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3 Reasons Why You Should Kickstart the New Year With Vision Therapy

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It’s that time of year again when we sit down with a pumpkin spice latte in hand and think of a resolution we can take upon ourselves for the new year. Here at [tokensname=’SpCenterVT’], we believe that the best resolutions are the ones that positively impact other areas of our lives and enhance our overall quality of life. Vision therapy offers just that! This therapy is made up of a series of customized visual exercises designed to develop or regain visual processing skills.

Vision Therapy is highly effective in treating:

  • Amblyopia, (or “lazy eye”)
  • Strabismus, (or “eye-turn”)
  • Eye movement disorders
  • Focusing disorders
  • Binocular vision problems
  • Vision, balance, and memory problems associated with brain injury

Even those with 20/20 eyesight can benefit from vision therapy because perfect eyesight doesn’t mean perfect vision. Below are the ways in which vision therapy will help you kick-off the new year.

Improve Existing Vision Skills

You’re good at what you do, be it at work, school or sports. But can you do better? By training the eyes and brain to work in unison, you increase your potential for greater performance. Not only will you be more efficient, but performing tasks will become more enjoyable. This especially applies to school-aged children, as their brains are still in rapid development. Vision therapy effectively enables the brain to correctly process information for optimal academic success.

Learn New Skills With Ease

Many people make it their resolution to learn a new skill in the upcoming year but an underlying vision problem can interfere with that. Since learning is 80% visual, vision therapy offers an excellent opportunity to gear up for success! Undiagnosed or untreated vision problems related to convergence and focus can cause memory and reading problems and hinder learning. Dr. Knighton and Dr. Bonilla-Warford will use an array of tools, such as prisms, specialized lenses, filters, balance beams, and computerized visual activities to train the eye-brain connection and help you learn more efficiently in almost any area that requires vision.

Gain The Confidence You Crave

Whether you’re a pro-athlete or a 4th grader struggling to read, improved vision skills will boost your confidence. This confidence will surely trickle into other areas of your life leading to increased self-esteem.

Start 2020 by empowering yourself or your child with vision therapy. Call Bright Eyes Family Vision Care's Vision Therapy Center to book your appointment today.

Bright Eyes Family Vision Care's Vision Therapy Center serves patients in Tampa, Westchase, Town 'N' Country, and University, and throughout Florida.

Podcast #9: Vivid Vision with James Blaha

Welcome to The Bright Eyes Podcast: Advice for Healthy Vision for All Ages. Your hosts are Dr. Nate Bonilla-Warford & Dr. Beth Knighton, residency-trained optometrist that provide eye exams for glasses and contacts, and specialty services including vision therapy, myopia control, orthokeratology, and sports vision training. Their mission to empower patients by providing the best in friendly, professional, and individualized eye care.

In this episode, Dr. Nate talks with James Blaha From Vivid Vision about virtual reality vision therapy.

** See the related blog post of previous text interview with James Blaha.

** See the related episode about how vision and performance – #3 VISION LEADS.

** See the related episode with Edna Moore – #8 VISION THERAPY.

The Full transcript:

Intro: 00:01 Welcome to the bright eyes podcast advise for healthy vision for all ages. Your hosts are Dr. Nate Bonilla- Warford and Dr. Beth Knighton residency trained optometrist providing eye care to all ages with exams for glasses and contacts and specialty services including vision therapy, Myopia control, Ortho-keratology, and sports vision training. Their mission is to empower patients by providing the best in friendly, professional and individualized care.

James: 00:39 It’s march and so that means it’s fall in Florida when all the leaves and pollen make everyone miserable. This is the bright eyes podcast. This is episode number nine. I’m Dr Nate Bonilla- Warford, Dr. Beth is away, and I have a special guest with me, James Blaha. Vivid vision. How are you doing, James?

James: 00:59 I’m good. Thanks for having me on.

