by William H. Bates, M. D. Better Eyesight is a monthly magazine published in the period July 1919 to June 1930.
THE cure and prevention of imperfect sight in school children is very simple.
A Snellen Test Card should be placed in the class room where all children can see it from their seats. They should read the card at least once daily with each eye separately, covering the other eye with the palms of the hands, in such a way as to avoid pressing on the eyeball. The time required is less than a minute for both eyes. The card measures the amount of their vision. They will find from time to time that their eyesight varies. Some children are very much disturbed when they cannot see so well on account of the light being dim on a dark or rainy day and although they usually learn the letters by heart they do not always remember or see them. It is well to encourage the children to commit the letters to memory because it is a great help for them to see them. When a child can read the Snellen Test Card with each eye with perfect sight, even although they do know what the letters are, it has been found by numerous observations that their eyes are also normal and not nearsighted, farsighted nor do they have astigmatism. Many children find that when they have difficulty in reading the writing on. the blackboard that they obtain material help after glancing at the Snellen Test Card and reading it with perfect sight.
When the eye is at rest, perfect rest, it always has perfect sight. A great many teachers and others condemn the method unwisely because they say that the children learn, and because they know what the letters are, they recite them without actually seeing them. With my instrument I have observed many thousands of school children reading the Snellen Test Card apparently with perfect sight, the test card that they had committed to memory, and in all cases never did I find anything wrong with their eyes.
About ten years ago I challenged a Doctor, a member of the Board of Education, to prove that the children deceive themselves or others by saying that they see letters when they don't. To me it is very interesting that the most wicked child in school no matter how he may lie about other things with great facility and gets by with it, was never caught lying about his eyesight. I believe that every family should have a Snellen Test Card in the home and the children encouraged to practice reading it for a few minutes or longer a number of times every day. Some children are fond of contests and quite often a child who can demonstrate that his vision was the best of any pupil in the class had a feeling of pride and satisfaction which every one in sporting events can understand.
Nothing could have emphasized the high percentage of poor vision among students as did the war. Great numbers of young men, otherwise physically perfect, were turned down when they tried to enlist because of defective vision. Dr. Rates was able to help many of these men to pass the army tests with perfect sight.
DURING the war a great many young men came tome for relief of their imperfect eyesight. They had failed to pass the eye test examination at the recruiting station.
At one time, if a man failed to enlist on account of his eyesight, he was drafted and had to serve in some branch of the service which did not require good vision.
Paul had just graduated from the high school, when the war broke out, and found that he could not enlist because his sight was too poor. He had about 1/3 of the normal vision. He said to me, "I consider it a disgrace to fail to pass the examination for my eyes, I want to enlist in some crack regiment, I don't want to be drafted."
He was very ambitious to join the Marine Corps. He laid his heart open to me, and he was very much discouraged, very sore, and willing to do anything and everything within his power to have his eyes cured without glasses. He certainly had a strong incentive to get well. He would come to the office early in the morning, half past seven or eight, practice all the forenoon, take an hour off for his lunch, return and continue doing things to help his eyesight until nine or ten o'clock at night. He certainly was very earnest about it, and he attained a very unusual improvement in his sight in a short time, and was very happy over it, and he said to me, "now I've almost got perfect sight and can go back home and try to enlist," and he said, "do you suppose they will take me; do you think that I am able now to pass the examination?" I said to him, "you are not entirely cured, and I doubt that you will improve when practicing by yourself." Still he was eager to enlist, went back home, applied for enlistment, and failed, because his vision was still too imperfect.
At once he came back and said "I am going to stick it out this time, until you tell me that I am cured." And, he certainly did. In a few weeks time he became able to read 20/20 with each eye on a strange card as well as on a familiar one. I said to him "now you palm just as much as you possibly can the day before the test, and at other times during the day before you are examined, and that will make it possible for you to retain all that you have gained, and pass the test of good vision successfully."
