he said.
Dr. Warshowsky moved with his wife, Nicole, from the Upper West Side of Manhattan to Riverdale in October of 2013. Although it was a major change from the lifestyle that they were used to, Dr. Warshowsky says that they liked the opportunity of being able to surround themselves with a plethora of shuls and a Jewish community of all sects. “We enjoy being with a mixed, cultural community of Jewish and non-Jewish people,” he said. He is quick to point out that his children, Justin and Jaime, were “My first supporters in all that I do, both personally and professionally, and yes, they both went through vision therapy, which supported their academics and self-development. Now, my wife and her family as well, have taken on that support. Nicole is involved with not only the development of the practice, but she has become my guide.”
Dr. Warshowsky has three offices: One in Roslyn, N.Y., one in Ringwood, N.J., and one in Riverdale in the Bronx. His book can be purchased through any of his offices as well as from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Jessica Kingsley Publishers. You can also find out more about his practice and find the number to call to schedule an appointment by visiting his website at: http://pediatriceyecare-roslyn.com/contact-optometrist.html.
By Bracha K. Sharp