A great blog entry from VT Works. The following excerpt: “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.” is a great reminder for parents, vision therapists … really anyone regardless of whether they’re undergoing/administering Vision Therapy. Pop over and have a read of the VT Works blog … lots of insightful information from the perspective of a Vision Therapist.

VT Works

Balancing the human ego can be a tricky task sometimes. Too much ego from one person can be troubling, while too little ego can be – well, troubling. Nothing is more annoying than watching the interview of a sporting superstar whose underlying message is “let me tell you how wonderful I am”.  I always want to jump through my television and remind them that they get paid to play a game, not save the world. On the other hand, the person filled with personal doubt and a self effacing attitude can stimulate those same emotions, but from the other direction. Seems equilibrium may be tough for the ego too.

During a long car ride yesterday, I was thinking about how ego is involved in the VT Room.  More specifically, the importance of a patient’s perception of their own intelligence and self worth.  It’s rare that I have run into a…

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Life has a way of interfering sometimes …

Compliance and commitment are important to the outcome of Vision Therapy. The majority of the reading I have done during my research supports the theory that a combination of in-office and at-home activities & exercises will ensure the best possible results from treatment. This takes commitment – from the whole family – and yet sometimes no matter how committed you may be, and no matter how dedicated you are, circumstances beyond your control will arise.

That’s what happened to us this past week. Nothing major in the grand scheme of life, but our daughter came down with a bad head cold that really took a lot out of her. As a result, we missed last week’s Vision Therapy appointment and our homework has been delayed as well. In the past when she’s been sick with a cold, it’s been fairly minor so we’ve forged ahead despite her not feeling 100%. (There’s a difference between a case of the sniffles, but otherwise feeling like oneself versus fever, sinus headache and lethargy – especially when it comes to young children.) This time however, I knew that pushing her to continue would have the opposite effect. Helen, our vision therapist, agreed. She said, to force therapy while ill just adds more stress to the body and it’s better to take time to heal rather than try to muddle through.

So rest we did. A few days later our daughter was feeling better and we’ve managed to fit in three days of vision therapy homework. Not ideal, but better than none at all. It’s a new week. Our daughter is feeling much better, and we’ll attend our next appointment as planned and continue to move forward.

The week hasn’t been without its successes either. Yesterday our daughter was playing an I Spy game with her younger brother. You know the type – a page of different objects all mish-mashed together and the reader has to find the match amongst the various details on the page. In the past, our daughter would have avoided the activity completely or become very frustrated by it. This time, she was remarkably calm, spotted a number of items that even I couldn’t find, and did so quickly.

Little steps in the right direction …

Staircase on Mount Davidson

Staircase on Mount Davidson, by Lori D’Ambrosio

Keeping the Faith – Home Therapy Updates

Between school activities, homework, extra review and vision therapy, not to mention family obligations and other day-to-day responsibilities, life continues to be busy at our house.   We’re not special, life is busy for everyone. Scheduling and planning seems to be the best approach, and these days we’re making time for some new vision therapy homework activities.

Last week we continued with the Double Circle Jumps (see “Circle, Circle, Jump!” for a description), but added the use of a metronome set at 20. (I gradually raised it to 30 with each session.) My daughter did well, but continues to find it challenging as it involves having to track her place on a chart, determine which side of the line she needs to jump to, and whether she’s calling out right or left.  She forges ahead though, and is getting much better at it.

We continued with See 3 Coins and she is increasing the length of time for which she is able to hold her focus. Even with slow movement of the card in small circles she is able to maintain her focus for almost two minutes (this is progress, believe me). We perform this task three times, with small breaks in between, and while her eyes get tired and she sometimes has a mild headache afterwards, my daughter admits to being able to see a slight difference each time she does this exercise. I take this as a good sign.

BAR (Binocular Accommodative Rock) was introduced and I will be honest and say that my daughter found this activity extremely frustrating.  To quote The Optometric Extension Program Foundation’s (OEP) description, the purpose of BAR “is to give you constant feedback as to whether both eyes are “turned on” while you are reading and to increase the speed of your accommodative response (focusing mechanism) under binocular conditions.”  This activity told us whether or not my daughter’s eyes were working together. As we discovered (not surprisingly) my daughter’s eyes don’t consistently work together.