He went to his home, and afterward wrote me that he did just what I told him to and read 20/20 with each eye without any difficulty. I did not hear from him again for a year or more. He wrote me a long letter about his affairs. The following are some extracts:
"I went down to Paris Island, the Marine Training Camp, and underwent a very rigid physical examination, passing the eye test without any difficulty, 20/20. After eight weeks of severe training in the hottest part of the year, I went on the rifle range, where I made a score of 251 out of a possible 300 points. I was the second highest qualified man in my company, and was awarded a sharpshooter's medal."
His first stop in France was at Brest; he says "I had not been in Brest very long, when the call came for fifty men from each company who had high rifle range records to go at once to Chantilly for quick preparation, to enter the lines as machine gunners. It looked like action in two or three weeks, and we all worked hard, and one fine day the Armistice was signed, and it was all off. All interest in the work and drill ceased from that day."
A young man from Texas came to me about his eyes, which were so poor, that I could not understand how he ever passed the examination. "How old are you?" I asked him. Officially I am twenty-three years old, chronologically I am nineteen. You know, Doctor, you can't enter the ranks and become an officer unless you are twenty-one years old. Can't you do something for my eyesight?"
I was able to improve his sight in a very short time, so that he obtained 20/20 in each eye, which became permanent. What was interesting in his case was, that he went all through the war with imperfect sight, and after the war was over, he came to me to be cured. This young man said nothing about his adventures, never mentioned the war, but his father told me of one incident where a Texas regiment charged the German trenches and that his son began to cry like a child because a friend of his got to the trenches first and while he was in tears and shooting away, he saw a German poke a gun at his arm and take the sleeve off clean, without doing him any injury, and this German soldier was killed by the man who got to the trenches first.
At one time there came to the office two young men of twenty-one, twins, who were quite near-sighted, and who complained that they could not pass the medical examination in order to enlist. Their father, a wealthy manufacturer, came with them and enlivened the occasion by loud applause whenever one of the boys by palming swinging, memory or imagination improved his sight decidedly. We had a rollicking time whenever the father was present, and I am quite sure, that his outbursts were more helpful than injurious. The twins had a great respect for him, as they should.
One of the boys read the whole card down to next to the bottom line and then stopped. "Keep going," shouted the father, those small letters won't do you any harm; there isn't as much to see as of the big letters," and much to my surprise the boy did read the bottom line, which meant temporary normal vision.
I really missed the old man when he ceased to visit with the boys. They came to me for several weeks after their father had returned home. They both were able to pass the examination and enter the service, for which they were grateful.
I had a college boy, whose name is Henry, come to me some years before the war started. By persistent treatment his imperfect sight was cured, and when the war broke out, he wrote me a very nice letter, saying that he had passed the examination and was now in active service.
I did not hear from him for some years, when one day my attention was called to an article in a magazine, in which my method was attacked and criticized for curing imperfect sight without glasses. Henry published a letter in the same magazine in which he defended my method and said it was all true that I cured people with imperfect sight by treatment without glasses.
One day he called on me, and I asked him, "how are you getting along?" "All right." "Can you read the bottom line on the familiar card?" "Oh, yes," he answered. Then I showed him a card that he had never seen before. All the letters were strange to him. "Can you read that?" I asked him. "I can," and he proceeded to read the whole card, standing as far away from it as he could get, with a vision of 18/10. I asked him if he ever had any relapses, and he answered, "no." "What do you do?" "Shift" he replied. It was his constant shifting of his eyes to avoid staring and the strain that prevented him from having imperfect eyesight.
The normal eye is all the time shifting, but it is done so easily, so readily, that most people do not notice that they do it.
A young man came to me from Princeton University and said that he had been told that I cured people without glasses. He thought that glasses were a great discomfort to him; that he had just as much pain, headache and imperfect sight wearing his glasses, as he had without them and he was very anxious to be cured.
I did not think he had very much money, but he paid my fee for the first examination, and told me he would call again when he had the money. He did call again about six months later, and I said to him, "how are you?" "All right" "You must have done what I told you to do, and you must have done it thoroughly and well." "Yes, I did," he said. "You do not need any more treatment; as far as I know you are cured."
