January 03, 2008

The Main Event

January 03, 2008

Now that you've completed your quick warm-up — it should only take about five minutes to complete the whole process — you're ready to move on to your actual eye exercises.

Exercise 1 — Palming

This exercise is beneficial in so many ways that it should be the foundation for your eye workout, and the exercise you do even when there's time for nothing else. Palming can

  • Promote relaxation and smooth eye movements.
  • Develop central fixation — the ability of the eyes to see one point best.
  • Develop greater control of the focusing mechanisms of your eyes.
  • Isolate eye muscle movement from head movement.
  • Reduce muscular strain and tension in your eyes, neck and head.
  • Relax tired or strained eyes and restore peace and quiet to your mind.

Listen to the radio if you wish, or just allow the mind to wander, keeping it away from anything unpleasant. If stressful thoughts intrude, push them aside to be dealt with later. Find a comfortable position and choose a time when you can exercise without being interrupted.

  • Briskly rub your hands and palms together until they feel warm (15 - 20 seconds).
  • Place your cupped palms over your closed eyes. The fingers of each hand should overlap and rest on the center of your forehead.
  • Make sure there is no contact between your palms and your closed eyelids.
  • Also make sure there is enough room between your palms (as they cup your eyes) so that you can breathe easily.
  • Don't create any unnecessary pressure on your face.
  • If your arms get tired, try resting your elbows on your thighs or on a table.

When you first close your eyes, you may see sparks, dots of light, and color patterns, all of which are signs of strain and tension. When the picture "fades to black" and the sparks disappear, you'll know that your eyes are relaxing. The more relaxed they become the "deeper" the blackness will appear to be.

Remain with the eyes shut for several minutes. The exact period that suits you best has to be found by trial and error; five minutes is about right, and four should be regarded as a minimum. It can be difficult to judge the passage of time, and some such device as a non-ticking cook's timer, or one of those electronic watches or pocket calculators which incorporate an alarm, is very useful.

Exercise 2 — Up and Down

Move your eyes upwards as far as you can, and then downwards as far as you can. Repeat four more times. Blink quickly a few times to relax the eye muscles.

Exercise 3 — Left and Right

Now do the same using points to your right and to your left, at eye level. Keep your raised fingers or two pencils on each side as guides and adjust them so that you can see them clearly when moving the eyes to the right and to the left, but without straining.

Keeping the fingers at eye level, and moving only the eyes, look to the right at your chosen point, then to the left. Repeat four times. Blink several times, then close your eyes and rest.

Exercise 4 — On the Edge

Choose a point you can see from the right corner of your eyes when you raise them, and another that you can see from the left corner of your eyes when you lower them, half closing the lids. Remember to retain your original posture: spine erect, hands on knees, head straight and motionless.

Look at your chosen point in right corner up, then to the one in left corner down. Repeat four times. Blink several times. Close the eyes and rest.

Now do the same exercise in reverse.

Look to the left corner up, then to the right corner down. Repeat four times. Blink several times. Close the eyes and rest.

Exercise 5 — Crop Circles

Slowly roll your eyes first clockwise, then counterclockwise as follows: Lower your eyes and look at the floor, then slowly move the eyes to the left, higher and higher until you see the ceiling. Now continue circling to the right, lower and lower down, until you see the floor again.

Do this slowly, making a full-vision circle. Blink, close your eyes and rest. Then repeat the same action counterclockwise. Do this five times then blink the eyes for at least five seconds.

Note: When rolling the eyes, make as large a circle as possible, so that you feel a little strain as you do the exercise. This stretches the eye muscles to the maximum extent, giving better results.

Exercise 6 — Be Shifty

Next comes a changing-vision exercise. While doing it you alternately shift your vision from close to distant points several times.

Take a pencil, or use your finger, and hold it under the tip of your nose. Then start moving it away, without raising it, until you have fixed it at the closest possible distance where you can see it clearly without any blur. Then raise your eyes a little, look straight into the distance and there find a small point which you can also see very clearly.