Dr. Nate: 01:01 Yeah, well I’ve, uh, I’m excited about doing this. We’ve talked many times over the last few years and I had wanted to have you as a guest on our podcast for a while and so, I’m glad that it worked out. So for listeners who don’t know, vision therapy is a program of treatment to help people who have certain types of functional visual problems that can be an eye movement problem, an eye focusing problem, an eye alignment problem, or other kinds of problems. There are many different strategies in many different ways that vision therapy can be performed, but vivid vision is a way to apply those same principles in a virtual reality environment. And that is the product of years of work that James had done. Now, the interesting thing about this is that James is not an optometrist. What is your background?

Vivid Vision Logo With CircleJames: 02:01 I’m I’m a programmer and an entrepreneur, um, but I also grew up with Amblyopia and Strabismus. So I got Interested in all of this from my own personal perspective going through treatment as a kid and later as an adult reading about it.

Dr. Nate: 02:16 Yeah. Which I think is fascinating. So when you were first developing this, it was nowhere near the level that it is now in terms of features and sophistication. What was the first kind of prototype like?

James: 02:32 Yeah. So when I, when I first started building it, I guess I was kind of a naïve as to what the complexities of all this would actually be like. I thought it would be a lot simpler than it actually is. The first version I had a cube in VR (Virtual Reality) and basically I can use the arrows on my keyboard to make it brighter and my weak eye in dimmer in my strong, and I would make an adjustment until I could see parts of the cube with my weak eye. So that was sort of our first, the first test we made. And that was basically a rough estimate of suppression of the weaker eye first game I had, it was actually a version of what’s now Breaker, which is like a breakout style game, but in 3D in VR where you use paddles to hit a ball to destroy bricks on the other side of a marina. So the very first version we would take a measurement of the suppression using the first tool and then we would set up the game so the bricks were brighter and the weak eye and dimmer in the strong eye according to that measurement, and that was about four years ago, I guess

Dr. Nate: 03:35 Four years ago and a lot in four years. So for patients who might be listening with the features and the current state of the virtual reality treatment, a vivid vision in particular who would be a candidate?

James: 03:50 You would probably be able to answer that even better than that I could, you know. But in general Amblyopia, Strabismus, although with Strabismus it can be complicated and it really depends on the case I think. And also convergence problems and divergence problems. We’ve seen the most success with refractive Amblyopia. That seems to be easiest to treat.

Dr. Nate: 04:15 Yeah. Well, I agree with that. In our office, uh, we use it for people who have Amblyopia, which commonly is called a lazy eye by people. People also use the term lazy eye to mean Strabismus, where the eyes aren’t necessarily aligned all the time, or maybe not, some of the time. Those conditions result in a condition called suppression where one, it sort of takes over, dominates the other one, is dominant and less dominant eye. And so the whole point of this virtual reality treatment is to stimulate the eye that suppressed, to get the eyes to work together in a very, very engaging in immersive way. Uh, what we see in the clinic is that it works extremely well, it’s very very effective. But also it’s, very fun.

James: 05:01 Yeah. The motivation part of it is sort of one of the missing parts of other treatments. It’s a lot easier to do the actual therapy time and I think the therapy times more effective when people want to do it and are engaged in it as well.

Dr. Nate: 05:17 Yeah, I think that that’s true kind of across the board. If it’s more engaging, if it’s more interesting the brain’s gonna learn faster and make better use of that information and so we try to do that as much as possible, but few things are has engaging has a virtual reality video games, I think we’re gonna see a lot more of in different contexts. And I’m excited to be able to be able to offer it. Now we’ve had some tremendous success stories, people who’ve improved dramatically in terms of how clear they can see with their Amblyopia eye. We’ve had patients who formerly didn’t see in 3D, but then we’re able to develop their depth perception. I would imagine that you’ve heard just a huge number of wide variety of success stories all over the country and all over the world. Do you have maybe like a couple of, like a favorite case that really you really kinda sticks with you, I guess, aside from your own because your own is pretty compelling?

James: 06:21 Yeah, I’d have to I’d have to think about that a little bit. I think, um, we have heard of cases all over, you know, one of the cases that sort of sticks out in my mind was a guy in his fifties who had a strabismus surgery and following the surgery, he used a vivid vision with an ophthalmologist and actually saw a really big results getting stereo for the first time in his fifties after the surgery. And it sort of surprised the ophthalmologists and um, usually we don’t expect recovery and Strabismus and let that, you know, later in life, but it seems like right after her surgery is the right time to be doing this practice. And so that, that case really interested because um, you know, it could be, uh, something we’re going to study a little more closely in the future whether or not there’s this period after surgery that’s really optimal for, for doing the perceptual training.

