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The Promised Update

I promised an update and unfortunately that did not occur in a timely manner. I apologize for that. I had an evaluation by my vision therapy doctor and learned that I had not made any observable progress towards my goal of stereopsis. I became discouraged and stopped working on any vision therapy. I have told myself that I should start again, but have not followed through on that intention. The E.Y.E. unit, or Eyeport Vision Training system apparently did not help in my case. I went through the recommended 12 weeks of exercises plus a few additional weeks before my doctor evaluated my progress.

My doctor has recently encouraged me to try it again, so that will be part of my new regimen. I will also be looking for things I can do between phone calls in the off season at work. I have been working for the past 21 months as an insurance agent, selling medicare supplements over the phone. That means I am looking at a computer screen for 6+ hours per day. I feel like my vision has gotten worse and my eye turn is more pronounced, so it’s time to take action. Even though my doctor didn’t observe improvement, I felt like my eyes were improving while I was in vision therapy, and it was easier to do the limited things I could do (like fusion up to 12”).

Additionally, my daughter was evaluated at her yearly checkup and she had lost some ground. We had a few therapy sessions to get her back up to speed.  I guess my family is among those who need to keep doing vision therapy exercises at home in order to retain their results. Our doctor recommended she do therapy at home once a week. She continues to have great results from vision therapy. I have not been so lucky yet. Wish me luck!

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More Evidence that Vision Therapy Works!

ImageLast week I expressed my gratitude for my vision therapy journey because doing it for myself has meant that I discovered my daughter needed it and she had great results! Three weeks after that discovery, I took my 16-year-old son in for a routine exam. Because Dr. Davies does comprehensive exams, he discovered Andrew had convergence insufficiency. It was as bad as he had ever seen. Wow! Finally an explanation for why my son didn’t do his school work.

Andrew could do the work, but most of the time he chose not to. This had been the pattern for years. If he really liked his teacher, or the subject, he would do it, but usually not. He didn’t qualify for any special help because he was able to do the work. We had him tested in sixth grade for learning issues and he was ok. They said he could improve in a couple of categories, one being visual memory, but that alone didn’t seem to warrant their expensive program.

We did counseling through the school district, he participated in the study skills class, had extra time to do his work during a lunch/study program and still he was failing classes. If he completed an assignment, he got an A. He just didn’t do very many assignments.

After years of this pattern, and him thinking of himself as lazy, things didn’t shift immediately. Andrew completed vision therapy in 23 sessions and I anticipated he would begin to do all of his schoolwork, but he didn’t. Things improved, but he was still failing his classes.

A bright spot in the struggle was that he had been fixing broken screens on iPods and iPhones for friends as a hobby, usually for not much more than his cost. After vision therapy, he decided to place an online ad and start a business fixing broken screens, and charge a more reasonable rate. He has continued to do screen repair and he has business as long as he keeps his ad current. He’s also had repeat customers:)

A couple of months after finishing VT, we made a real paradigm shift and switched high schools. The new charter school was smaller, had less busy work and more in-depth discussions. He started participating more in class, smiling, making friends and was generally happier. It took longer to transition into doing all the coursework, but now he is on track to graduate from high school. Vision therapy has given him the focus to better reach his goals. His next regular checkup showed he had regressed a little, but he can do home therapy to hone his skills.

I wish we had discovered vision therapy when he was six instead of sixteen. My feeling is that his motivation and confidence could have been dramatically improved had that been the case. But we are getting there and I am extremely grateful!

Does Vision Therapy Work? Yes! and I have proof!

Vision Therapy word artRecent visitors to my blog may have wondered whether vision therapy actually works. I am only one of the VT bloggers who are telling their story, and as adults, we all seem to be in the slow lane of this process.  Like most things, vision therapy is not an exact science. Therapy that works beautifully with one person may not work with another. And adults are even trickier, because we’ve had many more years of ingrained compensatory practice.

However, I have proof it does work in the form of my two children. Today’s post is about my eleven-year-old daughter, who did vision therapy at age 9 ½, graduating after 37 sessions. I am grateful I was doing vision therapy myself, because otherwise I may have never known it was what she needed.

Abby had glasses but didn’t always choose to wear them, which made me wonder about how helpful they were. She has always been a good student, learning to ready early without seeming to struggle. There were times she didn’t finish her work, but she responded to encouragement and didn’t complain much. So, I really didn’t notice much in the way of red flags.