Now look at the closer point (the pencil or your finger tip) then shift to the farther point in the distance. Repeat several times, blink, close your eyes and squeeze them tight.

Exercise 7 — Squeeze Play

Close your eyes as tightly as you possibly can. Really squeeze the eyes, so the eye muscles contract. Hold this contraction for three seconds, and then let go quickly.

This exercise causes a deep relaxation of the eye muscles, and is especially beneficial after the slight strain caused by the eye exercises. Blink the eyes a few times.

Exercise 8 — Blinking and Breathing

Blink your eyes rapidly a half-dozen times. Then shut the eyes lightly for the space of two whole breaths. No more than a few seconds should pass between one blink and the next. Repeat these steps 4 times.

Nasty Habits: One of the "bad habits" so many of us share is the tendency to stare sightlessly, with our eyes immobile and our breath stopped. Staring is very hard on your eyes! As soon as you catch yourself with your gaze locked, blink your eyes rapidly while taking a couple of deep breaths.

If you can find time to "blink and breath" once or twice a day, you'll do wonders for establishing good tone in the muscles of your eyelids.

Exercise 9 — Finger Massage (3-Finger Variations)

Place the tips of each of your middle fingers on the bony outer corners of your eye sockets. Then close your eyes and gently hook both middle fingertips around and slightly inside these corners. Rest your index fingers on your temples, the other fingers on your cheeks and your thumbs behind your ears. Don't touch your eyes, just the inside surfaces of the outer corners of the sockets.

For a count of five, inhale and apply pressure in an outward direction on both sides simultaneously (as if trying to widen your head). Then, relax the pressure and exhale for a count of five.

Repeat the sequence a total of five times. When you stop — and before you open your eyes — take a deep breath, exhale and, in a quick motion, fling your fingers away from your body as if you were throwing the tension away through your fingertips. Open your eyes.

Exercise #10 — Finger Massage (5-Finger Variation)

Place the five fingertips of each hand together — as if you were cupping your fingers around a marble — and place them on your closed eyes with only light contact between your eyes and your fingertips. Massage both closed eyes by vibrating your fingertips lightly and quickly from side to side.

Repeat the sequence a total of five times. When you stop — and before you open your eyes — take a deep breath, exhale and, in a quick motion, fling your fingers away from your body as if you were throwing the tension away through your fingertips. Open your eyes.

Exercise #11 — Pencil Fusion (1-Pencil Variation)

Hold a pencil straight up in front of you about 18 inches (45 centimetres) from your face. Look at the pencil, and then allow your eyes to refocus in the distance beyond it (on the far wall if you are indoors). You should now be able to see two blurred pencils, like gateposts one on either side of the point you are looking at.

Analysis: If you can only see one pencil, shut either eye alternately to find out which is the weaker.

Exercise #12 — Would You Like to Swing on a Star

This exercise is very effective in breaking the habit of staring and it is believed that 50 swings performed at bedtime and again when you first wake-up will help prevent or alleviate eyestrain during sleep.

Stand with your feet about 12 inches (30 centimetres) apart and your arms hanging loosely at your sides. Lift your right heel, and turn your body (at the waist and hips) to the left. When you have reached the limit of comfortable travel, turn to the right, letting the left heel rise and the right one return to the floor. Keep your arms relaxed so that they rise slightly as you swing. Keep your eyes open and allow the image of your surroundings to rush past without trying to focus on anything in particular.

Do not go too fast; try to make the swings smooth, level, and rhythmical. Repeat 20 times.

Exercise #13 — Fun in the Sun

"Sunning" consists of exposing your closed lids to sunshine to get your retina accustomed to progressively brighter light and ultimately able to function efficiently over the entire range of normally encountered light intensities. If direct sunlight isn't available, artificial full-spectrum lights can be used.