Dr. Nate: 07:16 And that’s actually one thing that’s exciting, you know, your team has grown a whole lot since four years ago and now you have a optometrists visual scientists research and so that’ll be, you know, that’s going to be great to see, you know, as we learn more about what the opportunities are and what the results are right now. It’s all so new. It’s exciting but it’ll be even more exciting when we have more data behind it.

James: 07:48 Yeah. I’m working with a number of universities right now. Each group has sort of a specific area they’re looking at in detail. One of the sort of hard things about this is that every patient has has a unique situation going on and so it’s really difficult to study, you know, lazy eye when it’s really a bunch of different things each with their own causes and effects.

Dr. Nate: 08:10 Right. Yeah, absolutely. And I know that the newest update also includes one of the activities that’s beneficial for sports vision, so peripheral vision, reaction time and so, I assume that you are working on more opportunities for treatment as time goes on. I’m sure you have a lot of stuff that kind of in the pipeline that you’re not ready to talk about, but it’s probably super exciting. So, you know, that’s, that’s gotta be really fun to be, you know, this far ahead of something that has so much potential.

James: 08:48 Yeah, I think, um, you know, over the next couple of years, like you said, we’ve been growing and are hoping to grow a little more. Part of that is expanding, researching development and sort of expanding the kinds of things we measure in treat with VR headsets. So sports vision is part of that. We’re doing a little work in low vision as well, and we actually just announced publicly that we’re working on a visual field test. I’m using that headset

Dr. Nate: 09:16 Now, one of the things that’s most exciting, I think, is that the virtual reality VR devices are becoming so common and widespread,at home, everything from kind of higher end oculus rift to like the Samsung gear VR. So the opportunity to be able to do what is extremely sophisticated visual treatment at home is something that I think has been a goal of yours for a long time. And I know that people are interested because we get emails from all over the world. We actually had a family that, lives in Brazil, but they came to Florida to go to Disney world for vacation. But then they took a day off of their Disney world vacation to come to my office to see if they were a candidate for vivid vision. And she is, this young girl had had two different surgeries to align her eyes. And I thought she was an excellent candidate, so they just recently started doing a vivid vision at home in Brazil, which is way more exciting, I think with potential for benefit, than they were able to do a locally before, you know, that’s just one story. And I’m sure that there are many stories like that, that people have access to, you know, to this kind of therapy where they didn’t before. So I think that that’s going to be a wonderful for patients all over.

James: 10:44 Yeah. You know, that’s, um, our original mission was to have some kind of home treatment and then we found out how complicated it is, found out doctors really, really do need to be involved in and make that initial diagnosis and follow-up on the treatment and sort of manage it on and make sure things are going correctly. And so it took us a little longer than we expected to get out the home version and sort of make sure we were doing it correctly. Um, but now that it’s out, you know, we’ve been hearing a lot of stories like that of doctors. I’m managing the treatment of patients who normally wouldn’t have access to a good care.

Dr. Nate: 11:19 Yeah. I think it’s anything, it’s extremely exciting. And I, you know, we talked to you kind of early on and as soon as it was kind of out of the Beta testing stage, we, you know, we implemented in the office and we’ve been very happy with it. Uh, and so, uh, I know that I will see you at some of the, uh, upcoming vision therapy meetings, COVD is a big meeting and that’s, you know, that’s coming up soon. So that’s, you know, that’s exciting. Um, anything else that you’d like to share with patients before wrap this? Wrap this up?

James: 11:55 Yeah, I guess, uh, you know, one of the things that, that really helps companies like us to hear from patients and just sort of here, you know, what people want, what people need, um, those stories really help us figure out what we should prioritize, what we should be working on. So it’s always great to, um, you know, getting, getting an email from somebody or something like that through our website. Just hearing you know, what their problems are and what we can try to figure out what we can do to help fix it.