I wondered if there were issues mainly because she had manifested an eye turn at age 3, just like me. That’s when I first took her to the eye doctor and he prescribed glasses for her far-sightedness. Like me, her eye turn went away with glasses.

When she was 8, I asked the optometrist to check her eyes for tracking. This was a doc who professed to have a background in vision therapy. I had been reading about vision improvement and doing home vision improvement therapy. I also wanted him to under-correct her vision to see if it would improve. He was resistant to this idea, but complied.  He told me she had a little tracking problem, but that she was “fine.”

A few months later, I began my own in-office vision therapy and started doing massive research into the issue to deepen my understanding. This included reading everything online I could find and any book I could get my hands on. So, my doc loaned me When your Child Struggles (see previous blog post about this book). I was initially interested because of what I was noticing with children in the classroom where I was the substitute teacher. I asked my daughter the questions on the checklist as a practice more than anything.

When she responded “Yes” to the question about the whether the words split apart when she was reading, I was stunned. My daughter was seeing double! I continued: “Do you ever turn your head to read.” “Yes.” “Do you ever cover one eye when reading?” “Yes.” Then she told me that she also reads in bed with one eye in the pillow, to avoid seeing double.

Basically, she was a master accommodator! So, her strabismus didn’t seem to affect her; she appeared to be doing fine visually. She would go without her glasses and sit really close to the tv, but we didn’t understand why. She would also blow up unexpectedly at times, reflecting a level of frustration that we could not understand.

When my husband took Abby to see Dr. Davies, he found she had esotropia, like her mom. She sailed through vision therapy, with wonderful results. And it turns out that the under-correction I had requested was actually helpful in the process!

As I have mentioned in previous posts: in my experience only behavioral optometrists will correctly diagnose and treat strabismus. Abby enjoys great normal vision now! She loved her first 3D movie experience, Life of Pi. (See my blog post on other reasons to see a 3D movie).

Abby seems happier, less prone to dramatic outbursts, and easily completes her work. Piano seems easier now too. Results would seem more impressive if she had been visibly struggling before, but it was all below the surface.

Best of all, she won’t be subject to the life-long struggles of her mom, including my present eye turn and her therapy took just months, not years.

Discovering Phantograms

My behavioral optometrist, Dr. Davies,  recently shared a fun new book with me, as well as the accompanying website. The book is entitled Pop-Up 3D: Discover Phantograms, Fantastic & Fun Natural 3D Pop-Ups, by Barry Rothstein, Steve Hughes & Steve Boddy. images-1The website is http://www.3ddigitalphoto.com/default.asp. The fun part for me is that I can actually see the 3D images and I don’t have to be as close to the image as when I look at the Magic Eye books. My hope is that I can gradually work to expand my range and depth by looking at these images.

I have a sense that the images could pop more than they are presently for me, and that’s what I’ll be working on as well.  My ten-year-old daughter Abby, who I have mentioned in previous posts, really enjoyed looking at this book. Abby is like the miniature version of me as far as strabismus is concerned, but has now developed wonderful 3D vision. I asked her how high the images were popping and I feel that she sees them more true-to life than I do. For me the image is at a slight slant rather than standing straight up on the page.

Both resources explain that phantograms are images that are drawn or photographed to imitate normal vision. When viewed with red/blue glasses (with blue on the right eye) the images leap off the page. The image is intended to be flat on a table or desk, or on your knees and you view it at a 45 degree angle.  They have a cool tutorial on the website that tells you how you can photograph your own phantograms. Apparently it’s a bit tricky, so I probably won’t be trying it anytime soon!

They also include a cool freebie on the website, an image of the week. phantviewThey allow you to print one for your own use, since it needs to be viewed while laying flat. I attempted to print out the image for this week and it wanted to print on two pages, (just a bit of it on one page, but I didn’t print it). There’s probably a trick to resizing and getting it on one page, but I didn’t figure it out. However, I did print page three which included images of the week for 5-25-13 through 2-16-13. The images were pretty small, but I could see them popping off the page. I just had to get a little closer than I do when viewing the book.

The website is also a great place to buy the books (with imperfect copies at a discount) as well as replacement 3D glasses and 3D note cards. The cards are $3.75 (or less in bulk) and come with the 3D glasses to view the image. If you have some 3D glasses with blue on the right eye, you are all set to print out that image of the week and check it out!

