A visual impairment that condemns children to see in only two dimensions can go unrecognized for years and be mistaken for stigmatized disorders.
By Susan R. Barry
June 22, 2009
I was 20 years old and a college student before I learned that I did not see the world like everyone else. I had been cross-eyed as a baby,but three childhood surgeries made my eyes look straight. Because my eyes looked normal, I assumed I saw normally too. But, in fact, I was stereoblind — unable to see in three dimensions.
That means I could not see the volumes of space between objects. Instead, things in depth appeared piled one on top of another, making me feel nervous and confused in cluttered environments. As a child, I didn’t understand why my friends were so entertained when they looked through a View-Master. I didn’t see Disney characters or Superman popping out at me. All I saw was a flat image.
When I got older, my gaze — particularly at a distance — was jittery, making it difficult to read signs while driving. I was always disoriented and easily lost.
The biggest effect of my vision was on my performance in school. I had trouble learning to read and did poorly on standardized tests. These problems were blamed not on my vision but on a lack of intelligence, and I was put in a class with other problem children.