Dr. Nate: 12:26 Yeah, that’s a great point. I’ll definitely make sure that we include your contact info and the website is seevividly.com

James: 12:26 Yeah, That’s right.

Dr. Nate: 12:38 Yeah, absolutely. All right. Well, I really do appreciate you taking the time to talk to me today and uh, I’m looking forward to editing this, this episode so we can get it up for people to listen to.

James: 12:52 Yeah, very nice talking to you. Thanks for having me on.

Dr. Nate: 12:54 Yes. And to our listeners, thanks for listening. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, you can email us at office@brighteyestampa.com. And until next time we’ll see you later.

Outro: 13:05 Brought to you by bright eyes, family, vision, care, and bright eyes kids. Find previous episodes and more detailed information at brighteyetampa.com, creative Commons, copyright attribution, non-commercial use. The only purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. It is no substitute for professional care by a doctor experienced in the area you require. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. Please consult your physician for diagnosis and treatment.

Intro/outro music: Lucas Warford of Three For Silver.

 

VRVT

Dr. Beth and Dr. Nate lecture in Miami

This weekend, Dr. Nate, Dr. Beth and vision therapists took a trip to Miami Beach to attend the 6th Annual Florida COVD Study Group. Dr. Nate is one of the founding members of the group and usually goes each summer to listen, lecture, and discuss the very latest treatments for patients.

The talks were very good. Bob Orsillo, OD spoke about about sports vision enhancement. Dr. John Kuluz from Miami Children’s Neurology Dept spoke about sports-related concussion. Dr. Matthew Kay, South Florida’s leading neuro-ophthalmologist, spoke about double vision.

Dr. Beth and Dr. Nate gave a 2 hour Prezi called “Amblyopia and Strabismus Therapy Treatment with Virtual Reality“. It was an interactive discussion of our use of Vivid Vision, the Oculus Rift-based VR vision therapy tool. It was created to bring immersive new technology to long-standing principles of vision therapy. You can read more about Vivid Vision here.

After hours there was swimming, food and drinks, and more discussion about vision therapy. 🙂

The meeting was sponsored by Eyecarrot. They the company behind, Binovi, the new vision therapy tracking technology that we are using at Bright Eyes.

Here are a few pictures from the meeting:

01 Vivid Vision in action02

Helping Adults See in 3D With Vision Therapy

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It is such an exciting time to provide vision therapy! There are so many advancements in treatment and knowledge in this area of Optometry. Although Vision Therapy is often thought of as an essential treatment for children with vision problems, adults can benefit from it too. A case in point is my patient, Betsy. She is a talented artist. You can see her work and blog here.

Betsy had eye surgeries as a child for crossed eyes. Despite these procedures, she still did not have the ability to keep her eyes aligned or see in 3D. For that, she needed vision therapy. She started therapy in a different state and when she moved to sunny Tampa Bay, she continued therapy with us.

Through vision therapy, Betsy has learned to move and focus her eyes at the same time without suppressing (turning one eye off). She has developed the ability converge her eyes to make them straight.

The most amazing detail about Betsy’s cases was that she acquired depth perception. Or, as the headline of the recent online interview she granted says:

“30 Year Old Describes the Experience of Seeing in 3D for the First Time.”

How did she achieve this?

First, Betsy was totally motivated to improve her vision and learn how to use her eyes together. When I first met her, she described how determined she was to improve her vision, which makes this long-term goal of hers all the more easy to achieve.

Secondly, she worked hard. As she said in the interview, she has done Brock String (a particular Vision Therapy activity) for over a hundred hours! That’s like staring at your nose for 100 hours; can you do that? Wow! All of this hard work and determination has prepared her brain and eyes to appreciate 3D vision.

Finally, Betsy is not afraid to try new things. She has had a number of different glasses, a huge variety of vision therapy activities, and most recently, the Vivid Vision Virtual Reality Vision Therapy System.

As Betsy said in an email to me recently, “This is amazing! I’m seeing 3D all over the place.” This is the most rewarding kind of note an optometrist like me can get from a patient.

