My father married again after my mother’s death. He married a wonderful lady, JoAnn. Her own struggles with vision loss helped me realize the importance of completing vision therapy. I hope her story helps others avoid vision loss and reach out for help. The cost of avoiding vision therapy is much higher than the financial cost of the therapy itself.
When you lose your independence and the ability to easily read, there is an emotional cost. You feel isolated because you are unable to drive yourself to a friend’s house, an event, or work. I myself have traveled this journey through varying degrees of intensity throughout my life.
JoAnn’s story greatly encouraged me to seek answers when my own vision started to blur while reading despite wearing new glasses.
A Difficult Conversation
One day, I asked JoAnn a question not asked by any of her eye doctors. “While growing up, did your vision blur and sometimes appear to double?” With a shocked look on her face, she replied, “All the time!” When she became a young adult, she tried different pairs of eyeglasses. Yes, the images were more crisp and visible. But after a few months, her eyeglasses failed to keep her vision clear. In fact, her eyeglasses almost seemed to accentuate her blurry vision. She gave up and stopped wearing them.
We discussed the benefits of vision therapy. With help from an optometrist specializing in vision therapy, she could teach her eyes to work together. However, she thought she was too old. Oh, how I wish I could have persuaded her to try vision therapy. There is a national search engine to find a provider near your home.
Today, we know that all ages benefit from an individualized eye exercise program called vision therapy. Researchers found that vision therapy is effective for adults who are motivated to complete the hard work required to strengthen eye muscles.
Later in life, JoAnn’s eye doctors told her that she wore out her eye muscles. What did they really mean?
Glasses Failed to Keep Vision Clear & Single
Because I believed that untreated visual processing difficulties overwork eye muscles, I researched the issue. Yes, you can harm your eyes by failing to wear glasses. Visual processing difficulties demand more work from your eye muscles. According to John Staughton, author of Science ABC,
I helped JoAnn understand that her eye muscles worked so hard to keep her vision clear and single that they simply wore out. We use our eyes every moment we are awake. When the brain needs vision therapy to teach the eyes to work together, glasses only help for a short period of time. Sadly, I was unable to convince her to try vision therapy.
Vision Therapy Is Effective At Any Age
Have you ever thought about the need to retrain the brain’s use of working with both eyes? You may need prism eyeglasses, patching, and/or eye surgery. However, all of these interventions fail to teach both eyes to move and work together. Prism eyeglasses are very therapeutic because the eye-brain visual pathways receive stimulation. Thus, they provide a window of opportunity to help you respond to vision therapy.
In fact, researchers found that Binocular Vision Therapy is the most effective treatment for a weak, lazy eye. Since JoAnn’s difficulties were lifelong, she most likely had an undiagnosed weak eye. Oh, binocular means both eyes.
Now I understood why so many of my new clients, prior to working with me, stopped wearing their new glasses after just a few months. The glasses failed to help because their brain needed retraining in order for the glasses to be beneficial! None of my clients even knew vision therapy existed nor that their eyes failed to work together. Just like JoAnn, they assumed blurry vision was normal and untreatable.
My Story: Visual Processing Difficulties and Dyslexia
In second grade, I remember dreading copy work from the board. I struggled to read, spell, and write. In sixth grade, the Lion’s Club provided vision screening at my school. I failed the test. A vision exam by the optometrist found astigmatism, an irregular curvature in my eye. Now, my father understood why even during my preschool years I tilted my head. Because my astigmatism went undiagnosed for far too long, there was much more affecting my vision than just astigmatism. But first, I need to share how an undiagnosed astigmatism affected my vision.
Around age eight, I could suddenly read. The reason is surprising. By age eight the brain more permanently suppresses visual neural pathways in one or both eyes to get rid of blurry and double vision. The brain is unable to use double information. My exam at age 48 found visual suppression in both eyes.
At that same exam at age 48, I learned that my eyes failed to work together because of a condition called Amblyopia. One of my eyes floated up when I tried to focus on a target like a word or a person talking. Thus, I tilted my head to keep my vision clear.
There are numerous reasons people develop amblyopia. According to the National Institute of Health,
Memories of Visual Processing Difficulties
After my diagnosis, memories flooded my thoughts. Now, I understood why I was unable to easily copy from the board. I had to wait for my eyes to focus allowing me to clearly see. Then, I waited again for my vision to clear when I looked back at my paper. By the time my eyes clearly saw the paper close-up, I often forgot what I had just read far away. Uggg! Those memories of frustration and confusion left me feeling thankful for the help I found as an adult.
While having my picture taken for my driver’s license, I remember almost falling! The lady would not take my picture until I held my head upright. I felt so embarrassed by my inability to know if my head was upright.
The neurorehabilitation optometrist explained that tilting my head put my eyes in alignment, thus keeping my vision clear. Holding my head upright caused blurry vision making me lose my depth perception, which made me lose my balance.
No wonder my father was always telling me to straighten up my head whenever he wanted to take my picture. He would physically correct the posture of my head. I closed my eyes and waited for him to say, Cheese! Then, I opened my eyes just in time for the picture. I am laughing as I write this because my head is tilted in almost all my pictures.
Admitting the Need for Vision Therapy
Unfortunately, without vision therapy, blurry vision returns in the mid-forties. That is exactly what happened to me at age 46. I was in a very demanding master’s program that required endless hours of reading and writing.