  • Face the sun, eyes closed.
  • Allow the warmth of the sun to penetrate deeply into your eyes and forehead. Turn your head from side to side at a slow, relaxed pace.
  • Breath deeply.

You should slowly build up to a maximum of 20 minutes of sun after about 3 months of practice. If you are very light sensitive, you may want to start by closing your eyes and just facing into the sky but not directly at the sun.

  • Do not look directly at the sun.
  • Do not wear contacts or lenses when sunning.
  • Do not use fluorescent light.
  • Never use an infrared or ultraviolet lamp.
  • It is advised to sun only in the morning or evening and only for short periods of time.

It is advised that you sun only in the morning or evening, and not during midday hours (11AM-3PM) when the sun is at its strongest and the rays are most damaging.

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Your Workout for Better Vision

Now we're ready to get down to the nitty-gritty... the actual exercises you need to do to improve your visual powers.

Some manuals go into excruciating detail about what part of the eyes you're exercising and what's happening with the blood flow and musculature. They may quote "experts" about the benefits of the different exercises and include page after page of diagrams and complicated instructions for performing the various steps in the visual workout. It's exhausting!

Your visual workout should be relaxing or exhilarating, but never exhausting!

Rather than wear you out with lots of theory and unnecessary detail, we'll focus on 13 Simple Exercises (a "baker's dozen") that you can do throughout the day to rest, relax, and ultimately strengthen your eyes and your vision.

The 13 Simple Exercises should be preceded by the Eye-Body Warm-up, a series of three "warm-up" exercises that engage your whole body.

EBW #1 — Swing on a Star

The exercise known as "swinging" is the first step to relaxing your eyes and your upper body, too. Scheduling just five minutes to swing will help you regain the natural range of movement your eyes may have lost as you develop your vision.

To swing properly, begin by standing with your legs apart... a little wider than shoulder-width... with your arms hanging loosely at your sides. Consciously relax your neck, shoulders, back, and stomach. When you're ready, begin by slowly swinging your body from side to side.

While you're swinging, continue to breathe naturally. Avoid looking down or tilting your head. Allow your elbows to bend naturally and to follow your body.

Note: Don't confuse "swinging" with "swaying." (To swing, you rotate your upper body around your spine — moving from the torso to the chest to the head.)

As for your eyes, they should be allowed to move naturally, shifting focus as you swing. They'll automatically follow a line of sight that is parallel to the floor. You shouldn't try and focus on any specific thing. You can be aware of the motion within your line of vision, but simply let the images go by. Remember to blink lightly and often to keep your eyes lubricated.

Optical Illusion

During the first few moments of swinging, the room may appear stationary to you. Or you may feel your focus jump from point to point. This is caused by your eyes working to hone-in on specific objects.

Little by little, this "vision horizon" will change. By the time you finish the exercise, you should notice that your eyes see the room spinning in the opposite direction of your swing... a sign that you've truly relaxed your peepers.

Warning Flag: Swinging may make you feel unbalanced (physically, not mentally), dizzy, and/or sick to your stomach. This may be due to your inner ear's ability to deal with the motion.

If you feel a bit unwell as you're swinging, don't stop immediately... but do slow down. Shift your concentration to your breathing and take a few deep breaths. You can also bend your knees to help you feel more "grounded."

If you continue to feel disoriented, stop completely. Take a few deep breaths to regain your sense of balance. Then, when you're ready, continue your swings, but at a slower pace than before.

Before long, and with just a little trial and error, you'll know exactly what pace is right for you.

EBW #2 — Heads will Roll

Head rolls are the upper body's best friend. Simple to do anywhere and anytime, they relax your neck, head and face muscles.

If you're someone who hunches over your computer keyboard all day, you'll find them a real winner for reducing shoulder tension. And... as we know... a relaxed body sees best.

Stand Up, Sit Down, Roll, Roll, Roll

You may do head rolls standing up or sitting down... although preferably not behind the wheel of your car! Sit or stand with your spine straight, but not rigid, and your eyes open. Align your body so that it feels as though your head is sitting on top of your spine.

