Today’s vision therapy appointment showed that the previous theory that my eyes are not really near-sighted was probably not accurate. Dr. Davies dilated my eyes with some really strong drops to take a closer look at my eyes. The other advantage of dilation is that it paralyzes the muscles so that theoretically my eyes should be straighter. Well, I am not observing them to be straighter, but it is somewhat easier to do certain exercises. As for the shape of my eyeballs, apparently my eyes adjusted to being overcorrected when I was young, and now they appear to be that elongated (near-sighted) shape.

As for the exercises that are easier, one is the aperture-rule. I got one of my very own today so I can work on it at home. I was able to fuse several more images than previously. I am hopeful that my eyes remember what to do when they are no longer dilated. We’ll see when the drops wear off.

 I found an interesting video on the aperture-rule on youtube (Aperture Rule.wmv). Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=edqBVoI80ng . It explains the process pretty thoroughly. There are several related videos posted by vision therapy students as they demonstrate and learn the process.

I observed my son (who had convergence insufficiency) do the aperture-rule in a therapy session one day several months ago and it took him quite a while at first (a couple of minutes at a time) to achieve fusion, but he kept at it until he did. A couple of minutes sounds short until you stare at the images for 120 seconds. During most of Andrew’s therapy I was doing my own session, so it was good for me to watch him at work. It let me know that it’s ok to be patient, keep looking, relaxing and training my eyes to work like they should.

The goal for me is to become competent in doing the convergence (one aperture) fusion and then move on to the two aperture divergence training. **If you’re wondering about using this tool, consult your vision therapy doctor. They’ll know if you’re ready for it and could benefit from adding it to your home therapy.

What about SYNTONICS?

Last week my doctor told me that he would like to try something new, which he considered to be a little on the fringe and wondered how I felt about it. At this point I am open to just about anything, so I was anxious to learn more. He told me that there is a therapy called SYNTONICS, where you look at different frequencies (colors) of light, and it has been shown to cure strabismus. The patient looks into a programmed light box at specified colors (light frequencies) for a certain amount of time. I’m not sure of all the protocols at this point. (Sounds pretty easy, kind of like looking at the brass serpent and being healed in Bible times!) The box is expensive, because of the number of filters needed to produce the various colors.

It feels like a last ditch effort because it’s new to him, but it’s actually not a new therapy. I did a little checking onine and according to the website for the College of Syntonic Optometry, syntonic phototherapy is the “application of specific frequencies of light through the eyes to rebalance the body’s regulatory centers, thereby correcting visual dysfunctions at their source.”  It has been used for over 70 years for this purpose. The website continues: “Syntonics can be used as the primary treatment or to support other therapies to aid in the remediation of strabismus, amblyopia, accommodative/convergence problems, asthenopia, ametropia, visual attention deficit, vision-related learning and behavior problems, and visual field constrictions associated with visual stress, brain injury, degenerative ocular disorders, and emotional trauma.”

An article in brainworldmagazine.com from September 24, 2012 calls Syntonics “colored light therapy for balance” and indicates that it is now also being used as a treatment for SAD (seasonal affective disorder). The light therapy has also been shown to help with eyestrain, headaches, pain, inflammation and overall stress levels as it balances the body. The article indicates that 50 percent of the entire volume of blood in the human body passes through the eyes in only 40 minutes, which makes the eyes a portal to producing beneficial results throughout the body.

I am anxious to see how this might be an aid in overcoming my strabismus. I am also wondering how it might help my friend who suffers from migranes and depression. It feels like there could be rather broad application for this type of therapy.

*UPDATE: When we tried this therapy much later, it did not prove effective for me. I was also the first person my doctor tried it on, even though the recommendation was definitely not to use it on your most difficult patient. So it may be an excellent option for others.

Do WHAT for two weeks?

Today I’m doing an experiment on myself. Who better? I am going without contacts or glasses all day long. Crazy! Why would I do that? Well, the idea goes back about 25 years to a conversation my husband and I had with a young couple we were friends with at the time. He was experimenting with a program for vision improvement. I don’t remember the name of it now, but the idea is the same as I have experienced in the programs I have studied. The premise is that as you go without correction to your eyesight, your vision improves. At the time I thought he was totally insane and affirmed that there was no way I could possibly survive without my -6 prescription lenses.

Fast forward 20+ years and I began looking into the possibility of natural vision improvement. I figured that if I could fix my feet (a story for another blog) I should be able to fix my eyes. Over the years I had tried out a couple of programs on a short-term basis but found the demands (in money and time) too extensive with my young family. About 3 years ago I purchased The Program for Better Vision by Martin Sussman as well as Rebuild Your Vision by Orlin G. Sorensen. I worked on each of these programs fairly diligently for the time periods suggested initially and was disappointed with my fairly minimal results.