During my second year of my master’s program, I began to experience blurry vision that persisted after just ten minutes of reading. Unlike my senior year of high school, a new prescription for my glasses failed to help.
Surprisingly, I discovered that copying anything from the board was still very difficult. I felt like I was back in grade school. Thank goodness I could print my teacher’s PowerPoints! By making notes on the printout during lectures, I did not have to look back and forth from the board to my paper to follow along.
Seeking Vision Therapy with Syntonic Therapy
Remembering JoAnn’s story of vision loss, I became very motivated to seek help. I knew that I needed the help of a developmental or neurorehabilitation optometrist who provided Syntonic Therapy with vision therapy. Different colors are used during Syntonic therapy to push stimulation from the eye to the brain resulting in the lifting of visual suppression.
Syntonic therapy strengthens visual neural pathways as vision therapy teaches the brain to fully use both eyes. I think of syntonic therapy as bathing your face in warm sunlight relaxing eye muscles and turning the brain on. Syntonic therapy helped me benefit more strongly from vision therapy.
A Clue You May Need Vision Therapy
Have you ever had your vision blur after spending too much time reading?
Before vision therapy, my eyes often felt tired and dry whenever I read. While reading, print became blurry and unclear. At that point, remembering what I read became impossible.
The neuro-rehabilitation optometrist taught me that people blink less often when compared to those without visual processing difficulties. This helps their vision stay single and clear. Also, their eye muscles must work harder than normal to keep their vision clear and single. Thus, my vision blurred because my tired eye muscles were unable to keep up the hard work.
Do you find yourself bumping into stationary objects like tables, counters, or door frames?
If you lack three-dimensional vision and instinctive depth perception, then you may have a more severe form of amblyopia. Past or ongoing eye health issues also affect stability in your depth perception near or far.
When you lack fixed depth perception, letters can float off a page and stationary objects like a tree or the ground can appear to move.
Avoid the Physical & Emotional Cost of Vision Loss
My neuro-rehabilitation optometrist confirmed that untreated visual processing deficits are associated with an increased risk for early vision loss. The cost of losing my vision, emotionally and financially, was much higher than the financial cost of vision therapy. I know, because unexpected vision loss changed my life. You can read about my journey with vision loss by clicking the button below.
Losing the ability to drive took away my independence and ability to work. The isolation was horrible. During one part of my vision loss journey, I even had to wait for my husband to come home from work to go for a walk. And, just a few minutes of reading gave me a headache. Losing income is more expensive than vision therapy.
To this day I am still astonished by the physical fatigue that I felt to my core caused by my out-of-sync visual processing difficulties. Chronic physical fatigue compounded my vision loss making it more difficult for me to take action, stay positive.
Visual processing difficulties made it impossible for me to look at others during conversation. This left me feeling embarrassed as I missed non-verbal communication.
What could I do? I chose to keep moving, creating, and meeting the needs of others. I could listen and cook. If I needed to type on my computer, I simply closed my eyes and relied on my muscle memory. In fact, it was during this time that I began this blog with the help of my daughter. My experience gave me a new perspective when we redesigned my website that year as well.
Thankfully, vision therapy with syntonic therapy strengthened and relaxed my eye muscles.
During my visual processing exam after my eye bleed, the neurorehabilitation optometrist shared his surprise that both eyes were working together for very brief moments of time. He attributed this to the completion of vision therapy just two years prior to my eye bleed. Once your brain learns a skill, it is not lost.
Despite permanent damage in a part of one eye, vision therapy helped me once again. I regained my fixed depth perception. After just two months of vision therapy, my balance improved allowing me to walk with more confidence. No longer did I feel nauseous while moving. I could finally look out the car window without feeling anxious. My eyes kept up with my movements. Slowly, driving became possible once again.
The cost of vision therapy depends on what is found during your developmental visual processing exam. Unfortunately, vision therapy is rarely covered by insurance. However, there are grants to help parents with the cost of therapies not covered by insurance. I paid about $3,000 dollars for my vision therapy. Most optometry practices offer payment plans.
Postural Restoration Physical Therapy
Equally important, postural restoration physical therapy corrected my body posture by retraining my brain. I relearned to stand with equal weight on both feet. During my vision loss, my body physically adapted by shifting all my weight to my right leg. This helped me see more of what was on the right side of my body. It took a year before my neck stopped hurting. I now hold my head and body more upright than even before my eye bleed.
Despite vision therapy, syntonic therapy, and mindfully working on my posture, the physical pain in my neck and head kept me looking for relief. I still needed help from one more specialist.
Cranial SOTO Chiropractor
After my eye injury due to an eye bleed, my vision failed to stabilize. A white cloud kept moving back and forth across my vision field. Two retina specialists were a bit puzzled. I feel very blessed that a miracle restored stability in my vision. Our bodies are so interconnected and amazing. Healing is possible!
How Do I Know If I Need Vision Therapy?
If any of the stories I shared remind you of yourself, I encourage you to complete a Moore Auditory-Visual Questionnaire (MAvQ). The MAvQ is designed to identify specific behaviors and their frequency as it relates to visual and auditory processing difficulties.
However, it does not stop there. After you complete the questionnaire, I work directly with you and your MAvQ Report to design your personalized Auditory-Visual Training Protocols. The Auditory-Visual Training Protocols connect you to the right professionals to receive intervention in the optimal order to minimize regression.
If my journey has taught me anything, it is that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution. That is why I work one on one with every client to meet their specific needs.