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)

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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!

Coping day-to-day

Our daughter has a level of determination of someone far older than her seven years. She wants Vision Therapy to work. My husband and I have been very open with her regarding her visual issues. We have reassured her that her struggles in school are not her fault, and certainly not because she isn’t working hard. Even so, her confidence isn’t where it once was, and while we believe that vision therapy will be a success, and she will regain her confidence, it’s the day-to-day that can sometimes be a struggle.

For example, this past weekend we were doing homework together (my daughter still has trouble completing some in-class assignments) and while I can see where she has shown improvement, especially with her reading, she doesn’t. As she put it, “I’m not really good at anything. It’s so hard, and I’m tired.” As a mother, this is very difficult for me to hear, and it breaks my heart to see my beautiful, bright, intelligent child think so poorly of her abilities.  But I don’t allow her to see my sadness. I am her cheerleader, and I reassure her that what she finds difficult now will eventually become easier.  I also remind her of the many things she is good at!

“Instruction does much, but encouragement does everything”

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~

Recently her teacher pulled me aside during school dismissal and said, “We need to find a way to get her ready faster, as we’re always waiting on her.”  Her teacher is understandably busy, and she sometimes forgets about my daughter’s visual issues and the behaviours it [sometimes] brings out.  (To her credit, the teacher has made some in-class modifications to help my daughter, and I am very grateful for that.)

Again I explain her diagnosis, and again I reassure those concerned that we’re working to correct it, and once again I explain that her behaviours can be similar to dyslexia or ADD, but it isn’t the same. Admittedly, some days I feel as though I’m talking to myself, but I will tell the story as many times as I have to for my daughter’s sake.

Do we have days where we wish we didn’t have to go through this? Of course we do! But it’s part of our reality for now, and here are some of the things we do to cope:

Open communication. School is where our children spend the majority of their time Monday through Friday. I have been an open book with my daughter’s teachers about what’s going on with her vision, the ways in which it impacts her learning, and why my daughter does some of the things she does. Communication is through face-to-face discussion, notes to her teacher, and articles that I have come across that explain CI and how it affects learning.  I am also looking into donating books on the subject to the Teacher Resource Centre at the school.

Plan ahead. The world will not stop and wait, just because my daughter is in Vision Therapy. Organization is important; we plan each day and incorporate our VT homework into the schedule.  Of course the unexpected can arise, and not much can be done about that, but with a general plan in place, it’s a lot easier to deal with surprises.

Acknowledge accomplishments.  We don’t have a big-band parade every time one of our children succeeds, but we do take the time to acknowledge when our children have done something well. Whether it’s during vision therapy homework, school homework, or just ‘regular stuff’ we stop to say “Thank you for …” or “I am so proud of you for …” or “I like how you…” (fill in the blanks with what’s appropriate).

Be inclusive. My daughter has vision issues, but we are committed to Vision Therapy as a family. It’s not all on her.  It’s not, “YOU have to do vision therapy homework” it’s, “WE have to do vision therapy homework.” It’s not, “YOU have a vision therapy appointment.” It’s “WE have a vision therapy appointment.”

Have fun. Vision Therapy is extra work, but it is fun. Our Vision Therapist, Helen, is awesome. She’s so positive, and really knows how to put a fun twist on some of the exercises that helps to keep my daughter interested. I try to do the same with our VT homework.

Three children play in a lagoon formed from hi...

Photo by Mike Baird

Take a break. Sometimes we just need to not think about school, the visual challenges, Vision Therapy, progress reports, research etc. So when the time allows, we take a break. Not from VT homework (as that’s still very important), but just from everything else. We find the time to live in the moment, and recharge.

My daughter has had some tough life lessons considering her youth, but we’re doing our best to assure her that we’ll get through this – TOGETHER.

Another great article from Dr. Dan Fortenbacher for The VisionHelp Blog. (If you haven’t already, The VisionHelp Blog is one worth following.)

The VisionHelp Blog

Behavioral and Emotional problems with CIA team of researchers have recently released the results of a new study that shows a strong connection linking Convergence Insufficiency (CI), a relatively common binocular vision problem, with ADD/ADHD behaviors and emotional problems.

