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Virtual reality takes Vision Therapy into the future

Vivid Vision virtual reality for vision therapyHighline Center for Vision Performance is proud to now include Vivid Vision, a virtual reality (VR) based therapy, to our digital toolbox. We are currently one of only five vision clinics in the state of Colorado to offer this new technology to our vision therapy patients. Not only is this new tool fun, it’s yielding faster results in many patients.

What is virtual reality?

Virtual reality is a system connecting computers, trackers, and goggles together to create an immersive visual (and sometimes auditory) experience. Small screens are positioned in front of each eye that project images that make it seem like you are moving through a different reality – one in which you can interact. Users hold controllers that allow them to steer through virtual environments and affect specific elements programmed for interaction. You can play games, visit far away places, and learn new skills.

Because binocular vision problems almost always include a reduced or inability to see in 3-D, VR and vision therapy are a perfect match to enhance visual skills.

Vivid Vision changes the game

VR carnival game squirt gun for vision therapyVivid Vision is a new software that utilizes VR technology to create customized vision therapy exercises for children and adults with binocular vision problems. Vivid Vision helps train the eyes, brain, and body to all work together. The screens within the goggles project separate images to each eye that the brain fuses into a single image, just like in the real world. That is what provides a sense of depth and motion.

In particular, Vivid Vision supports other vision therapy approaches to treat:

Why is virtual reality important for Vision Therapy?

Pepper Picker VR game for vision therapyVivid Vision is precise and allows our vision therapists to adjust the images projected to each eye independently in order to train specific visual skills. The images can be controlled in terms of brightness and clarity according to specific needs.

Take the Pepper Picker game, for example. When the VR goggles are on, patients see the hand-held controllers as a pair of hands they can move. Pulling the trigger on the controller allows the user to grab items they see in the VR environment. Once in the game, users are standing between several tall plants with big leaves and in front of them is a list of vegetables that they must find by searching through the leaves. The goal is to find the specific vegetables on the list in order and in proper quantities.

Sounds easy, right? Here’s where the game gets high-tech: one eye is being shown the vegetables and the other eye sees only the hands. This forces the eyes to work together to see the whole picture and pick the veggies. Therapists can make small adjustments to various details of the scene in order to challenge each patient uniquely.

Bubbles VR game for vision therapyOther exercises challenge depth perception. The Bubbles game challenges users to pop bubbles that appear in front of them by reaching out to touch them with an index finger. The goal is to pop the bubble that is closest to you first. As the game progresses, therapists will gradually move the bubbles closer and closer together so the eyes and brain learn to recognize smaller and smaller deviations in visual depth.

Another game challenges depth perception at distance by asking users to use a squirt gun to hit various carnival targets. The rules require the player to hit targets closest first. As with every exercise, therapists can change details on-the-fly to keep them challenging and advance visual skills development.

Vivid Vision at home

Another exciting opportunity Vivid Vision allows is for *home vision therapy. Most vision therapy appointments take place in our office with a patient working one-on-one with their vision therapist. However, sometimes it is necessary for a vision therapy session to happen remotely and Vivid Vision is a natural fit for distance sessions.

*Highline Center for Vision performance recommends only using the Vivid Vision software under the guidance of a certified vision therapist. Vivid Vision is only one component to our robust vision therapy program that is customized for every patient.

Education is an investment: Is your student ready?

College Student TestingCollege demands are high and failure is expensive

  • One in every four students will drop out of college before completing their second year.
  • Those who participate in student loan programs must repay loans in full regardless of whether or not they complete college.
  • Students who fail out of college or their vocational technical studies face a future with fewer choices and career opportunities.

The change in scholastic demands from high school to college is a dramatic one. Your student may have earned great grades in high school with only moderate effort. In college or tech school, he/she will need to plan on greater amounts of reading and spending longer hours studying than ever before.

Many students have mild visual performance problems that cause them significant effort meeting this increased demand. It can make the student appear to be academically underprepared when in reality it is a physical problem causing the difficulty.

College level reading demands are exponentially greater than the demands in high school.

College girl reading homework efficientlyNote that not one of the visual problems listed below as a factor in slow reading is blurry vision!

  1. Word-by-word reading - not seeing groups of words together.
  2. Poor eye movement control - inaccuracy in tracking across a page, losing place, etc.
  3. Repetition - unnecessary or unconscious re-reading of material.
  4. Comprehension or test anxiety - causing a student to intentionally read more slowly.
  5. Slow reading habits - in which a student can’t read faster because they always read slowly.
  6. Poor determination of what is important and what is not.
  7. Excessive memorization rather than remembering selectively.