It wasn’t the level of difficulty per se, but rather all of the steps involved that seemed to be the cause of frustration. My daughter had to wear her reading glasses, then place a pair of glasses with polarized lenses over top, then hold the plus/minus flipper lenses in front of her eyes. We also had to hold polarized strips on top of her reading material. We chose a book she was comfortable with, and while on her slant board, she’d have to read along, keeping everything in place (I helped). Well, at first her glasses pinched her ears, the polarized lenses kept slipping off and then Dr. Tai’s office called to say he’d modified the plan by asking that we encourage her to read faster (to say that went over like a lead balloon would be an understatement) and  at one point (uncharacteristically for her) she tossed it all aside and refused to do it. She was right, it was all pretty exasperating.

BAR

Polarized glasses

What did we do?   We switched places. She pretended to be me, and I pretended to be her.

On went my glasses, then the polarized lenses followed by the flipper lenses, and the polarized bar strips on the page. My daughter reminded me – as she had been told – that if words became blurry I was to tap the page, and if I had double vision, I was to bring my index finger in front of my nose, focus on it, and bring it down to the page until the double vision went away. She was an excellent Vision Therapist, and I tried to be as good a patient as she is, even though this exercise gave me a headache. But role-reversal worked. And my daughter had enough of a break and regained some confidence to tackle BAR once more!

She did have occasion where the words became blurry, and other time she had incidents of double vision, but she remembered the little tricks that Helen shared with her, and continued on. Next to Near/Far, this was one of the few activities that seemed to exhaust her.

This week brings another new exercise (and a break from BAR much to my daughter’s relief) with a new activity called Flashlight Pointing. A two-step process, this activity involves my daughter holding a laser light in each hand, and reading random letters from a chart. While doing this, she has to point the laser light – to the beat of the Metronome – to an image on the wall, while calling out the letter. Even though she says this is hard, she does very well with it. We’ll be working at spreading out the series of images, so she’ll need to further her peripheral range of vision.  We’re also continuing with Circle Jumps and See 3 Coins.

Despite how challenging some of the exercises are my daughter continues to be hopeful that some-day Vision Therapy will make things easier for her. She has learned quickly the importance of keeping the faith.

It’s all fun and games – Part II

While researching vision therapy and the visual/learning connection I came across an article entitled, “Toys for Strong Vision.” by Dr. Charles Boulet, a developmental optometrist with a background in education and neuropsychology. His clinic, Diamond Valley Vision Care is located in Alberta, Canada.

As a parent, the concept of developmental toys is not new to me. Although in my opinion once a child passes the age of 6 years we hear less about developmental toys and more about the latest electronic games and gadgets, even though skill development at that age level (and beyond) is still occurring and very important.

Dr. Boulet’s article includes eighty-one toy and activity suggestions for a variety of ages. He has categorized them into the various skill sets that support reading and academic development including building toys, fine motor skill toys, space perception toys, visual thinking toys & games and balance and coordination toys & games.

Perplexus by PlaSmart

Perplexus by PlaSmart

With the concepts and suggestions Dr. Boulet covers in his article I have made a more conscious effort to choose games and activities for my children that target the development of their visual skills. One of the most popular in our house these days is Perplexus by PlaSmart. The object of Perplexus is to balance a small silver ball on the narrow tracks of a maze within a sphere.  Carefully tilting the sphere, while following the little ball with your eyes, you move the ball along the tracks, over and under obstacles all while trying not to let it fall over. At first, my daughter found it a little frustrating because the little ball wouldn’t stay on the track, but she kept at it and quickly figured it out. I can see her concentrating with her eyes focused on the ball as it follows those little tracks; determined not to let that ball fall off. This game has become so popular in our house, that I think I may have to get another one … for my husband! He seems even more determined than our daughter to get that little ball through the maze!

