Thank you to COVD for writing this piece. COVD Link:
Difficulties while reading, working, and learning to play the cello caused this adult patient to seek a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist found with COVD’s Locate a Doctor tool. He was prescribed glasses with prisms and a course of vision therapy. Follow his journey below as he retrains his brain and eyes to work together.
I can’t believe it, I’m finally a vision therapy graduate! After 26 weeks, I have improved my visual skills enough to pass my optometrist’s evaluation and venture forth into the real world. I’ll still be practicing at home–my skills aren’t 100% yet–but at this point I’m just working to polish up and perfect. In 2 months I’m coming back to be re-checked and hope my work at home will get me in top condition as a proud user of binocular vision! Here’s a look back at everywhere this journey took me.
In my first session of vision therapy, I was so impressed with the ways my optometrist and vision therapist were able to demonstrate my vision difficulties that I’d struggled to describe to others in the past. It was a big surprise that I had a hard time reading the letters on a chart without moving my head or dividing the letters into sections and it made it really obvious that I had some work to do!
A few weeks in, we added an activity that made a lot of sense to me and caused immediate improvement in reading and eye fatigue for me. Working to keep my place and coordinate my hand to only my right eye was a big challenge, but I steadily progressed and could do it faster, with better accuracy, and with smaller and smaller text!
By the fourth week of VT, we were starting to work on moving my vision between focusing near and far. Before we started, I thought I was already a master at this but boy was I wrong! I steadily improved and became able to do this while keeping my place, too.
This week was when I realized I was jumping all over the place while reading before, and that I had gained the ability to read one word at a time! Going in a straight line and from start to finish obviously meant I no longer needed to re-read things because I was getting them the first time. I still can’t believe I never noticed how chaotically my eyes moved while reading.
Ten weeks in was my first check-incomprehensive exam. I already knew my right eye was no longer turning off from time to time, so I was sure the exam would show good results. So far, we had been working on my visual skills with the objective of treating convergence insufficiency (not bringing my eyes close enough together). But this check-in showed that I actually have convergence excess, meaning that my eyes come together too much, but their exhaustion from doing that had worn them out so much that it just LOOKED like insufficiency. So we switched gears and started working on getting my vision to relax!
A Brock string is a common vision therapy tool that looks simple but does a lot. I learned to use it to practice moving my focus near and far and to keep close watch that my right eye wasn’t turning off while I was doing it.
We continued to work both my eyes together with vectograms, which also let me know when one eye wasn’t pulling its weight. These were a little harder, since I had to adjust my focus while looking at something that logically stayed in the same place. I steadily learned to let my eyes do the work and see the images in three dimensions.
This session represented really getting unstuck from several weeks of trying to figure out
how to just relax. That paper star stuck to the window had left me staring blankly, waiting for my eyes to sort themselves out, for many a practice session and I’d started to feel like it would never come together. But then a bus drove past behind it and grabbed my visual attention and suddenly I had the feel of it and was moving onward!
Twenty weeks in, we had really gotten focused in on trying to get my eyes to diverge. After so many years, it was a really hard habit to break to always cross my eyes harder when trying to see something more clearly, but it was obvious how much improvement my vision had made so far. Reading was finally fun again and my visual fatigue was greatly reduced. We kept working on the diversion and trying to get me to see in three dimensions in daily life, not just when I was doing vision therapy activities.
Something truly amazing happened this week–I saw in 3D out in the wild, literally, on my daily walk through the woods. I can’t remember ever seeing like that before and I didn’t even know what I was seeing at first. It was a lot to take in, but in a good way!
Another breakthrough happened here that really started to show me that I was coming steadily toward the close of my therapy journey. I’d been frustrated with getting stuck on some divergence activities on the 3D TV and my vision therapist thought I might be thinking too hard about it (a very good thought, since that’s usually my problem with life in general). She had me try a similar activity, but this time with a random-dot image instead of numbers, and it immediately clicked! I could see the square because I was no longer looking for a pattern, and just letting my eyes SEE!
My last week with a vision therapy session brought me the pleasant surprise of one last big improvement. Again, on my daily trek through the woods, I found I was able to use binoculars correctly for the first time. Years of seeing a weird, blacked-out, wobbly image was over and I could look through both sides, with both eyes, and see birds clearly. It was a dream come true that I didn’t even know was possible. I had started vision therapy hoping for more-enjoyable reading and working, but had never expected binoculars to make sense!
After months of hard work and practice, I was so proud to once again be in the optometrist’s chair and showing off my new skills in her final check of my progress. Evaluations that I couldn’t begin to pass a few months ago were now a piece of cake for me. There are still a few things I can’t see, like subtle differences in depth, but I’m confident that I’ll just keep getting better as I practice on my own for the next few months. Having completed this course of vision therapy as an adult, I’m amazed at how changeable my vision really was, even when other eye doctors had told me it was as good as it was going to get, or that I could read the letters on the chart, so my vision was fine. It might have been fine before, but now my vision is GREAT! I’m so grateful to the whole team at the vision therapy office and especially my vision therapist, whose kind and compassionate ability to bring out the best in me always was the high point of my week.
Thank you to all of you as well, for following my journey and watching my frustrations, improvements, and breakthroughs unfold. It has been so exciting to see such change happen to my sense of sight when I had been told it wasn’t necessary or possible in the past. I can tell you it was absolutely both of those things: necessary, because I was previously unable to meet the demands of work and still have stamina for leisure; possible, because I’m living proof that vision therapy works!
If you think you might have something “weird” going on with your vision, no matter your age, see a member of COVD to find out if you can benefit from vision therapy, too. All it might take is some techniques and some practice, and what do you have to lose? Start seeing without suffering, and experience real three-dimensional vision… you don’t know what you’re missing!