Vision therapy update: Brain rewiring in progress

My occupational therapist gives me new vision therapy exercises each week.  For the past six weeks, I have been playing with:

  • Switching from looking from near to far using an eye chart
  • Bunting a ball (that hangs from a string) in several different directions
  • Tracking – following my clasped fingers with my eyes – right to left, up to down, diagonals, around in a circle
  • Working with peripheral vision

…and more.

ball with string

This ball on a string is hanging on a hook above my closest.  I’ve done catch and release exercises, and am currently doing exercises where I bunt it with this stick.

My OT usually assigns me around 3 exercises a week, and I have to do them 5 times a week.  The exercises are short but stimulating, and take around 15 minutes total.  Sometimes I do them consecutively, and other times I scatter them through a day.

letters

With this exercise, I focus my eyes on the X and find the other letters with my peripheral vision by pointing to them with a stick.  Also, I do this with a patch on one eye, and then switch. 

What I’ve noticed:  I’ve realized that I often am unaware of where my eyes are pointing.  Or that I overshoot, like my eyes will go up and then down to focus on the desired object; I miss and then quickly locate.

When I’m following something with my eyes, I sometimes skip over something.  I generally can find my place again, but it’s almost as though for a split second I don’t know where I’ve been. I’m not sure exactly what indicates, but it’s somewhat unsettling.

Overall, I know I’m compensating a lot.  I could be consistently (constantly?) losing and finding my place.  Think of this like in reading a book:  You forget where you left off in a paragraph and have to find it again before you resume.  Apply that idea to anything you need to watch or follow with your eyes.  As I go through these exercises, I feel like I’m more clearly defining where I am in space and and discovering where everything else is in relation to me.

I’m gaining more awareness.  I can feel my eyes and the muscles around them move more distinctly.  When I was drawing a circle, I noticed that small space out.  I know that when I move my fingers towards my face, my eyes are supposed to go inward, and I’m more conscious of what that feels like:  a small pull of eye muscles, a bringing together.

My OT and I are trying to approach these exercises in an integrative way in order to incorporate more of my senses. This hopefully will also allow for my vestibular system to catch up, since sometimes I react with delayed dizziness after an exercise and I have to wait for it to subside.

As we approach the vision therapy exercises, we’re incorporating exercises that may help me with integrating reflexes. In short, reflexes are  muscular and physiological responses to stimulation.  Infant reflexes are supposed to be integrated in the early months of life, and if not, they can potentially cause problems in development.  I didn’t integrate at least one, which could be a huge contributing factor to my sensory issues. The main one I’ve retained is called the Moro reflex, the infantile startle reflex.  This reflex didn’t evolve when I was little, so I startle more easily than the average adult.  At its extreme, I will jump back and put my hands up by my chest, as if to protect myself. A range of noises, interruptions, or situations can activate it. I startle on a regular basis – at least once, if not several times a day.  I’m learning to recognize more of how it feels when my body tenses and braces itself for an impact or effect that rarely comes, the quick intake of breath, my heart beating faster in anticipation.  I’m also learning how to settle myself afterwards:  take a deep breath, make physical adjustments as needed, have compassion and acknowledge what happened, and pause before deciding what I need to do next.

I breathe a sigh of relief when my OT tells me that I’m doing well on an exercise.  Effort and repetition does equal improvement, but it doesn’t necessarily mean I move smoothly and easily through each exercise.  My eyes and my brain are literally accustomed to seeing and approaching things a certain way.  I’m used to compensating and making constant adjustments; these exercises take more conscious control and focus.  I do stumble and struggle at times. Sometimes I have to repeat an exercise for multiple weeks.

Side effects:   At first, the muscles around my eyes were sore, but now they’re feeling better.  I’ve been tiring more easily.  My short term memory recall was a bit wonky for the first few weeks.  It reminded me a bit of doing a language immersion:  When I was in Costa Rica learning Spanish, there was a point where it was challenging for my brain to reach for words in any language, as though I was caught between English and Spanish in a near blank.  Recently, I would sometimes reach for a word or try to recall if I’ve done something, and struggled with remembering.  This is like a new language to me, a new way of seeing and thinking.

On Thursday, when I was struggling with coordinating the stick/staff to successfully hit the hanging ball so that it went in half circles, I told my OT that I felt like I was eight years old. It was a little like being in P.E. and my limbs weren’t doing what they were supposed to.  With demonstration, experimentation, and effort, I got it.  However, it still reminded me that activities related to coordination haven’t always come naturally to me.

Perfectionism doesn’t really have a place here; acceptance certainly does.  I hold onto patience.  I learn, and keep the hope that vision therapy help me in the long run.

There are many other things I want to do, and this is taking up a lot of energy.  As I’ve begun this process, working on my art and jewelry has been pushed somewhat to the side.  I’m working on wedding planning in small bursts.  It sometimes takes me awhile to respond to e-mails.  I feel more overwhelmed and tired at times, and that makes it challenging to consistently keep up with everything.  I just had the thought:  I could put up an auto-response that says, “Brain rewiring in progress.  I’ll get back to you soon.”

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I’m fascinated at this vision therapy. I am glad you seem to be getting a lot out of doing it. Its so interesting to read about it. I love your autoresponse message too lol. XX

    Reply

  2. […] I’ve been doing exercises on primitive (or neonatal) reflexes. I mentioned them briefly here. I was addressing the Moro, or startle reflex, and now I’m doing exercises related to the […]

    Reply

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