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.

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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!

The Talent Code: part 2

I started reading the next book in my pile, so it’s time I finished sharing my practical application of The Talent Code.  First, I’ll share a little more about the first principle, which is deep practice. Then I’ll talk about the other two principles: ignition and master coaching.

I love that it follows closely with how I encourage my students to practice piano. When they do these things, progress is so much greater! The first rule is “chunk it up.” First you absorb the whole thing (i.e. listen to or watch the skill), then break it into chunks and slow it down. Rule two is that you repeat it and rule three is learn to feel it.

This week as I concentrated more on how I could share the principles of talent with my children and piano students, it was amazing to experience how those principles flow naturally into each other.

I spent a great deal of time last week with two of my piano students who were playing together  in a duet festival on Saturday. One was my youngest daughter, Abby, who finished vision therapy a few months ago, and the other was her friend Emily. They are both fifth graders, ages 10 and 11 and have been playing the piano for a few years but not excelling in the way I would hope. Emily had been out of town and was struggling to put the duet together.

I realized that perhaps I had not instilled the principles of deep practice sufficiently well into either of these students. So, we went back to the problem areas and did slow repetition with Emily alone, then with Abby, who had a hard time slowing down. So, Emily did it slowly with me and then with Abby. We worked through all the problem spots and got all the notes together.

“There’s something missing still,” I coached. “It needs emotion. Show what this is really about!” I went to youtube and I pulled up a performance of their piece In the Hall of the Mountain King in it’s original form for orchestra and had them listen. They caught the excitement and enjoyed the accelerating tempo of the performance. Something finally clicked for them both and they played freely with passion. Emily’s mom and I just looked at each other in wonder.

The unintended consequence was that they also started to speed up when it got louder, which was not lost on the judge at the festival Saturday. And they got nervous so they didn’t play out like they had, but we knew what they could do and so do they!

I also took a few minutes in one of last week’s coaching sessions and played a couple of my favorite fun pieces for them, both by Jon Schmidt. This goes along with the principle of IGNITION. Many things can provide ignition, like hearing the orchestra play their duet. I asked what they really wanted to play, even if it was beyond their current capabilities. They both wanted to play music by Jon Schmidt (Waterfall  and All of Me. Here’s the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9fAZIQ-vpdw). So I played the original versions and shared simplified versions that they could learn. Both girls are so much more excited to play the piano now!

And my almost 13-year-old daughter who gave up piano some time ago overheard me teling Abby and Emily that they could learn whatever they wanted and said “What the heck! You never let me do that!” So now she’s learning Waterfall by rote (i.e. by ear) because I think that may just be the key to her learning the reading skills she needs. (I’m having her follow along with the music as I play it for her.)

The bottom line of this experience is that by providing all three of these principles this week, deep practice, ignition and master coaching, I saw big shifts in these students and renewed confidence in myself as a teacher and master coach.

And can’t you just feel the joy in musical creation when you hear Jon Schmidt play All of Me?

Developing Talented Eyes

I just finished reading a spell-binding book. It was first one in a stack of books I recently requested at my local public library. I have a habit of making such requests in bulk, and then realizing after I get the stack home that there’s no way I will ever read all of them before it’s time to return them. They either get renewed or quickly scanned as I move on to my next topic of interest.

My current passion is talent and genius. My original thought was that I should figure out what I’m missing as I teach my eyes how to work together properly. That usually means a lot of reading online and more books.

I’m not even sure where I came across the list, but I was so moved that I typed it on a sticky note on my computer and requested every book.

The list includes the following:

1. Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else, by Geoff Colvin

Image2. The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle

3. Outliers: The Story of Success,  by Malcolm Gladwell (which I know I at least skimmed before)

4. The Genius in All of Us: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About Genetics, Talent, and IQ Is Wrong, by David Shenk

5. Bounce: Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success, by Matthew Syed.

The first in my pile happened to be The Talent Code, which I found so mesmerizing that I finally took a few hours out and finished it. I have been applying the first fundamental all week in my vision therapy and as I have worked with my piano students. Coyle identifies three basic components that are necessary to unlock talent. They are: deep practice, ignition and master coaching.

Deep practice is not an unfamiliar concept, but it’s something I have tended to forget in the routine of doing vision therapy exercises as well as in teaching and learning other concepts. OF COURSE (visualize the head smack that accompanies this), deep practice is key to success. Why would anyone think otherwise? It’s just that it takes so much effort.