Even though Convergence Insufficiency (CI) has been extensively researched over the last 10 years this additional research is an important piece in the research puzzle to help doctors understand the impact of Convergence Insufficiency (CI) on the quality of life of patient. Dr. Press and I have written on several previous VisionHelp Blog posts beginning with CI- The Private Eye Goes Public – Part 1, where the epidemiological research shows the prevalence of CI to be about 1 in 12 in pediatric populations. Additionally,  we know that CI is associated with eye strain, double vision, headaches, blurred vision and other symptoms that can be found on the Convergence Insufficiency Symptom Survey (CISS). And we have definitive research that shows the only mode of treatment…

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Expanding My Home Library

The kids are at school and it’s cold and snowing outside, so I decided to take this rare opportunity to enjoy some quiet in my day with a cup of tea, credit card in hand, and shopping in The Optometric Extension Program Foundation’s  online bookstore!

As I have mentioned in previous blog entries I am an avid reader.  These days my focus is on vision therapy, vision and learning in children and ways to keep my daughter motivated at school. As I have been researching I encountered a number of suggested book titles. I am looking forward to receiving my order of:

See It. Say It. Do It. The Parents & Teachers Action Guide to Creating Successful Students and Confident Kids by Dr. Lynn F. Hellerstein  

Eye Power: An Updated Report on Vision Therapy by Ann Hoopes and Stanley Applebaum, OD

Looking Differently at Nearsightedness and Myopia: The Visual Process and the Myth of 20/20 by Steven J. Gallop, OD, FCOVD

The Suddenly Successful Student & Friends: A Guide to Overcoming Learning and Behavior Problems – How Behavioral Optometry Helps, 4th Edition by Hazel Dawkins, E. Edelman, OD & C. Forkiotis, OD

When Your Child Struggles by David L. Cook, OD

I also ordered what looks like a fun game to play with both of my children. It’s called QWIRKLE.  From The Optometric Extension Program Foundation’s web site:

Combining well-thought strategy with quick-thinking challenges, Qwirkle is played by creating rows and columns of matching colors and shapes; since the simple play requires no reading, the whole gang can connect shapes and colors, making the strategic multiple-tile moves that earn maximum points. 108 wood blocks. 2 to 4 players.”

Qwirkle

Qwirkle (Photo credit: MeoplesMagazine)

Stay tuned for future entries on The View From Here ~ our family’s journey through vision therapy as I’ll be offering my reviews from the perspective of a parent for the above titles. (I am really looking forward to reading them.)  In the meantime, if you haven’t already, take a look at the OEPF’s online store – they have a lot to offer. And if you have other titles that you think would be helpful to our readers, please feel free to share them here.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Weeks 13 and 14 … circle, circle, JUMP!

We had our weekly Vision Therapy appointment and my daughter is doing extremely well.  I am so proud of her!

Last week we worked on Circle/Triangle Jumps, See 3 Coins and MAR (flipper/accommodation) using flipper lenses with a -3.00 lens (the week before she used a +3.00).

Circle/Triangle Jumps involves a taped line on the floor, and my daughter looking at a chart of circles/triangles positioned at different points of a line. As she reads each image, she has to jump to the appropriate side of the line, and tap her right or left hand on her leg, depending on which side the triangle lies. Confused? I’m not doing the description justice (Remember, I’m not an optometrist or a trained vision therapist), but my daughter thinks it’s a lot of fun! The challenge for her is tracking as she sometimes loses her place, limited awareness of the space around her and having to remember both right/left for her hand and body.  But she’s doing it!

See 3 Coins includes a card with a coin (a penny in this case) taped on either side.  My daughter uses a pencil as her focal point, bringing it close towards her nose. In the distance she holds the card with the coins. Eventually she goes from seeing 2 coins to 3, and she’s to hold her eyes in that position (seeing three coins) for as long as she can (we time how long). We’re able to see her eyes turn inwards, although her left eye lags behind a wee bit, while she holds her focus. My husband and I have tried this exercise and it isn’t easy. My daughter thought it was pretty funny that she could hold position longer than her Dad. And she was surprised that I couldn’t do it at all (likely related to my being amblyopic as a child – but that’s another story!)  See 3 Coins is a challenge for my daughter as convergence is an issue, but she is determined to make it work.

For MAR (flipper/accommodation), my daughter wears her reading glasses, we patch one eye, and she holds +/- flipper lenses against her glasses while she reads material at an appropriate distance. In this case we used -3.00 lenses. (Week before last, we used +3.00 lenses.) The plus lenses allow the muscles of her eyes responsible for focussing to relax; the minus lenses force those same muscles to work harder to focus. Our daughter is able to focus fairly quickly (unlike her father and I who need several seconds before the image comes into focus. Darn these middle-aged eyes of ours!), but we have noticed that her reading slows a little as we approach the 5-minute mark and her ability to focus slows, when her eye muscles tire.