Highline Center for Vision Performance Can Help!

Preparing for college by studying for and taking the four-hour college entrance examinations (ACT or SAT) is a visually demanding task. We can help your student be more successful in this endeavor and offer free Vision & Learning Screenings for college bound students.

Often, slow reading is related to performance based visual problems. These difficulties are not typically diagnosed in routine eye examinations where eye health problems and refractive errors (need for glasses) are checked. Note that not one of the things listed above as a factor in slow reading is blurry vision!


“I have been able to take tests faster and get better scores than I had before vision therapy. Before, I was reading at a first grade level with 60% comprehension, after VT I was reading at a college level with 80% comprehension. I trust that VT is one of the best things I have done because it moves me forward in school and gets me closer to my academic goals to go to college.”       — Jay, High School Sophomore


Save expense and heartache

Man graduating from collegeEven high achieving students can have visual skills deficiencies. These students have devoted extra time and effort on homework while in high school in order to succeed. Struggling students may be working even harder to maintain average grades however, college and vo-tech training will demand more work in less time. Our visual training programs can make learning more efficient and give more stamina to the task of learning to ensure academic success with less effort!

Highline Center for Vision Performance offers a complimentary performance based screening which includes a specific test for faulty eye movements.

When problems are discovered, we offer a customized training program that addresses specific visual skills deficiencies. We have time to make this happen before your student begins testing or heads off for college.

Call us now to schedule your complimentary Vision & Learning Screening: 303-325-2014

Amblyopia: Causes & Treatments

GirlCoveringEye

Amblyopia, often called “lazy eye,” is a treatable disorder of vision development that begins during infancy and early childhood. With amblyopia, an otherwise healthy eye is unable to achieve normal visual acuity (20/20) even with glasses or contact lenses. In addition to poor visual acuity, people with amblyopia are more likely to have difficulties with eye-hand coordination, clumsiness, reading, depth perception and understanding what is seen.

In most cases, only one eye is affected but it may occur in both eyes. According to the National Institute of Health, amblyopia is the most common cause of visual impairment among children in the United States and is estimated to affect 3.5% of the US Population, despite being preventable with early diagnosis.

Clues that your child may have amblyopia include crying or fussing when an eye is covered or if the child constantly turns their head to the right or left.

WHAT CAUSES AMBLYOPIA?

There are three types of amblyopia, based on the underlying cause:

  • Strabismic amblyopia: This is the most common cause of amblyopia. Strabismus is also known as an eye turn. To avoid double vision caused by poorly aligned eyes, the brain ignores the visual input from the misaligned eye and vision fails to develop properly. If you notice your baby or young child has crossed eyes or some other apparent eye misalignment, schedule a comprehensive eye exam immediately.
  • Refractive amblyopia: Amblyopia may be caused by unequal refractive errors in the two eyes, despite perfect eye alignment. For example, one eye may have a significant prescription while the other does not. The brain relies on the eye that has better vision and “tunes out” the blurred vision from the other eye. It can also occur in both eyes when they each have a high uncorrected prescription.
  • Deprivation amblyopia: This is caused by something that obstructs light from entering a baby’s eye, such as a congenital cataract or droopy eyelid (ptosis). Prompt treatment of the obstruction is necessary to allow normal visual development to occur.

AmblyopiaTextYoung children with amblyopia rarely have any symptoms. Comprehensive eye examinations are the best way to identify patients with amblyopia or those who are at risk for developing amblyopia. According to the American Optometric Association, children should have their first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months of age.

AMBLYOPIA TREATMENT

In some cases of refractive amblyopia, normal vision may be achieved simply by wearing prescribed glasses or contact lenses. Usually additional treatment is required to stimulate the brain to use the amblyopic eye and enable proper visual development.

Vision therapy is a structured program of activities prescribed to improve visual abilities and acuity. It trains the eyes and brain to work together more effectively and reinforces the connection to the amblyopic eye. During certain activities, the better seeing eye will need to be blurred in order to encourage the brain to pay more attention to the amblyopic eye. This may be done with special fogging patches.