And Betsy isn’t the only adult patient in our vision therapy program. Other recent adult patients include one who had double vision from a bicycling accident, one who had tremendous fatigue and double vision at work, another who had amblyopia and was told that she would never see well out of her left eye. All of these adults and others have experienced tremendous benefits from vision therapy.

To sum up: Vision Therapy is not just for kids; adults can benefit from it too. If you are an adult and have questions about your vision, see an optometrist who specializes in binocular vision. There may be options for you! You can start by going to COVD.org and OEPF.org to look for doctors.

Be well!

-Dr. Nate

 

AOA School Readiness Summit: Focus on Vision

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The American Optometric Association recently held a School Readiness Summit: Focus on Vision in which doctors, nurses, educators and advocates for children’s health gathered to examine learning-related vision issues that are keeping children from achieving in the classroom. This summit was created to address the concerns that our current system is flawed and a policy shift is needed. The problem is that currently, the U.S. educational system and some health care providers rely heavily on vision screenings to discover the kids that need comprehensive exams. These screenings do catch some types of vision problems but they can miss about 75% of those children that have learning-related vision problems. Detecting these vision problems is very important as “studies show that much of what children learn comes though vision, and undetected and untreated eye and vision disorders in children, such as amblyopia and strabismus, can result in vision loss, additional costly treatments, delayed reading and poorer outcomes in school.”

The take-home statement that the summit produced is that comprehensive eye exams must serve as the foundation to determine school readiness in school-aged children. Another important point established at this meeting is the establishment of the link between healthy vision and classroom learning.

This historic summit is an important step in ensuring that children receive the proper detection and treatment of vision problems before they become detrimental to their learning. Here at Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, we are excited to see these changes being made, since it has been our goal from the beginning to not only catch vision problems at an early stage, evidenced by the InfantSEE program that we offer that provides free eye exams to infants between the age of 6 months and 1 year of age, but to also treat certain types of problems through our extensive one-on-one vision therapy program.

If you have any questions regarding the InfantSEE program, vision therapy program, or would like to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child before they start school, give our office a call or come in to schedule.

All the best,

Justin Schoonover, CPO

Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.
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Ask Dr. Nate: Strabismus at 55

qmQuestion via a email: I’ve had strabismus all of my life. However, I am now soon-to-be 55 years of age, and the strabismus is becoming an issue. Other than when very tired, I’ve never had to consciously bring the double vision together. Now it has become a conscious effort. Any advice you can provide is greatly appreciated.

As I am sure you can understand, I can’t give you any specific medical advice without examining you. However, I can give you some general opinions on cases similar to yours. First, if you have not read Susan Barry’s Fixing My Gaze, I recommend that you do so. It is excellent and will provide you with a great deal of information about a case similar to your own that has been successfully treated with vision therapy. That is not to say that you could have the same result, but you would have a better understanding of your condition and options. If you’d like to come by the office, I will give you a copy.

It is very common for individuals with vision problems to experience a worsening of comfort and control in their 40s and 50s that occurs along with the natural change of reduced ability to see up close. Sometimes this reveals longstanding problems or sometimes it creates new problems. An evaluation is needed to determine the extent.

Generally, in these cases there are many treatment options. One could do nothing, which is what you have been doing previously. One could wear specific glasses or glasses with prism in them to help improve the ability to keep the eyes aligned. One could undertake vision therapy, not to strengthen the eye muscles, but to help coordinate and control them. Finally, in extreme cases, eye muscle surgery is an option.

Elaine, I hope this is helpful. If you have more questions or would like to schedule an exam, feel free to call the office at 813-792-0637.

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

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Interview with Susan Barry, author of “Fixing My Gaze”

FMGAs readers of this blog and those that follow us on Twitter know, there is an exciting book was recently been published about a woman who achieved great success with vision therapy at age 48. It is called “Fixing My Gaze” by Susan Barry, Ph.D. It has been very popular and at one point was the 367th most sold book on Amazon.com

When the book was released, I pre-ordered copies for my office. I read it and had the staff read it. I loved the way Dr. Barry writes and her accessibility. In fact, I liked it so much that I recently held an online contest to give a copy away.