This week we’ll continue with See 3 Coins, but my daughter no longer needs to use the pencil. We will continue with MAR, but we’ll be alternating between -3.00 lenses and +3.00 lenses. Our daughter has also moved on to the final level of Circle/Triangle Jumps called Double Circle/Triangle Jumps. She tends to race through it in an attempt to just get it done, so we’ll also be concentrating on slowing her down a little bit. Finally, much to my daughter’s amusement, we’ll be playing “Super Heroes”. We’ve decided that we’ll both do this activity together. It involves my daughter staring really hard at a focal point using her “super powers” to burn through it (*wink*), then we’ll relax, and stare at the focal point gently. The idea is for my daughter to acquaint herself with the sensation of her eye muscles as they are working to focus, and then compare how her eyes feel when she’s focussed on an object while relaxed.  This is in preparation for future activities in her VT program.

Eye patch, pencil, reading glasses, flipper lenses, coin card, circle/triangle jumps chart

Eye patch, pencil, reading glasses, flipper lenses, coin card, circle/triangle jumps chart

These homework exercises sound fairly simple, don’t they? You may be wondering how any of this could possibly help a child with visual issues. As a parent learning about vision therapy as I go (versus a trained professional in the field of behavioural optometry) I don’t have the knowledge to explain the intricacies of it, but I definitely see the difference. In between our weekly appointments we have five days of VT homework, usually by day 3 I’m able to notice an improvement in how my daughter handles the routines. Often times, it’s very subtle, but it’s there, and as far as I’m concerned it’s an indication that we’re progressing in the right direction. 

A fascinating read about the development of visual spatial knowledge from Dr. L. Press for The VisionHelp Blog.

The VisionHelp Blog

WachsDr. Wachs’s VT Manual, which we introduced in the prior post subdivides its headings as follows:  General Movement, Discriminative Movement, Ocular Development Control, Visual Acuity, Visual Thinking, Hand Thinking, Graphic Thinking, Auditory Thinking, Repetitive Expressive Communication, Logical Thinking, Representational Thought, Speed & Accuracy, and Math.  My purpose here is to be descriptive of what you’ll find in the manual when you obtain the book, rather than to reproduce the procedures.  It’ll be well worth the $65 investment.  We’ll begin with an overview of General Movement.

First up is Reflexive Control, which revolves heavily around the concept of therapy to help integrate primitive reflexes.  They are sometimes referred to as retained reflexes.  Harry notes that OT, PT, or a strengthening program may be advisable for children with low muscle tone on physiological inadequacy.  This is the part of the book that would have been aided significantly by…

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Another great article by Dr. Leonard J. Press for The VisionHelp Blog.

The VisionHelp Blog

In the prior blog I noted that “home therapy” is a bit of misnomer.  After all, the procedures we prescribe to be done out of the office are increasingly done at places other than home.  In some instances they are reinforced by professionals in school, such as OTs, PTs, or SLPs.  In other instances, particularly when a parent home schools a child, it is entirely appropriate to consider some of the procedures as home therapy.  The bottom line is that when we assign these procedures, it is vital to have the therapist ask the patient to demonstrate their ability with the activity or activities when they return to the office.  That way we can gauge how appropriately and how well the procedure has been internalized and applied.  It’s amazing sometimes to see what the patient’s interpretation of the procedure should be done, despite what we thought were clear-cut written directions…

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The VisionHelp Blog

As noted previously, home vision therapy is something that is engendering alot of discussion and opinion on the vision therapy doc’s listserve.

We know that home alone therapy isn’t likely to work much better than a placebo, at least in the context of the CITT study.  Yet we also know that the designers of home therapy systems put a great deal of thought and design into principles of operant conditioning, behavior modification and feedback as applied to vision therapy.  Perhaps some of those ingredients can be better adapted to the current environment in which home (or any out of office) therapy is to be conducted. One approach is to consider the scientific basis for optometric vision therapy as cited by Ciuffreda (Optometry 2002) regarding the three phases of perceptual and motor skill learning:

1. Verbal-cognitive phase: This primarily involves conscious thinking and planning of movement strategies…

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