The Major was a college man, and they said he was the greatest devil that ever piloted a flying machine. His friends said that he did not know what fear was, but when he came to me, he says: "Doctor, I am worried. There are times when I am driving my machine, when my vision temporarily fails, and I can't see the compass. When I am flying high among the clouds, it is difficult for me to know whether I am flying right side up or upside down. I have heard that most deaths which occur to men who pilot flying machines are due to a temporary loss of sight. Is there anything that you can do to help me?"
What I told him to do must have been of some benefit, because he never had any more attacks of blindness, and as long as he was in the Aviation Corps, he never had any serious accidents.
I told him to take a small letter, about one-quarter of an inch in diameter, and paste it on the front part of his machine, in a position where he could see it all the time. Knowing what the letter was, it was very easy for him, with his wonderful vision to see that letter perfectly, and when he did, he saw everything else perfectly, because one cannot remember, imagine or see one thing perfectly, without remembering, imagining or seeing everything elseperfectly.
"A stitch in time saves nine," says an old proverb. Similarly there is no time when defective eyesight can be cured as easily and effectively as in childhood. Hundreds of pupils from the New York public schools have had their sight restored at Dr. Bates' clinic. Children with normal vision are always brighter mentally.
EVERY year toward the end of June our Clinic is a very busy place. Our room is usually filled with happy kiddies because it is promotion time. Some of them however are not fortunate enough to be promoted and I did not notice until a few years ago that the unfortunate kiddies always suffered more with their eyes than the ones who were promoted to a higher class. During the winter months, school children come flocking in from the district schools, all sent to us to be fitted for glasses. Since last December I have had but two cases that were not cured. This happened because in both cases the school nurse visited both mothers and threatened all sorts of things if the children did not put on their glasses again. These girls give unnecessary trouble to their teachers in school and it is all due to eyestrain. What a blessing it would be if our district nurses were given the privilege of learning how to benefit patients by our method of treatment. As they go about from home to home doing their wonderful work they could benefit mothers as well as the school children.
A middle aged woman of the clinic who was cured of eyestrain and who is mothering two little orphans, brought one of them named Ruth to us for an examination of her eyes. Ruth is a beautiful child and smiles all the time even though she is a cripple. She has large wistful eyes but acquired a bad habit of staring which caused a constant headache. Ruth soon learned to rest her eyes by just closing them often. She was taught how to blink often which is just what the normal eye does all the time. Ruth first entered school January, 1922, and at the end of six months was promoted to 2A and 2B, advance class. Fifteen out of forty-eight children were promoted. One of the fifteen was a boy named Jerry. I remarked to Ruth that Jerry must have been very proud to be the only boy bright enough to pass. "Why no," said Ruth, "Jerry was as mad as hops because the other boys were so stupid." Jerry undoubtedly did not cherish the fact that he was the only boy among fourteen girls.
Bertha, age 13, was also interesting. She came to us for the first time on June 24, 1922. I asked her how she had heard of our treatment and this is what she said:
"There are so many of my school mates and friends who were cured by you and Dr. Bates and so I want to be cured too. I have worn glasses for ten years and now my sight is getting worse." Bertha did not need any encouragement such as most patients do. She said she knew we could cure her And would never wear her glasses again. Her trouble was divergent squint, that is, her right eye turned out. The sight in that eye was so bad that she could only see the largest letter of the test card, which is the 200 line letter at 20 feet. With her left eye she could only read the next line which is the 100 line letters. From the first visit Bertha's sight improved so much that on July 11, which was not a full month, she now has 20/20 in both eyes. Her squint is cured but when I hold my finger close to her eyes her right eye tires and turns out the least bit. She will continue to practice the treatment so that she might be cured before school opens in the fall.
Jennie, age 10 years, will always be remembered by Dr. Bates and me. She is the most intelligent kiddie of her age I ever saw. She has the most to say of any kiddie I know and the joke of it is that she says something when she talks. Most talkers do not impress you, they rather tire you; but not Jennie. Her left eye had caused her a great deal of suffering and pain for a long time, so she was ready to do anything to be cured. Her vision at the beginning was 10/200 in the left eye and 10/10 in the right. Now she has temporary normal vision in both eyes. While I was ill and could not attend Clinic for a few months, Jennie came in very handy. She was so small she had to stand on a stool to reach the letters on the test card with her finger tips. Dr. Bates would ask her to point to the different letters he wanted other patients to see which was a great help to patient and Doctor.
