Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vision therapy - week 7

This week at vision therapy, I tried to see the 3D vectogram again, but still nothing popped out. C'mon brain!

I am doing quite well with the red/green playing cards, though. I used to only be able to see two at a time, and it involved lots of tapping and banging and finger pointing to make them both "turn on":

But now I am able to lay this many cards down and make them all visible, with no more tapping:

Hurray! That's basically, like, an infinity number of cards.

(For a humorous post by another strabismic on tapping and pointing to get things to "turn on", please read Magic Wand Finger)

Also this week, I continued mirror overlap with a new and improved wall maze:

It's made out of crepe paper streamers, the kind you use for birthday parties. It works pretty well: it costs about a dollar for a giant roll, it's easy to make straight lines, and it's easy to put on the wall. Just use some tape, which also happens to be available in the birthday aisle.

There was one unforeseen problem, though. Because of it's porous nature, crepe paper seems to expand in humidity. It grows and gets longer! I noticed it getting a little droopy after I would do "steamy" things, like boil pasta or take a shower, but it would return to it's original shape after the air dried out. Recently, though, it reached it's maximum silliness when I had the flu. I ran the shower on hot with the door open to get some moist air into the apartment and into my lungs, and look what happened:

It's trying to escape the wall!

I also started a new exercise involving polarized glasses. They pretty much look like sunglasses. I don't really want to get into how polarized light works, but the glasses work in a similar way to red/green glasses. Instead of letting in red light into one eye and green light into the other eye, polarized glasses let in "uppy-downy" light into one eye and "side-to-side-y" light into the other eye.

The exercise is this: wear the polarized glasses and look in the mirror. If the guy in the mirror is wearing transparent sunglasses, congratulations, you are using both eyes. If, however, the guy in the mirror is wearing sunglasses with one transparent lens and one black opaque lens, I'm sorry but you are suppressing.

When you successfully do this exercise, it's pretty weird because you are looking into your own eyes. Eye contact like that is something that has been previously off limits to me as a strabismic. I even started imagining making my significant other wear polarized glasses (if I had one) and saying something like, "Honey, can you put these glasses on? I want to see what it's like to look into both of your eyes."

Finally, I also continued trying to see a steady X with the Brock string. It's getting easier!

Friday, January 14, 2011

A free anti-suppression solitaire computer program

In 'Vision therapy - week 2' I talked about using anti-suppression playing cards as part of my vision therapy. Remember these?

Well, I really like these cards. They let me play fun games while I'm doing my vision therapy, and I feel like they have helped me a lot. And a while ago I started wondering, why isn't there a version of this for the computer?

So I started looking for a solitaire program that would let me edit the card faces. I found one, put on my red/green glasses, played around with the colors, and voila! Here is the finished product:

The program is called Solkan Solitaire. Here's some reasons why I chose this program:

-it's free
-it has nearly 200 games
-you can change the background of the playing space
-you can change the size of the cards
-it was easy and fast to edit the card faces
-so far it seems to work on Windows XP and Windows 7

It does have a few cons though:

-it didn't work on my friend's Windows 7 64 bit system (it works fine on my Windows 7 laptop, though)
-the background of the card faces has to be the same for all cards. Thus, I can't have some suits have red backgrounds and other suits have white backgrounds, like the original cards. So, I chose a black background for the card faces.
-it can be hard to decide which of the 200 games to play, and some of the games are quite difficult
-I don't know if it works for Mac

All in all, though, I think it's great.

If you would like to download it, you have two options:

Option 1: This is a folder that contains the program and the edited card faces. All you have to do is unzip the folder, put the folder wherever you like on your computer, and click on solkan.exe to play it. Click here to download Option 1

Option 2: This is the installation .exe file and a folder of edited card face files. The .exe file will install the solitaire program on your system and create start menu shortcuts and the like. You will then need to open the folder that I included called "dck files", and copy those .dck files into the folder where Solkan Solitaire installed on your system. You will be overwriting the default card faces with the new ones that I made. Click here to download Option 2

Option 1 is the easiest, but in case it doesn't work, try Option 2.

(Sorry for the ads and pop-ups on the download website. It's the price you pay for free file hosting...)

After you open the program, I recommend changing the background to something non distracting. I chose gray. If you want to change the background to a solid color, go to options --> background --> then hit the "color..." button.

And remember, you need red/green glasses to use this program. If you don't have any, pester your vision therapist until they give you some. Red/green glasses are a basic human right!

I hope you enjoy playing this, and keep working hard to break that suppression.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Strabismus and "The Office"

The Office is one of my favorite television shows. It just never fails to make me laugh. One weird thing I've noticed about it, though, is that FOUR of the characters look like exotropes to me. How can four people on one show be strabismic? And why can't I find anything on google about any of these actors having strabismus? Maybe I'm just crazy and have lazy eye on the brain... Take a look for yourself and tell me what you think.

First up, Michael Scott, manager of Dunder Mifflin, played by Steve Carell:

Look at that eye!

Next up, Ryan Howard, played by B.J. Novak:

One eye on, one eye taking a break...

Next up, Kevin Malone, played by Brian Baumgartner:

Do you see it???