Other games we have tried from Dr. Boulet’s list include Jenga, Kerplunk, Lite-Brite and Operation. (They have a Star Wars version now, for anyone like me, who has fans of Star Wars at home.)

Other popular games with my children (not mentioned in Dr. Boulet’s article) include Shrimp Cocktail by Blue Orange Games.  The object of the game is to find as many matching cards as possible, to “squeeze the star fish” (which makes a squeaking sound) before your opponents. Along the same lines, and a little more challenging, is Spot it! also by Blue Orange Games. There are 5 ways to play Spot-it, all with the same objective, to be the first player to spot the matching pictures between two cards.

DSC04482DSC04484

With the recent snow storm we had, yesterday was a snow day. My children made great use of the best (and most frugal) play space around — outside! Tobogganing, tunnelling through a pile of snow to make a fort, tossing snow balls, all of these activities contributed to the healthy development of several skills and neither of them even realized it. They were too busy having fun!

Regardless of what games you’re playing or where you’re playing them, the objective is to have fun, spend time with your family and enjoy the additional benefits of helping our children develop important skills.

Cheers to great teachers!

This week was parent/teacher interviews at my daughter’s school. Admittedly, I normally don’t look forward to this time of the school year. Don’t get me wrong, I like my daughter’s teachers, and we’re very fortunate as our children attend a wonderful school. As a parent, it’s difficult to hear that your child is struggling, and in my daughter’s case, despite all of her hard work, it’s still early days in her treatment and we are not yet seeing the … how should I put this … that “WOW, this is amazing” result we’re expecting at the end of her Vision Therapy program.  The improvements thus far have been very subtle. We have a long way to go; we’re not even at the half-way mark yet!

“Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.” ~ Samuel Johnson

Late last month I sent packages to my daughter’s teachers. Each package contained a copy of Dr. Stephen Gallop’s article The Visual Process and Learning,  a copy of the Teacher/Parent Vision and Learning Guide by The Vision Therapy Center, Inc. Also included was a note from me inviting them to watch the video “Looking Inward: The Vision Therapy Treatment of Convergence Insufficiency” by Dr. Dan Fortenbacher and his team at Wow Vision Therapy.  I have been talking with them about my daughter’s situation for quite some time, but I didn’t feel as confident about my abilities to articulate just what Convergence Insufficiency is, how it impacts learning, and exactly what my daughter does for the one hour and twenty minutes she misses class for her weekly Vision Therapy appointment.

I was reluctant at first. Would they think I was trying to tell them how to do their job? Would they be able to make the time to read the materials given how very busy they are? It’s my job to advocate for my child – as I have been doing – but at the same time I am aware that she’s not their only student, nor is she the only one who needs learning support. But that nagging feeling of “this is the right thing to do” and “there are other children out there who have CI and don’t yet know it” won out, so I took a chance and sent the information.

Am I ever glad that I did!

This week’s discussions have reassured me that my daughter is getting the best support possible at school. The teacher who helps with her reading was so impressed with the information, that she did more research of her own, and asked if I’d be comfortable with her sharing it with her colleagues as she feels it’s important that educators be aware in case they encounter other students with symptoms similar to my daughter. She mentioned that it helped her further understand what my daughter is dealing with, and the accommodations necessary to help her reach her goals.

Her science teacher read all of the materials, and watched the video footage and was so sympathetic to how my daughter must be feeling, and how difficult learning is for her right now. He even took the time to put together a list of suggested ways he felt he could support her in class, including making hand-outs and test papers in a larger font, having her use a highlighter to highlight pertinent details from reading assignments as well as other supports that we’re going to try.

Her primary teacher has already made some modifications in class, and now has other ideas of ways that she can support my daughter, including moving her to the very front of the class for periods of instruction, and offering her visual breaks.

Some of you are probably thinking that this is their job, and perhaps it is, but I can’t even begin to express my gratitude and relief to encounter active listeners, with open minds and such a strong willingness to help my daughter to succeed.

This is my personal shout-out to my daughter’s teachers:

“Cheers to great teachers!”

Their hard work and support really does make a difference.

