Last Saturday we had our first vision therapy appointment. (Have I mentioned how thankful I am that the office is a 10 minute bus ride from our house, and that they have therapy appointment on Saturdays?!) We met with an OT who had reviewed our file thoroughly. She showed me the exercises we’d be doing at home and explained the purpose of each. Then she introduced me to the vision therapy software we would be using, showed me how to set it up and had my daughter play a few games. Finally, she sent us home with a prescription of 20-25 minute of vision therapy a day.
On Sunday we attempted our first in-home vision therapy. It consists of three exercises: “eye push-ups,” “flip reading,” and two 3-D games on the computer (called “Base In” and “Base Out”).
Eye push-ups require me to hold a tongue compressor with a sticker at the top in front of my daughter and slowly move it toward her. She tells me when she starts to see double and then I pull it back until she tells me that she can once again focus on the image. Then I hold it there for five seconds while she works to maintain the single image. To make this more fun we use a sound effects app on my phone so she can alert me with laser guns and animals sounds.
Flip reading is just ten minutes of reading, except that my daughter has to hold a stick with four lenses up to her eyes and flip the set of lenses she looks through with each page. The best part about this exercise is that she’s getting A TON of reading practice and she doesn’t seem to mind it that much.
The 3-D exercises are on the computer (which is now equipped with some pricey software) and require those old school blue and red 3-D glasses. Both the “Base In” and “Base Out” games require her to hit a target on the screen, which gets harder to see as she hits it faster and with greater accuracy. If she starts missing the target, it becomes easier again. “Base In” requires her eyes to converge to see the target and “Base Out” requires them to diverge to see the target.
Each exercise is challenging in its own way. At the end of the 25 minutes she is exhausted. We’ve been doing vision therapy diligently every day for a week now but I haven’t noticed any improvements. Her “Base In” and “Base Out” scores have remained steady (or actually gotten worse) and I swear she’s seeing double more quickly (or farther away) than she was before. The eye push-ups make me feel the most defeated; the goal is for her to see double about an inch from her face and right now it’s happening at about 18-20 inches.
I know it’s only been a week and I didn’t expect to see improvements so soon, but every day we work together I’m reminded of how far we have to go. It’s not like it’s easy to get a Kindergartener to spend 25 precious minutes at home at the end of the day doing something she hates; even with the full on bribery of $1 every time she does vision therapy and $2 every time she does it with a good attitude, she still loathes it. I’m also struggling to find a way to keep my 2-year-old engaged for such a long time (he loves watching Daniel Tiger but he still needs check-ins frequently), and still get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour while fitting this 25 block into our evening (it was recommended that we not wait until before bedtime because that is when she is most tired and her eyes are most fatigued). Oh, and some days, when she hasn’t finished her two pages at after care, we still have to fit in homework.
So that is vision therapy. It’s hard. It sucks. It feels like these 12 weeks will never be over. But we’re lucky that this week was a short one at school and two of the weeks will be over Christmas break; it’s so much easier to have a positive vision therapy experience when school isn’t killing a huge portion of the day.
And of course there is the cost. I think that $3K I wanted to use to pay my school loans off will be used exclusively to cover these 12 weeks of appointments. The initial consult and the first therapy appointment (where we paid for software) together cost $800, and each additional therapy appointment is $180 so yeah, there goes my $3K. But at least I have it, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. Mostly I’m just so relieved that we caught this early and are helping our daughter; I would hate for her to have negative associations with school and reading because of something that could be remedied.