Well, the contest caught the attention of “Stereo Sue”, as she is nicknamed, and she graciously agreed to an online interview.

Dr. B: Dr. Barry, thank you so much for being participating in this interview. I know that vision therapy programs can vary tremendously from patient to patient. How long was your office therapy with Dr. Ruggiero?

Sue: I had about 12 months of office therapy spread over one and one-half years.

How long before you saw definitive progress?

I began to see progress within the first month. My gaze appeared more stable and I began to notice pockets of space between objects.

Regardless of whether a patient is 5, 45, or 95 years old, vision therapy can be a lot of work. Was it hard to stay motivated?

Yes and no. The changes in my vision encouraged me to continue. I also saw myself as my own experiment and liked thinking about how I was changing my vision and what changes were occurring in my brain. The most important thing I did to keep motivated was to keep a journal of how far I could go with each procedure. This taught me that I was making progress even during the weeks when I felt that nothing was happening. My vision therapists were extremely encouraging and fun to work with. My optometrist, Dr. Theresa Ruggiero, was always so positive that she made me feel like I was 10 feet tall.

In “Fixing My Gaze” you mention several vision therapy activities such as Marsden Ball, Brock String and Vectograms. Is there one activity that was your favorite?

My favorite activity was the Brock string because it gave me the feedback to learn how to point my two eyes simultaneously at the same place in space. I could feel my eyes moving in concert and this was very exciting. The first time I saw stereo depth in the Polaroid vectograms – it was the clown vectogram – was also very special.

Now that you’ve had stereopsis for several years, do you find yourself at times taking it for granted as most people do?

No. My vision continues to improve and I have taken to walking everywhere just so I can feel myself moving through this three dimensional world. I am still surprised by what I can see. One advantage, I suppose, of not having stereovision for half a century is that I never take my vision for granted. I feel like I have been given a great gift.

You did such a marvelous job making the book accessible to many people from laypeople to doctors and scientists. Did you find that difficult to do, or did it come naturally?

I am a college biology professor and enjoy teaching, especially finding straightforward ways to explain complicated things. I learned this from my mother who was also a teacher. I also learned a great deal about vision from the many optometrists I spoke with.

Several people have commented on the readability of the book. What steps did you take to achieve this?

I made the decision about the font. I told the publisher that I wanted the book printed in Garamond font at the largest acceptable font size and spacing between letters, words, and lines. I was concerned that the people who might find the book interesting and beneficial are also the ones with difficulties tracking the letters on the page. The Harry
Potter books (which I loved) are printed in Garamond font, and one of the people I mention in my book had told me that he found Harry Potter easy to read because of the font and spacing. Also, my father, now 86, was a calligrapher and graphic designer and so I asked his advice about the fonts as well. He told me that the font should have some serifs (the little curley cues around the letters) as Sans Serif can be hard to read. However, the font should not be too complicated. We got out his old font books and looked over many different fonts and agreed that Garamond would work. I was very happy that the publisher honored my wishes here.

Thank you for writing “Fixing My Gaze.” My colleagues and I are very happy about it. Have you been surprised at its reception?

I never expected my book to be embraced so enthusiastically by so many people from people with binocular vision problems to scientists to optometrists.

Thank you for your time. Is there anything else you’d like add before we go?

I hope my book will teach people that the brain is capable of rewiring at any age, will broadcast the importance and effectiveness of optometric vision therapy, and will help many children as they progress through school.

I encourage all my readers to read “Fixing My Gaze.” You can get it at any bookstore or on Amazon.com. Alternatively, we have office copies that we are lending to patients. If you’d like to borrow a copy, just stop by Bright Eyes and ask for one.

Happy Reading,
Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

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Update: Here are some links for more information:

Audio Podcast Interview with Susan Barry
http://www.perseuspodcasts.com/main/podcasts/book.php?
isbn=9780465009138

Print Q&A with Sue from the New Scientist, June 6, 2009
http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20227112.900-how-i-learned-to-
see-in-3d.html

Sue’s Psychology Today Blog, Eyes on the Brain
http://blogs.psychologytoday.com/blog/eyes-the-brain

Los Angeles Times OpEd
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-barry22-
2009jun22,0,350826.story

Have a great photo showing an eye turn?