The latest research demonstrates that binocular vision therapy is the most effective long-term solution for amblyopia. Full time patching is rarely the best option for treatment of mild to moderate amblyopia. If patching is indicated, most cases of amblyopia will show improvement with just 2 hours of fogged patching per day in combination with specific visually stimulating activities. For additional resources, please visit www.amblyopiaproject.com.

BoyPatch

CHILDREN WILL NOT “OUTGROW” AMBLYOPIA

Amblyopia will not go away if left untreated and can lead to permanent visual problems. An injury or disease in the better seeing eye in the future will leave the person depending on the poor vision in their amblyopic eye, so it is best to treat amblyopia as early as possible.

Modern amblyopia treatments may improve vision in older children and adults, but early detection and treatment is the best chance for normal visual development and optimal visual outcomes.

In addition, best corrected visual acuity of worse than 20/40 in the better eye may require a person to have a restricted driver’s license in Colorado. This could mean a number of restrictions, including no driving at night or during rush hour, no freeway driving, a restricted geographical area the person must stay within and requiring the addition of extra mirrors to the vehicle.

Protect your vision for life! Call Highline Vision Center to schedule a comprehensive eye exam today.

What is Vision Therapy

WhatIsVisionTherapy

Vision is much more than just seeing 20/20. If there is a vision disorder unrelated to clarity, it may make working, learning, sports and hobbies significantly more difficult. Struggling students and hardworking adults may fall behind if their visual demands are overwhelming.

Vision therapy is appropriate for treatment of tracking and reading fluency problems, poor focus and/ or attention, visual processing issues, convergence insufficiency, traumatic brain injury, strabismus, amblyopia, and many more vision conditions that can be present at any age.

Vision therapy is also very valuable training for enhancement of sports performance. A customized visual training program will improve visual abilities and train the eyes and brain to work together more effectively.

SYMPTOMS OF VISUAL SYSTEM STRESS

GirlDeniseThere are many signs of a visual system not working optimally. Inefficient visual skills or those that have not properly developed may result in:

  • Headaches: Pain or discomfort, often concentrated around the eyes or across the forehead, but also may occur in the back of the head.
  • Discomfort or fatigue: Tension, stress or weariness (especially concentrated around the eyes) after visually demanding work.
  • Double vision: Seeing two images when there should only be one.
  • Suppression: The brain will ignore or “turn off” the signal from one eye in order to avoid confusing information.
  • Poor coordination: Deficient eye-hand coordination often reveals itself through poor handwriting, general clumsiness, or poor sports performance.
  • Performance below expectations: In school, work, hobbies or sports.

VISUAL SKILLS

VisagraphGirlCleanBoardSkills we develop through vision therapy include:

  • Visual acuity: The ability of an eye to see clearly, both at distance and near. Vision is much more than being able to see 20/20.
  • Binocularity: The ability of both eyes to work seamlessly together and send identical visual information to the brain simultaneously.
  • Tracking: The ability to efficiently and accurately track along a line of print. This is a crucial skill for reading fluency.
  • Focus/near visual acuity: The ability to keep print clear for near work. This skill includes the ability to change focus between distance and near quickly, efficiently and without experiencing blur.
  • Attention: The ability to mentally maintain focus on a task with ease for an extended period of time.
  • Depth perception: 3D vision, or the ability to judge the distance between objects in three dimensional space.
  • Visual information processing: This includes a number of skills, all of which influence whether a person can make sense of what they’ve seen. Visual memory is one important example of these skills. It is essential for accurate spelling and remembering what one has read.
  • Visualization: Being able to create a mental image.

A few examples include forming a picture in your mind of what you are reading or imagining yourself performing well in an upcoming race. This skill is crucial for enjoyment of reading, efficient learning and sports performance.

CUSTOMIZED THERAPY

Our behavioral optometrists focus on each person as a whole and the various stressors that may affect their visual system. Through a structured program of vision therapy, we work with patients to develop the crucial visual skills necessary to reach academic, athletic and professional goals.

Vision therapy programs typically consist of 45 minutes of in-office therapy per week with assignment of additional home practice activities. Specific visual activities will be prescribed for the patient depending on the skills needing improvement. This allows for specialized care to meet each patient’s needs and constant modification to support achievement of desired goals.

If you have any questions regarding vision therapy, please feel free to reach out to us. We are dedicated to developing visual skills to allow everyone to reach their potential. Highline Center for Vision Performance stands ready to offer additional information and solutions.