I was struck by the example given of a thirteen-year-old girl named Clarissa who demonstrated this principle in her clarinet practice. Coyle calls her the girl who did a month’s worth of practice in six minutes. I looked for the video on youtube and what came up was the trailer for the book. I didn’t find it on Coyle’s thetalentcode.com website either, even though someone had asked about it with no response.

Six minutes is a fairly random number, but I took it to heart. If a child can do it, so can I. So I concentrated on specific exercises for six minutes at a time and timed myself. I did it several times throughout the day. (This is instead of twenty minutes at one time–usually at the end of the day when I’m tired.) The next day I was dizzy. I don’t know if it was because of the concentrated practice or because I was dehydrated, but it felt like a shift anyway.

It’s a  shift I plan to continue to experience as I practice more deeply and apply principles of deep practice to my piano teaching and the quilting classes I’m taking. More on the other principles next time.

What is lazy eye anyway? Some definitions.

One of the most persistent misconceptions I encounter is the idea that everyone who has an eye turn is termed to have a “lazy eye.” The easiest way to explain is to first define a few terms. “Lazy eye” is the lay term for amblyopia which the dictionary defines as “impaired vision with no discernible damage to the eye or optic nerve.” The result of that impaired vision is that the eye is not able to be corrected to 20/20 and the person compensates by using only the other eye. Eye teaming with an impaired eye is usually not worth the trouble and often the person doesn’t know how to use both eyes together anyway. The eye which is not being used turns in and is then considered a “lazy eye.” Opthalmologists treat the condition by patching the weaker eye, which sometimes improves the vision in that eye, but does nothing to help the eyes work together.

My diagnosis is strabismus, which the medical dictionary defines as “a visual defect in which one eye cannot focus with the other on an objective because of imbalance of the eye muscles. Also called heterotropia squinttropia.”  Choosing this definition allows the medical community to focus on correcting the defect with surgery. Successful surgery is defined as a cosmetic fix (no visible turn) but the eyes are still not focusing together, so the strabismus remains. If the patient is lucky enough to have vision therapy in connection with surgery, a cure becomes much more likely. An example of this would be my brother, who had three eye surgeries as a child and now has no eye turn, yet people ask him if he is looking at them. Strabismus can lead to amblyopia if the person uses just the dominant eye.

Nowhere in the standard dictionary definitions is there a real description of the WHY of strabismus. My understanding of why my eyes take turns instead of working together is that it is a compensating mechanism. If I choose to look out of both of my eyes at the same time, I actually experience diplopia, “a visual defect in which a single object is seen in duplicate; double vision. It can be caused by incorrect fixation or by an abnormality in the visual system.”  I mentioned in a previous post that I was creating diplopia, or double vision, by working on my own with the Brock string. Since I don’t want permanent double vision, we are concentrating on peripheral vision and strengthening other visual skills in vision therapy. Suppressing the sight in one eye (often by turning the eye) avoids double vision.

When I look out of my dominant right eye, my left eye now avoids double vision by turning in. If I switch to the left eye, the right turns in (and it’s a larger turn). No, my eyes are not lazy, they just don’t know how to work together yet more than 12 inches from my face. (And the deviation was not always as noticeable as it is now.) I actually can see the 3D effect in the Magic Eye books if I hold them really close to my face, but my doctor discourages that because we are working to extend my range of fusion. The inward turning of the eye is called esoptropia (es-uh-troh-pee-uh) or “strabismus in which one eye deviates inward.” Barbra Streisand is famous example of someone with esotropia. The opposite of this is exotropia or when one eye deviates outward (also called “wall-eye”). A well known person with exotropia is Martha Stewart.

martha-stewart      Barbra Streisand

Favorite Vision Therapy Resources

As an avid reader I have been introduced to several books that have been helpful in my vision quest. While they may not be in your public library (but please request them), they are all available on amazon.com. My public library only had the first book listed here.

These are my top picks (so far).  Top book for adult vision therapy patients:

Fixing my Gaze, by Susan Barry. This is my favorite book, not because it’s the first one I read on this topic, but because it’s about an adult (about my age) gaining stereovision. I was inspired and touched by her poignant experience of seeing the world anew. As a scientist, Barry is able to describe the complex mechanism of vision as well as detail the vision therapy process and relate the experiences of others. It’s the reason I began vision therapy! See http://www.fixingmygaze.com or  http://www.stereosue.com for more information. The resources section on the stereosue site is quite helpful.

