Friday Feature: Eithna Sullivan

Okay, yes, my second Friday Feature is my mom. But this is again for two very good reasons: First, it turns out she is a really Interesting Person too. Second, her birthday is next Wednesday. So again, wish my parents happy birthdays and enjoy the feature:

So Mom, what are you doing for work right now?
Well, I’m a vision therapist here in Charlottesville, VA.

Eithna Sullivan, working with an Iraq veteran.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Kathleen Clark

What kinds of things do you do as a vision therapist?
Our patient load is increasing steadily and our office serves a wide range of people. I work with soldiers returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who have had closed brain injuries (bad concussions).  They are often left with visual processing difficulties and benefit from developmental optometry.  There are several stroke victims we have been able to help and of course lots of school-age kids who have trouble with reading or comprehension.

As a writer and a teacher, literacy is a big deal for me. How can VT help reluctant readers?

Vision therapy trains the eyes to work together.

A lot of parents and educators think that if a child had 20/20 visual acuity they should be able to read and that all they need to do is work harder, but really the eyes and brain  have a much bigger job to do to interpret what they see. If the two eyes don’t cooperate with each other one eye is forever playing ‘catch up’ and that can tire a person out quickly. Sometimes so much energy is spent on working out what the word is, there is not much energy left over to comprehend the content. As VTs, we teach patients how to help their brain understand and respond in a new way to visual stimulus.

That’s interesting. I’ve heard of PT & OT. Why haven’t I heard much about VT?
At present many ophthalmologists don’t believe that the therapy can help.  But I think vision therapy is the wave of the future.  It is non-intrusive, there is no medication to take, and the results we see were enough for me to give up my nursing in spinal injuries and be a vision therapist.

If you’re interested in learning more about VT check out

About Tara Sullivan

Author of GOLDEN BOY (2013), THE BITTER SIDE OF SWEET (2016), and TREASURE OF THE WORLD (2021). Published by Penguin Books for Young Readers Find out more at Or, follow me on Twitter: @SullivanStories
This entry was posted in Interesting People, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s