Dear Readers,

I have been been asked by COVD to help find submissions for a cover picture for their internationally-read vision science journal, Optometry and Vision Development. They are looking for a quality child or adult strabimsus photo. This will highlight an essay on Sue Barry’s excellent new book “Fixing My Gaze

If you would like to see yourself or your child on the cover of a journal, submit a high-quality photo showing strabismus (eye turn) to me at natebw@gmail.com.

Thanks!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

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Interview with VT Blogger Heather Fitzpatrick

Not too long ago, I posted a link to a new blog that I had found called
ONE EYED GIRL – My Life With Strabismus. It is written by Heather Fitzpatrick who has had strabismus her entire life. She is now writing about her experiences and progress with vision therapy.

Recently, I had a chance to ask Heather some questions about her vision therapy:

Dr. B: You’ve written that you first found out about vision therapy from reading about Stereo Sue’s story. Before finding out about Stereo Sue, how much did you want to address your vision problem?

Heather: I never knew that my vision was different, as I never knew any other way of seeing, so changing my vision never crossed my mind. It was the way my eyes looked that I wanted to change. The doctors told my parents that I would have no “depth perception”. I never knew what that was anyway, so I never guessed that I needed to change my vision or that I even could.

Dr. B: Do you ever recall vision therapy being brought up as an alternative or an adjunct to your eye surgeries as a child?

Heather: Never discussed. It was always, ‘Heather is such a severe case, and surgery is the only option…’ I also saw a prominent optometrist/vision specialist in New York City after reading Oliver Sacks’ article, Stereo Sue, and after many tests he said that Vision Therapy would not do anything for me. It wasn’t until I met Dr. Carl Gruning, (who was referred to me by Dr. Sue Barry), at Eye Care Associates in Fairfield, CT, that I had any idea that this might be an option for me. He agreed that I was a severe case of vertical strabismus, and that corrective surgery would probably be the action to take, but he also thought that some vision therapy might help. Well, he was right! After some months of work, things began to look different. One day the therapist put me in these one-inch thick prism glasses and suddenly the room POPPED! The walls loomed way up, the people in the room were on all these different planes of space, and objects on a table were all in their own areas. It was absolutely mind blowing! I wanted to touch everything. I felt like I had landed on a different planet and there was all this space between things.

 

I believe I was 80-90 PD and now I am 30-40 PD. So over time I have corrected my vertical misalignment significantly. Eventually, I got a pair of prism glasses that I could wear on walks without scaring the neighbors. They have decal prisms, and while the acuity is pretty low (there are about 20 lines going across each of the lenses), I can still see a lot of depth with them.

Dr. B: You mentioned in your blog that you compensated for your eye turn by always taking photos with a head turn. What other ways did you compensate?

Heather: I eventually learned that things seemed closer than they really were, so I would compensate by telling myself I probably had more room than I thought I had. I competed in triathlons. During cycling workouts, I am always the one too far away from the cyclist ahead of me in the pace line. Other cyclists say, “Close the gap Heather!” But not seeing the space, the person’s wheel in front of me looked much closer than it really was. In swimming workouts, I had to learn that when doing a flip turn at the end of the pool, to look at the black line at the bottom of the pool rather than trying to judge where the wall was.

 

When I drive a car, I gauge where I am when stopping at a light by looking at the white line on the road ahead, otherwise I end up underneath the stoplight!

 

Apart from these minor things, I have not had depth perception my whole life, so I think I learned how to navigate from years of never having had it, if that makes sense.

Dr. B: Do you find it difficult to stay motivated for vision therapy?

Heather: No, I truly enjoy every moment of it. Sometimes I get frustrated because I want to see results more quickly, but I have come to realize that patience is key.

Dr. B: What is the hardest thing about vision therapy for you?

Heather: A few months after I began to see in stereo, it dawned on me that I had gone my entire life seeing the world differently. This brought some low moments thinking about all the years I didn’t have this type of vision. I had no idea I saw the world as one big flat movie screen!