It’s all fun and games! (Part I)

A few years ago, our Ministry of Education introduced full-day kindergarten with an emphasis on play-based learning. (As well as inquiry-based learning versus theme-based learning, but that’s a whole other discussion.) It has long been thought that children learn while playing.  I don’t disagree, and my second grader also benefits from this learning-while-doing concept.

Play, kids, learn, Mill Park Library, Yarra Pl...

Play, kids, learn, Mill Park Library, Yarra Plenty Library service (Photo credit: sirexkat)

In my quest for more information, I stumbled upon some web sites that feature games, crafts and activities that help with visual skill development and support.  My newest discovery is Therapy Fun Zone . I couldn’t possibly do this site justice by attempting to describe it here; it really is worth visiting and seeing for yourself. Under “Activities” and then “visual perceptual”  Therapy Fun Zone suggests several games, crafts and activities that support visual perceptual skills. Under “games” they feature a number of activities that encourage visual motor skills using easy-to-find materials. These include “Pool Noodle Javelin Throw” (both of my children will have a ball with this game) or “Pool Noodle Batting & Hitting Suspended Balls”. Also, be sure to check out the “Roll a Shape Game”. Under “iPad” you will find great application suggestions such as “iPad Chopsticks”.Sign-up for Therapy Fun Zone’s e-newsletter and visit their Facebook page to receive regular updates and activity suggestions. (Their site is not limited to visual development.) They also have a blog that can be found here: www.therapyfunzone.com/blog/.

Another web site I found is called Your Therapy Source . There are games for purchase at a nominal price including “Candy” a game that enhances visual discrimination skills, observation skills and fine motor skills. (Found under “visual” on their web page.)

Your Therapy Source also offers eBooks for purchase (most offer free samples) such as “Monster Mazes.” They also offer inexpensive suggestions to make these activities reusable. (I will definitely use the CD case idea.)  Another electronic publication includes “Visual Motor Workbook” for the 3 year + age group featuring simple to more challenging activities. (Free samples are also offered.)

Your Therapy Source also has free activities for download found under “Free Stuff”. Scroll down to “Visual Perceptual Freebies” for a half-dozen available activities.

Your Therapy Source also has a Facebook page from which you can receive activity updates and game ideas.

No Time for Flash Cards  also offers fun ideas. When you arrive at their site, click on “Activities” and then “Sensory Activities”. Choose “Sight” to find a great activity called “Five Senses! Do You See What I See?” an I Spy-like game that you can easily make at home. (No Time for Flash Cards also has a Facebook page.)

And don’t forget that Pinterest  is also a resource. Search “vision therapy” to find lots of articles, YouTube links and activity suggestions. (Check out “iPad Apps for Vision Therapy”.)

These activities and games are a helpful incentive that I use with my daughter. (If she completes her homework then she gets to choose a game for us to play together afterwards.)

In our next entry entitled, It’s all fun and games (Part II) I will share some of the games and toys my children have been enjoying lately.

Learning can be fun!

Learning to play the king's game

Learning to play the king’s game (Photo credit: Automania)

Vision Therapy is for adults too

While the majority of what I write on this blog relates to my daughter’s vision therapy program, I recognize that some of our readers are adults going through vision therapy, too. Through my research I have come across some resources I thought might be of interest to those adults who are pursuing vision therapy, or who are perhaps wondering if vision therapy is an option for them.  A new page has been added, entitled, Adult Vision Therapy. (You’ll find the link at the top of the screen.) I will update the page with information as I find it, in the meantime, if you have anything you think should be added, please let me know by commenting to this blog post.

We have a Facebook page!

Thank you to everyone who has visited our blog.  For anyone who may be on Facebook, The View From Here ~ our family’s journey through vision therapy now has a Facebook page. The FB page does not replace our blog, but rather compliments it with links, articles and updates on the subject of vision therapy, visual development and all it encompasses. The page can be found at The View From Here: our family’s journey through vision therapy.

We hope you’ll take the time to visit us on Facebook and like our page. You are invited to add links and information of your own that you think might be helpful, or if you’re comfortable, take a moment to share your experience with vision therapy.

Thank you again, and have a wonderful weekend!