To be fair, I did get some results. I worked with my regular optometrist (as suggested in the programs) to decrease my prescription strength. He was open to giving me trial contact lenses in ever-changing strengths over the course of several months but I didn’t achieve 20/20 vision with the weaker lenses. I did, however, get rid of the reading glasses I had succumbed to just prior to ordering the programs. It became a compromise for me. I was willing to have my distance vision be a little bit blurred in order to see clearly to read. In addition, I had been wearing toric lenses for my astigmatism in both eyes and I was able to get rid of that correction altogether and use standard soft contacts. My optometrist was actually amazed and said it shouldn’t have been possible.

At about that time I began reading more about achieving 3D vision, or in other words stereovision. I had been doing some exercises in my vision improvement programs that encourage eye teaming and they were very difficult for me. I became concerned when I started seeing double and sought out the assistance of the developmental optometrist who was recommended to me by a friend. My friend was in vision therapy at the time for her amblyopia (better known as “lazy eye”). She and my neighbor, whose daughter was in vision therapy, both told me about Sue Barry’s book Fixing my Gaze. My neighbor gave me her copy to read and it has been an inspiration to me ever since!

Over the course of the past 18 months, while I have been in vision therapy I have set aside the natural vision improvement courses. Generally speaking, optometrists don’t find these programs particularly effective. So I almost fell off my chair last week when Dr. Davies suggested I might want to go without contacts (or glasses) for two weeks. He had measured the curvature of my eyes and found it to be in the normal range. He indicated that he thought perhaps I was never near-sighted at all, but had been overcorrected for my whole life. WOW! (Side note: I am now wearing -4.5 and -5 lenses so going without is pretty challenging).

I got my first pair of glasses at the age of 2 years 11 months. I had woken up from a nap and suddenly my eyes were crossed. My mom freaked out and took me to our family ophthalmologist. This is the same doctor who performed eye surgery on my cross-eyed younger brother. Standard procedure at the time (and even now) is to prescribe bifocals. The lenses straighten the eyes but do nothing for actual binocular function. I wore bifocals until I was 15 and could finally get contact lenses. My eyes looked pretty straight most of the time until the last few years.

I’m not sure I can do two weeks, but I can start with the majority of a day. I put on my full strength glasses to drive my son to school and took them off when I got home. I adjusted the computer screen so I can see to write, but I still have a headache from craning my neck. (Obviously more adjustments need to be made.) So, if I indeed do have glasses-induced near-sightedness, how long will it take for my eyes to do what they are naturally meant to do, and see the world clearly? I’ll keep you posted!

Why I’m still on this road

I have avoided posting for some time because I have been in frustration mode regarding my lack of progress in vision therapy. I have been screaming on the inside, (and sometimes I have actually said it), that I don’t want to be the poster child for vision therapy. Well, guess what folks? I am. I just am. And I recognize that acceptance of who I am is one of the steps to healing. My children successfully completed vision therapy months ago but I have not yet seen the transformation I am after.

Why am I on this journey? Well, it started when I became aware that it’s possible to train our eyes to see in new ways and the road was paved as I read Susan Barry’s entrancing book Fixing my Gaze. As I read, I realized that I was about the age she was when she began vision therapy and I had been doing some of the exercises she describes in the book. “I can do this too!” I said to myself. I wanted to experience the utter amazement she describes as she sees with new eyes. One of my favorite examples is the following:

“I rushed out of the classroom building to grab a quick lunch, and I was startled by my view of falling snow. The large wet flakes were floating about me in a graceful, three-dimensional dance. In the past, snowflakes appeared to fall in one plane slightly in front of me. Now I felt myself in the midst of the snowfall among all the snowflakes. Overcome with happiness, I forgot all about lunch and stood quite still, completely mesmerized by the enveloping snow.”

Barry relates many additional instances of seeing the world in a whole new way and shares the experiences of others who have also learned to see in 3D. My deepest desire is to join their ranks!

I had a little glimpse of it several months ago when I was talking to my daughter in her bedroom one evening. I was lying on the bottom bunk of her bed looking up and the bars of the upper bunk seemed to be popping out at me. I stared at the sight for a long time in wonder. It sounds odd to someone who has stereovision, but to me it was a miraculous sight. I haven’t had more of these breakthrough moments, but I plan to soon!