 

I began to realize that much of the trouble I had as a child in school was not because I wasn’t paying attention, (well maybe some of that!) but because I could not track things as well as the other children. My eyes were not able to keep a lot of things on a page in order, so I would become overwhelmed. It was hard to keep my visual world organized, so I preferred to talk rather than focus! I have come to get more clarity on my childhood schooling. I wasn’t stupid. I just couldn’t see like other children! Unfortunately, no one recognized this, and I was put in LD classes that did not address my visual problems.

Dr. B: I’m glad you shared that, because that is one of the most common things I hear from parents. Things like, “He is just lazy, ” or “He just doesn’t try very hard.” It is sad to hear, but the silver lining is that if their child were succeeding while dealing with his visual problems, he can achieve anything after therapy!

Heather: Oh, yea, I have heard those things, too. Not from my parents, but from teachers that just did not understand how someone’s vision could be making him or her bounce off the walls (sugar probably also helped!!) or become overly frustrated when trying to learn something new.

Dr. B: You blog a lot of what happens with your vision at home. Like most of my patients, I’m sure that your job is visually demanding. Have you noticed any if anything is better, worse, or just different at work since starting vision therapy?

Heather: In the beginning, I was very tired. Early on I had to take naps! I run a business as a recruiter (www.traberfitz.com) and part of my job requires that I work on a computer for hours at a time. Early on in VT, it became exhausting to look at the computer for longer than 3-4 hours a day, but that has improved and I have learned to take eye breaks.

 

Also, my eye that is normally looking down has been activated through the therapy, so now when I walk or ride my bike, I see straight ahead with one eye and the ground rushing past me with the other eye, which is a bit disconcerting. Usually, I can turn it on and off. Also, I have started to see double in some exercises in VT. I can’t seem to fuse small objects yet.

Dr. B: Have you blogged about other things before?

Heather: No. The experience of seeing a whole new way at the age of 42 moved me to write about it. I thought there must be others and I could create a network of people who may get help from my story. A few people have contacted me, and their support has been so amazing and they have been inspired to seek out VT for themselves. One person contacted me that she was told that her infant daughter would never see in stereo due to an in vitro stroke. She was devastated and worried that her daughter would be missing out on a lot in life. I told her that my life has been just fine and that never knowing what depth perception was, I never missed anything!
Dr. B: Any thing else you’d like to share?

Heather: I would just like to say that this is amazing work and has changed my life in a meaningful way. I know this may sound strange, but it has changed more than my vision. Sometimes I think that my brain has wanted to see this way for a long time and giving it that chance was almost like an awakening of sorts. It lets light into a dark part of my brain. My visual life is not dead anymore. When I wear my prism glasses, it opens up to this whole new place that seems more alive. Space is this incredible thing and so entirely magical that it is hard to describe to someone who has always seen it. Overall, I have become a more contemplative person. I took up oil painting and enjoy looking at things more…especially nature.

Dr. B: Thanks so much for sharing your time and story, Heather. I wish you all the best and much progress in vision therapy!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.

 

Parenting Magazine:Strabismus Can Be Missed During Routine Exams

In the July 2008 issue of Parenting magazine, William Sears, M.D., author of many books on childcare and parenting, wrote an article titled “Take Charge of Your Child’s Heath: 5 Common Conditions and How You can help Catch Them.”

The number one issue that Dr. Sears says that can be overlooked by a pediatrician is strabismus, which is the wandering or crossing of an eye. While the article is too brief to be complete, I am glad that Dr. Sears makes a point that strabismus can be missed during a routine appointment and that parents should trust what they see… typically, if a mom sees something really wrong, there is.

I’d like to add a few additional comments to the article.

First, it mentions that strabismus can be treated with glasses or surgery. This is true, but it may also be treated with vision therapy. Second, It is better to prevent a visual problem than fix one later. The American Optometric Association recommends eye exams at 6 months, 3 years, and each year during school. To help, the AOA created a program, InfantSee, that provides no-cost eye exams for infants less than 12 months old

Be Well!

InfantSee,

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