21 Day Vision Challenge

Back in mid-January I decided I wanted to start a new program for vision improvement. It’s from the “Renewing your vision” chapter in a book entitled The Power Behind Your Eyes: Improving Your Eyesight with Integrated Vision Therapy, by Robert-Michael Kaplan. 51xw-IUNcGL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_SX285_SY380_CR,0,0,285,380_SH20_OU01_It’s the kind of thing that occurs when I make new year’s resolutions and get a little carried away!

The Guidelines for the Twenty-One-Day Program are as follows:

• Obtain a weaker 20/40 prescription (I have been doing this for a couple of years now).

• Wear your lenses only during life-threatening situations. (This is very difficult because I can’t really see to do much of anything without lenses.)

• Eliminate all red meat and dairy products from your diet. ( I was already almost there. Just had to cut out the occasional sour cream and ice cream.)

• Use no added sugar or foods with sugar. (Sugar is everywhere, so this was also very difficult.) • Use no white-flour products. (No big problem.)

• Consume no alcohol or bottled or canned prepared drinks. (No problem.) • Use no cigarettes, tobacco, recreational drugs, caffeine drinks, or unnecessary medications. (also easy.)

• Wear a patch each day for twenty-one days for a maximum of four hours per day. (This one I interpreted to the current recommendations of my behavioral optometrist who told me to wear a bi-nasal patch. So I did that every day with occasional patching of my dominant eye.)

• Watch no late-night television (No problem.)

• Do not read for pleasure (novels, magazines) or do crossword puzzles. (This was tougher because I love to read. So I decided that all the reading had to be for information about vision therapy or health. That means I still did a fair amount of reading, but I justified it for the cause!)

• Take up singing, drawing, painting, sculpting, or writing. (I took up quilt piecing. It has become so addictive that one class wasn’t enough, I limited myself to two classes though–each once a month with two quilt blocks assigned for each class.)

•Play vision games each day. (Already committed to doing this!) • Eat grains, vegetables, legumes, and other healthy foods enriched with sea vegetables such as kelp, kombu, wakame, arame and hijiki. (OK, I must admit I didn’t get on board with the sea vegetables, but the rest of the eating plan was reasonable for me.)

• Keep a daily diary. (For this I started another program called Transform your Life through Handwriting by Vimala Rodgers. I probably didn’t keep adequate track of everything I should be doing as I journaled, but at least I wrote something every day. It’s a 40-day program.  I actually kept this up until March 30.)

• Exercise or move your body for at least fifteen minutes each day. (I figured that on the days I don’t do my 20 minutes of yoga, I do at least 15 minutes of housework.)

As if all of these guidelines weren’t challenge enough, I decided to combine this program with a diet program called The Virgin Diet by JJ Virgin. Basically you cut out the seven most problematic foods: gluten, eggs, sugar and artificial sweeteners, soy, corn, dairy and peanuts. I figured that since I was already on board with the dietary guidelines in the 21-day program, I might as well take it a step or two further. My biggest challenge is sugar, which is cut on either plan. The initial program for The Virgin Diet was also 21 days, so it seemed like the perfect compliment.

In actuality, it was pretty difficult, mostly in the diet area. It didn’t help that we celebrated 3 birthdays during that 21-day period. Finally on the evening of day 20, I had cake and ice cream with my family. I felt better  physically while I was on the program, but since my goal was to improve my vision, and I didn’t experience a great breakthrough, it was hard to stick to it. I’m not sure what kind of improvement would have enticed me to continue–maybe some degree of stereopsis? So, I returned to my regular, mostly-healthy diet and my regular vision therapy program.

Last month, I did a little experiment with taking really good eye-health supplement and a multi-vitamin, which improved how my eyes felt but was pretty expensive. (I’m noticing the difference without them though.) Next on the docket is a combination approach, something that I feel I can really follow long term.

The E.Y.E. unit (i.e. Eyeport Vision Training System)

This week my doc let me borrow a high-tech gadget for vision training called the E.Y.E unit. It was produced by The Sharper Image a few years ago and is the same item that Dr. Jacob Liberman sells on his http://www.exerciseyoureyes.com website for $239.95. It is patented and available through various other distributors as well, including Bernell, who sells VT products to developmental optometrists.

The manual was missing so I went online and found it on Dr. Liberman’s website. There is a plan for 12 weeks of exercises, which take less than ten minutes a day. I’m thinking that could be part of my regular regimen. A study done by the Pacific University College of Optometry was reported in the Journal of the American Optometric Association where it was found to effect small improvement in college students with normal vision. (http://www.optometryjaoa.com/article/S1529-1839(06)00485-4/abstract)  That was October 2006 and they indicated that studies were underway to determine its effectiveness in “symptomatic populations.” That would be me. I found another report that same year in the Journal for Behavioral Optometry that indicated improvement in function for police recruits. (http://www.oepf.org/journal/pdf/jbo-volume-17-issue-4-use-eyeport-vision-training-system-enhance-visual-performance-poli).