Brain Injury: Vision & Rehabilitation

BrainInjury

Addressing damaged visual processing after an acquired brain injury can enhance your rehabilitation.

ABI AND HIDDEN VISUAL PROBLEMS

Vision is your body’s most important source of sensory information. If you’ve experienced a brain injury, the vital connection between your brain and your vision may be interrupted or damaged. While that alone would be cause for treatment, consider the fact that all of your other rehabilitation activities rely on accurate vision for success.

WHAT IS NEURO-OPTOMETRIC REHABILITATION?

Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation is based upon the core principle that vision, when functioning well enhances and stabilizes. When it is not, it interferes. After an injury, vision can be reintegrated and relearned leading to rehabilitation. Highline’s Optometrists and Vision Therapists have extensive experience treating the visual consequences of brain injury.

HIDDEN VISUAL PROBLEMS

An acquired brain Injury may disrupt eye teaming skills, tracking, and visual focus. Often, visual problems resulting from a brain injury are overlooked during initial treatment of the injury.

Symptoms indicating a vision problem are:

  • Intolerance of visually crowded spaces
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Reading difficulties: words appear to move
  • Reduced Comprehension
  • Attention or concentration difficulty
  • Memory difficulty
  • Double vision
  • Aching eyes / eye strain
  • Headaches with visual tasks
  • Loss of visual field
  • Navigation difficulty
  • Dizziness
  • Balance and coordination issues
  • Changes in posture

Think About It: Everything you do in rehabilitation after an acquired brain injury requires visual function. If your visual processing is damaged, your rehabilitation process can be more difficult because your brain is working with distorted information.

BrainInjuryRehabilitation1ROADBLOCK TO REHABILITATION

When visual problems go undetected and untreated after a brain injury, patients and their families often experience terrible frustration because other rehabilitation methods are proving less effective than hoped. If the visual system is inefficient, every task can seem difficult.

Visual skills affected by acquired brain injury include:

  • Tracking – the ability of the eyes to move smoothly across a printed page or while following a moving object
  • Fixation – the ability to maintain steady gaze on an object
  • Focus change – looking quickly far to near and back without blur
  • Depth perception – judging relative distances of objects
  • Peripheral vision – monitoring and interpreting what is happening in the surrounding field of vision
  • Binocularity – using both eyes together as a team
  • Maintaining attention – keeping focused on a particular activity while interference, such as noise, is present
  • Visualization – accurately picturing images in the “mind’s eye”
  • Near vision acuity – clearly seeing, inspecting, and identifying objects when viewed within arm’s length
  • Distance acuity – clearly seeing, inspecting, and identifying objects when viewed at a distance
  • Visual perception – understanding what is seen

WHAT IS ACQUIRED BRAIN INJURY?

Acquired brain injury is any insult to the brain. It can result from trauma, an illness, an operation, or a vascular accident. A brain injury may result in impairment of cognitive abilities, sensory processing and/or physical function. Types of acquired brain injury include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Open or closed head injury
  • Concussion
  • Whiplash
  • Stroke
  • Aneurysm
  • Brain tumor
  • Anoxia (lack of oxygen)
  • Chemical trauma (chemotherapy, radiation, alcohol or drug abuse)
  • Infection (encephalitis or meningitis)

OPTOMETRY AND REHABILITATION

Your rehabilitation process should include an evaluation of your visual system and treatment of any detected visual problems. Vision problems related to brain injuries can be radically reduced or successfully eliminated. This can help the rest of your rehabilitation go more smoothly to allow you to move forward with your life.

Behavioral optometrists and therapists specifically trained in rehabilitation can help you to improve the flow and processing of information between your eyes and your brain. Improvement is gained through therapy, lenses, prisms, and occlusion (patching or partial patching).


Call Highline Vision Center today to schedule your visual evaluation: 303-325-2014.

Twice Exceptional: Gifted & Talented Kids Who Struggle

GiftedAndTalented 0817v2

Children whose academic performance is significantly advanced compared to others their age are categorized as gifted. Yet, educators who work with children and teens identified as Gifted and Talented understand that though these students may be exceptional in some academic work, they may struggle to learn in other areas of study. It can be extremely hard to identify these kids as their giftedness can allow them to compensate in the areas in which they struggle. They are also most likely to work extra hard to compensate for a learning dysfunction they are intuitively aware of but struggle to express to parents or teachers. These kids are often referred to as Twice Exceptional.