And finally, Stanley Hudson, played by Leslie David Baker:

So, am I crazy or not?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vision therapy - week 6

Not too many exciting things to write about this week. Just lots of practicing keeping both eyes on and pointed at the same thing.

We continued to do mirror overlap. Previously I had only been putting the mirror over my left eye, because that was the easiest way for me to fuse. For this session, we starting covering my right eye with the mirror. Then we started using smaller mirrors to fuse with. Like usual, we start out with something I can do (or almost do), and then make it more difficult and complicated over a few weeks.

We also came back to the Brock string, to practice seeing the X again. I'm getting better!

We worked on tracking while fusing, too. I have gotten pretty good at seeing the red/green playing cards all at once, so now I'm trying to do it while moving my eyes.

Finally, we played around with vectograms, which are polarized black and white images that appear 3D with polarized glasses. They are nice because you can project them really big on the wall with an overhead projector. I had played around with vectograms in the beginning of my vision therapy without much success. This time, I didn't see in 3D either, but I got the strangest sensation in my eyes when I looked at the vectogram. It felt like my eyes were... I don't know, bugging out of my head. Not in a bad way, though, but in a new and exciting fun way. I had never felt anything like that before, so I was quite happy. It felt like something was stirring inside of my visual system. Hurray for progress!

Friday, January 7, 2011

A house with two windows

Imagine that you lived in a house with two windows. If you wanted to see the outside world, what would you do? You would approach one of the windows, and look out through it.

You could choose to look out of the right window or the left window, but never both at the same time. How would it be possible to look out of two windows at the same time, anyway? Magic? Astral projection? Cutting yourself down the middle? It's impossible!

That's what having strabismus is like. Living in a house with two windows, and only being able to look through one window at a time. Luckily, I'm finding out that it is indeed possible to look through two windows. Magic can happen!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Vision therapy - week 5

This week, we started something called "mirror overlap." This simple activity involves holding a mirror over one eye, and fusing the images from both eyes together into one image.

At first, I thought this sounded like a boring activity. Where's the fancy equipment? Where are the red/green glasses? I have mirrors at home. Mirrors are lame.

But then I tried it, and wow, it's pretty cool! It provides you with immediate feedback in regard to fusion. If you are fusing, you know it for sure. And somehow the mirror seems to activate the fusion-y part of my brain. So yeah, mirrors are not lame, and this is one of my favorite activities.

Here's how the exercise works:

The illustration on the left is method given in the OEP instruction sheet for mirror overlap. Place an object to your side. Angle a mirror 45 degrees over your eye, so that the object appears in the mirror. Stare straight ahead. Do something magical with your brain, fuse the images, and make the object appear as if it is located on the wall in front of you. Move the mirror around to make the object move around on the wall in front of you.

The illustration on the right is the way that my vision therapist taught me, and the method which I prefer. Place the object in front of you. Put the mirror over one eye. Move the mirror around and make the object travel around the room.

When I got home, I got the idea, "What if I could make the object move through a maze on the wall?" Then it would be a fun game and give my brain a task to accomplish. I feel like tasks give the brain an incentive to rewire itself. I'm an ESL teacher, and in my field, tasked based learning is generally preferred over learning language structures in isolation. Hopefully my eyes/brain work the same way!

So I went out and bought some red paper plates from the dollar store, cut them up, and made a maze on my wall.

I also made some circular targets for me to practice fusing with. These are good for when there isn't room to make a giant maze. Just try to get the object you are looking at to appear inside of the circle.

'Why paper plates?' you might be asking yourself. And, really, I don't have a good answer for you. I just wanted something bright red, which feels like a hard color to suppress or ignore. I don't know about you, but when my brain sees something red, it says, "Hey, that's important, I better pay attention to that, it could be blood."

I just got an even better idea for making wall mazes, though: Red party streamers. You know, the crepe paper kind... More later...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Vision therapy - week 4

This week, my vision therapist and I worked on my alignment / central suppression issues. I am turning both of my eyes on, but I'm not fusing the images together in the right way. I'm overconverging or doing something weird, apparently. Here are some examples:

These triangles are meant to be viewed with red/green glasses. Using both eyes, you would see the image on the right:

However, I was seeing it in my own special way, like this:

I was overconverging, probably so that I could push the R and the L out of my central suppression zone. Or maybe I just really like converging. (I do!)

Another example would be this chart with green and orange shapes on it (this isn't the real chart, though)

When viewed with red/green glasses, it should look basically the same, just darker. When I looked at it, things weren't aligning right:

So my homework for the week was to keep looking at the triangles and the shapes chart and trying to see things in the correct alignment. Tapping on them and putting my hands all over them helped a lot. I would also talk to my brain a lot and say, "See, brain! They are in a line. Don't you get it?"

Another activity that I did for homework was to draw two columns of circles on a white board (left) and converge my eyes until the circles lined up in a straight line (right).

Anyway, that's all!

Dracula had strabismus

I was going through some old photos today, and I found these pictures of me as a child. It's Halloween and I'm dressed up as a vampire. I'm trying to look scary, but that wandering eye makes everything seem a little less serious. It sure made me laugh!