I found no follow-up studies specific to my situation, but it’s also available through the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (http://www.oepf.org/products/category/vision-therapy?page=2). I figure that if it were going to be discredited, there has been ample time for that.

The website http://www.exerciseyoureyes.com gives a clear definition of the way it works:Image

It’s Really Simple
How the Eyeport Vision Training System works is really quite simple. Your eyes’ focusing muscles flex and relax when they follow the EYEPORT’s programmed series of alternating red and blue lights. Because the lights turn on in different directions, patterns and speeds, your eyes exercise through their full range of motion—horizontally, vertically, diagonally, near, and far. And you don’t even work up a sweat.

Since you often focus at close range while reading or working at a computer, your focusing system becomes stiff and cramped causing computer eye strain. Limbering up your eyes as part of a daily routine will retrain them to work the way they’re supposed to…and you’ll be well on your way to improving your visual performance. All you have to do is commit to a daily 10-minute workout to see results.

And It’s Patented
What makes the EYEPORT unique is its patented use of alternating red and blue lights. This makes it possible to achieve dramatic results, faster and more efficiently than with any other vision exercise product available today.

“Using the EYEPORT is like opening up a new world. My eyes feel stronger, more active and more alert. There’s more to see and interact with. It makes me a more efficient athlete and has made me more comfortable and relaxed in a broad range of activities. I was amazed at the way it changed my life.”Rick Chetnever, Kula, HI

Basically, your eyes react differently to red and blue lights due to a scientific phenomenon called chromatic aberration. The focusing system contracts when it sees red and relaxes looking at blue. By combining eye exercises with specific colored lights, the EYEPORT strengthens your vision skills in a revolutionary new way never previously done. And it’s easy.

I admit it is pretty easy and quick. I did a little more today than the prescribed amount, testing out the various program settings. Now that I have the training schedule, I’ll be more focused in my efforts! Stay tuned for the update!

Another reason to see a 3D movie

I read a post Monday on the blog “Wide-Eyed Wonder: An artist’s musings on three-dimensional vision” where Lynda Rimke shares her experience seeing a 3D movie while still in vision therapy (http://leavingflatland.wordpress.com/2013/01/21/life-of-3-1415926535-8979323846-2643383279-etc/). Leaving the movie theatre, she actually experienced “float,” or three dimensional effects in real life. I was intrigued, and wondered if that would be possible for me. So at Tuesday’s vision therapy appointment I asked Dr. Davies about it. Lynda had recently gotten a new pair of glasses with prisms before this 3D movie experience. I have had some success while using a prism in therapy sessions, so I saw a possible connection. Dr. Davies gave me some stick on prisms for the 3D glasses and encouraged me to try it.

imagesAs luck would have it, the very movie Lynda saw, Life of Pi, is currently showing at our local budget theatre in 3D for only $3.25. It has been years (maybe 10) since I took my kids to a 3D movie, mostly because I can’t see it, so it seemed like a big waste of money. In retrospect, I realize that was a fairly selfish way of looking at the 3D experience. I took four of my children (the ones currently at home) to yesterday’s matinee. Two of them finished vision therapy a few months ago and this was their first 3D movie experience since then. None of them remembered seeing a movie in 3D before.

My ten-year-old daughter was especially enthralled with the special effects. It really was a beautiful movie! I saw the “falling in” effects more than the things popping out and had a headache by the end. But I can see the potential. Things looked a little different when I exited the theatre. Without the prisms, my eyes soon reverted back to their regular way of seeing. And my eyes were really tired! However, I enjoyed the movie and especially appreciated my daughter’s delight at the 3D effects.

I have been wearing a pair of clear glasses (i.e. pink party glasses) that are taped to provide a bi-nasal patch. That way I can wear my contacts and take the glasses off at will. I bought an extra pair when I misplaced the first, so I had the brilliant realization that I could play around with the prisms on my extra pair. I’m thinking driving with prisms isn’t a good idea, but otherwise it gives me a different perspective that may encourage more fusion. Even if the 3D movie didn’t help me (and I’m hopeful it did), at least my children got to enjoy it!