MEET MITCH

Mitch was identified as Gifted and Talented as early as First Grade. This isn’t surprising considering he was reading by the age of two. But by middle school, he began acting out at school and at home. His pediatrician diagnosed him with ADD/ADHD and prescribed medication.

Mitch’s mom, Denise, says, “As parents, we resisted medicating Mitch. But by 6th grade, we felt out of options. We just needed something to help us get through social situations, school, and the acting out.”

However, Denise, still didn’t feel right about the ADD diagnosis. When he advanced to his Freshman year, his struggles seemed to grow.

HITTING THE WALL

“He could verbally answer homework questions with me just fine,” Denise says, “but he would break into tears when I asked him to write it down. It seemed like a temper tantrum.”

She says his eye doctor gave Mitch proper prescription lenses but never picked up on any vision issues. School testing continued to give no answers.

“I always felt like something just wasn’t right but couldn’t put my finger on it,” says Denise. Mitch, a self-professed math and science geek, went to one 3D movie and never wanted to go see another. He got motion sickness all the time. He expressed no interest in wanting to learn to drive. They had to find as many of his schoolbooks as possible as audio downloads because he could learn by listening.

But these cues are difficult to connect if you don’t know that visual performance skills are different than 20/20 sight. Kids who suffer don’t realize that they are seeing things differently than everyone else. They don’t know how to express the problem with how their eyes are functioning.

CRITICAL REFERRAL

Finally, after a friend heard Denise’s concerns, she referred her to Highline Center for Vision Performance (HCVP). They quickly made an appointment to take advantage of the complimentary Vision + Learning Screening.

“Mitch lit up when they began asking him questions,” says Denise of the initial consultation with HCVP. “I could see his relief that someone finally understood. His self-esteem improved almost immediately just knowing that he could be helped.”

Tests went on to reveal that Mitch’s reading efficiency were at a 3rd grade level. His tracking speed (one of 20 measurable visual skills) was higher – at an 8th grade speed – but at only 50% comprehension. In order to achieve “quality” comprehension, he dropped down to a 5th grade speed. It’s no wonder he struggled with his high school studies!

Denise was thrilled with her visit to Highline and with Mitch’s response. However, the family pediatrician thought Vision Therapy was fake and discouraged them from participating. Regardless, Denise was certain they were on the right track and moved forward with Vision Therapy anyway.

GRADUATION

Mitch was highly motivated to do his Vision Therapy homework and graduated within five months at which point his reading efficiency was at grade level 13.6 (a freshman in college) and his reading comprehension went up to 90%.

Denise says, “About ¾ of the way through Vision Therapy, he was able to complete schoolwork in the classroom so he was bringing home less work. It was amazing! His eye muscles were keeping up with his intelligence. Everything in school is easier now. There are no more meltdowns.”

Now, Mitch is a typical teenager eager to drive and loves seeing movies in 3D. His writing has improved dramatically and he continues successfully in his school’s Gifted and Talented program.

IN REVIEW

Currently, Mitch’s pediatrician still believes Vision Therapy is a hoax and that Mitch just outgrew his ADD.

Denise believes that Mitch’s behavioral issues were related to his undiagnosed vision disorders. They are currently considering taking him off his medication.

“His medication is a non-stimulant and is short lived in his system,” says Denise. “Before Vision Therapy, we could always tell at the end of the day that it was wearing off because that’s when his behavior would change. However now, we don’t have the meltdowns anymore and Mitch has confessed that he often doesn’t take it over the weekends anymore and we don’t even notice.”

Highline, often sees students who have vision disorders and are misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD. In Mitch’s case, Dr. Jeri Schneebeck is convinced that Mitch’s acting out was from his frustration.

“You have this incredibly intelligent person who is trying so hard to keep up with his peers and failing – it’s no surprise that he had outbursts,” says Dr. Jeri. “Once we begin improving vision skills by teaching the eyes and brain to coordinate, it’s like a weight is removed and he can finally move forward. It’s a joy to see.”

“The frustration and inability to communicate that there is a problem is simply overwhelming to these kids,” adds Nancy Stevens, Vision Therapist at HCVP. “But we find, time and time again, that once they successfully complete Vision Therapy, they are happier in every facet of their lives. The ability to successfully learn opens up their future in incredible ways.”

Mitch’s mom, Denise, continues to be a vocal advocate for Vision Therapy and shares her story frequently with other parents who have smart kids that struggle in school.

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