Top book about children’s vision therapy:

Jillian’s Story: How Vision Therapy Changed My Daughter’s Life, by Robin Benoit with Jillian Benoit. I read this before I heard Robin and Jillian speak about their struggle to find vision therapy and the amazing difference it has made for Jillian. The book is great and hearing them in person is even better! They detail the process and share stories of other children who have had success in vision therapy. See http://www.jilliansstory.com and Jillian’s Story on Facebook.

Most helpful resource for parents and teachers in diagnosing the need for professional intervention:

When your child struggles: the myths of 20/20 vision, what every parent needs to know, by David Cook, O.D. This book is the reason I became convinced my daughter deserved vision therapy. She was among the lucky ones, who learned to read easily despite binocular vision issues. As I have mentioned in previous blogs, Abby exhibited signs of strabismus at age three and was prescribed glasses for far-sightedness. The eye turn went away and the optometrist assured us that all was well. I later asked about it again, even though she wasn’t really struggling in school and was still told she is fine.  However, when I read this book and asked the specific questions Dr. Cook suggests, it was clear that there was a problem. The questions: “Do you ever close or cover one eye when reading?” and “Do the words ever do this?” (a visual described in the book where palms are together and fingers move to show seeing double) received an affirmative answer. This was a complete surprise to me, since I had not observed her using just one eye to read. Children don’t know that letters don’t split apart (or move around) for everyone else.

• Important note: A comprehensive exam with an optometrist who specializes in vision therapy is the best way to assess these issues. My regular optometrist didn’t catch it! See a more comprehensive review on theviewfromhere.me. Dr. Cook’s website is http://www.cookvisiontherapy.com.

Top Teacher Support Resources:

Red Flags for Primary Teachers: 27 Neurodevelopmental and Vision Issues that Affect Learning with Activities to Help, by Katie Johnson. This book was written by a primary (elementary) school teacher with 40 years experience teaching and 15 years practicing the methods she outlines. This fascinating book is useful for educators who are familiar with *BrainDance since the activities she outlines are to be used in addition to the BrainDance exercises. (*BrainDance was developed by Anne Green Gilbert and is a series of exercises comprised of eight developmental movement patterns that healthy human beings move through in the first year of life. Repeating these patterns can fill in the missing gaps.) Any struggle you can imagine in a student is addressed in this helpful book. For some issues she suggests follow-up activities to the basics in BrainDance. For others she adds the recommendation that you seek professional intervention, i.e. vision or movement therapy. Appendix A reviews how to do BrainDance and why. Johnson also includes additional information about the “twelve ways the eyes need to work” in appendix B, followed by additional information regarding whether a child needs vision therapy, how to assess and do basic screenings. It has been reviewed on the Vision Help Blog as well http://visionhelp.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/red-flags-for-primary-teachers/. Katie Johnson’s website is http://www.katiejohnsonauthor.com.

During the days I was reading this book, I was also substitute teaching half days and noticed the red flags in each classroom. It was astounding to understand so much more clearly why the children were behaving in certain ways. At the same time, since I am not the classroom teacher or even better, the parent, I am not in a position to assist the child in receiving needed remediation:(

See it. Say it. Do it! The Parent’s & Teacher’s Action Guide to Creating Successful Students and Confident Kids, by Dr. Lynn F. Hellerstein. In this delightful book, Dr. Hellerstein provides 28 visualization activities parents and teachers can use to aid children in developing their skills. Dr. Hellerstein is one of America’s top vision specialists. She has used these techniques successfully for years in her practice and clearly explains the process and effect of improving visualization in children. The good news is that while it is geared towards children, it also works for adults! She explains visual development and how improving these skills can open up a whole new world. There are 28 visualization exercises that encompass school readiness as well as personal growth. They include sequencing, visual information processing, reading, spelling, creative writing, math, homework and tests, performance anxiety and building self-confidence. Definitely a must see, declare and do book! These exercises are not meant to take the place of vision therapy for those who need it, but can enhance the experience and work for everyone who wants to create more success in life. Dr. Hellerstein’s website is http://www.lynnhellerstein.com.