One day a boy sixteen years of age appeared for an examination. He was disagreeable and sneered because he wanted to be anywhere but the Clinic. As the room was crowded with patients Jennie took it upon herself to help along. She singled out this fellow and with a voice of authority said; "Now don't be afraid little boy the letters won't hurt you." "Tell me how much you can see." At this remark the boy laughed as loud as he could and took it all as a joke. She finally convinced him that she was serious and before he left the Clinic he had normal sight. This boy had myopia and the vision in both eyes was 15/70 and when he left the room his vision had improved to 15/10 that day. He came a few times after that but he had no more trouble in retaining normal sight. Another day Jennie demonstrated her intelligence by treating a doctor who had come from the West to learn about the treatment. Of course she did not know she was talking to a Doctor for if she had, I fear Jennie would have lost her wonderful nerve. The doctor stood where he could observe best the patient being treated. Jennie approached him gently saying: "Now how do your eyes trouble you." One can imagine the doctor smiling at the little girl desiring to do so much for a big man. Without returning the smile she walked to her stool, chin up in the air as though she were a princess and as she pointed to a letter, asked the doctor if he could see it. The patients roared with laughter but that did not trouble Jennie in the least. The doctor patient said "no" he could not see the letter she was pointing at, which was the 70 line. The doctor stood 15 feet away, so he had imperfect sight. She told him to palm which he did, in jest at first, but when he saw that the little girl was really trying to help him, he did as she told him. The result was, that the doctor's vision improved to 15/15 just because Jennie taught him how to rest his eyes by palming and alternately closing and opening his eyes. I want to add that Jennie is a very poor girl but is well cared for by a loving mother.
THE next meeting of the Better Eyesight League will he held Tuesday, August 8. Room 504, 300 Madison Ave., at 8 P. M. Be sure to come. There will he some interesting discussions.
One great influence for good which the League can perform is to spread news of the cure of imperfect sight without glasses among school principals and teachers.
Nothing is more pitiful than to see a little child peering out from behind heavy tensed glasses. A child with bad eyesight is slow to learn and is often nervous and unruly in school. He is hampered in his play and throughout life.
Members of the league should never lose an opportunity when talking to teachers to tell about Dr, states' wonderful work in the public schools.
Are you sending your friends the little folder "About Your Eyes" when you write them? This interesting little folder may be the means of helping many others to secure better sight! If you do not have a supply of these correspondence inserts write to the Better Eyesight League, 300 Madison Avenue, New York, and as many as you can use will he sent to you.
IN RESPONSE to the series of questions sent out to members of the league and others many good suggestions and many offers of active support have been received.
One doctor writes from a little town in Texas, "Send me your literature and write out a lecture emphasizing the strong points in Dr. Bates' methods. I will be glad to deliver the message to the people here."
Other equally enthusiastic offers have been received. The work of the league is going on steadily. Each month letters and printed matter are being sent out which are producing results by interesting more people in the work.
Due to the fact that many members of the league were away for vacations the attendance at the July meeting was small but those who were present heard a most inspiring talk by Dr. Bates in which he outlined the fine results accomplished under great difficulties in the public schools in different parts of the country.
Q. If one's arms become tired while palming, will a black silk handkerchief covering the eyes produce the same amount of relaxation one gets from palming?
A. No. Palming is the best method for relaxation and improvement in vision. When tired of palming, the hands can be removed and the eyes kept closed until one feels relaxed.
Q. Will it still be necessary to continue practicing the methods of swinging and shifting after my eyes are cured? A. No. When you are cured of eyestrain you will not be conscious of your eyes. However, if you strain then, you will know what to do to relieve the strain,
Q. Can squint be cured by treatment without glasses after an operation proved unsuccessful? Does age make any difference?
A, Yes, even when it is over corrected, done too much damage. No, age does not make any difference.
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