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Developmental vision pioneer Dr. Harold Solan remembered

July 28, 2012

Harold Solan, O.D., is being remembered as an internationally recognized perceptual vision expert who played a key role in demonstrating, to both educators and health care professionals, the importance of good functional vision in learning and the need for treatment measures to correct developmental vision problems. Over the years, his work has benefited an untold number of children with vision-related learning problems around the world, colleagues say.

Dr. Solan died June 18 at age 90 of pneumonia near his New Jersey home.

“He was a giant in optometry. His research brought functional/development vision to the level it is today,” said Irwin Suchoff, O.D., a long-time friend and fellow Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York State College of Optometry.

Over a career that spanned more than half a century, Dr. Solan published more than 100 peer-reviewed studies and articles demonstrating functional vision to be an important but generally unrecognized factor in academic performance and encouraging vision therapy as an effective means of correcting such functional vision problems. He lectured and conducted workshops around the globe for eye care professionals, educators, and child development experts. He received numerous fellowships, awards and major appointments.

Among his landmark publications was “Vision Therapy Improves Reading Comprehension,” a 2003 study in the Journal of Learning Disabilities documenting the efficacy of developmental vision therapy in increasing reading ability among sixth graders by improving visual attention and eye movement.

With a diverse multidisciplinary background, Dr. Solan was uniquely qualified to conduct research on functional vision and vision therapy.

A Columbia University Optometry School graduate, Dr. Solan established a private practice specializing in visual training, orthotics, perceptual development and reading improvement – one of the first of its kind. He also began lecturing on orthoptics at his alma mater (1949-1956) while providing optometric or developmental vision services at a variety of institutions around New York City, including the Hebrew Home and Hospital in the Bronx, the Harlem Eye and Ear Hospital, the Reading and Study Skills Center and the Optometric Center of New York.

Joining the SUNY College of Optometry faculty in the 1980s, Dr. Solan became director of the college’s Learning Disabilities Unit (1981-1991). He remained in private practice until 1982. He formally joined the college’s research program in 1988, allowing him to turn his attention nearly full time to studying developmental vision as well as spreading the word about vision therapy to both eye care practitioners and educators. He continued to conduct research and education programs on developmental vision until well after his official retirement.

Dr. Solan was inducted into the National Optometry Hall of Fame in 2003. The SUNY State College of Optometry named him a distinguished service professor in 1994. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and College of Optometrists in Vision Development as well a life member of the AOA.

Dr. Solan and his wife, Shirley, lived in Cliffside Park, N.J.

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