Take a deep breath. As you exhale, let your chin drop slowly to your chest.

Note: The key to this exercise is isolating the movement of your head and neck. Keep your shoulders down and relaxed.

Roll your neck slowly in one direction and then in the other. It isn't necessary to force this movement. You may simply let the weight of your head and gravity do the work.

Despite their simplicity, neck rolls must be done methodically. As your head moves from side to side, be sensitive to areas of tension and tightness. Gently move through those "trouble zones" until they loosen and relax.

Warning Bell: Never force any movements. "Size" doesn't count in head rolls. It's more important to do a series of small head rolls in a slow, easy manner.

EBW #3 — Finger Tapping

To stimulate the visual centers of your brain and develop the ability to focus clearly.

The act of tapping your fingertips together for as little as 60 seconds stimulates the nerve endings in your fingertips, of course, but it also stimulates the visual pathways in the brain and is helpful in the development of the ability to focus clearly.

The science behind why this works isn't nearly as important as the fact that it does.

1. Loosely place the bottom of your palms together and, with your wrists relaxed, tap your fingertips together rapidly.

2. Breathe easily and keep your arms and elbows relaxed.

The first thing you will probably be aware of is a tingling, or even a sense of "tenderness" in your fingertips. Don't worry; this is natural and nothing to be concerned about. And even though it's your fingers that are tapping, don't be surprised if you experience sensations in other areas of your body, like the stomach.

These sensations are linked to your body's release of tension. And when you finish this portion of the Eye-Body Warm-up, you should be feeling relaxed and ready for the next step.

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December 19, 2007

Eye exercise - Testimonial

December 19, 2007

Meagan struggled in reading, writing and math. After a year of tutoring with limited success, she was found to suffer from "eye tracking problems" and poor visual perceptual skills.

As a result of Vision Therapy, Meagan now reads with fluency. Since she is no longer skipping lines, "everything makes more sense!" Her writing and spelling have improved as well. Her teachers and parents are thrilled, and Meagan is proud.

With Vision Therapy, we saw dramatic results in a relatively short time, compared with our year of tutoring. Meagan is such a confident student now and shares her successes with me instead of asking me why all her friends could spell and she couldn't, and why did everyone else understand math and she didn't. Reading is now a joy instead of a chore. I wish we had discovered Vision Therapy sooner!

Jenny Sugiyama, Meagan's parent

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Eye exercise - Testimonial

Before Vision Therapy, there was a large gap between James' academic potential and his actual performance. Even though he is an intelligent boy, he was struggling with reading and writing. We were afraid that James would fall further and further behind in reading. We were also concerned about his self-esteem, even though he is a very bright boy.

Since starting Vision Therapy, his reading has improved. He is not skipping words and sentences, and has become a more fluid reader. Now that we have corrected some of his mechanical vision problems, we expect the reading and writing to continue to improve.

Gayle Lamar, James' parent, 2/13/02

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December 18, 2007

Eye exercise - Testimonial

December 18, 2007

Since 2nd grade, my son has had trouble with tracking. The teachers knew about him having this problem but didn't know about eye therapy exercises that help with tracking. If there were eye exercises in school, then his tracking wouldn't have slowed him down. Fortunately, he is very smart and catches on to things very fast. Now that he is in Vision Therapy, his tracking has improved. He has said that he notices more things also.

Thanks to Vision Therapy, there are two more happy vision sighted people in the world.

Jean R. Fisher and son
, 9/28/99

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November 11, 2007

Vision Therapy FAQ

November 11, 2007

What is Vision Therapy or Visual Training?

Vision therapy (visual training, vision training) is an individualized supervised treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies which have various causes, such as:

  1. inadequate sensorimotor development
  2. trauma to the nervous system (i.e., birth injury, brain trauma, closed head trauma, etc.)
  3. stress
  4. in some cases, contributing hereditary factors (i.e., crossed-eyes, wandering eyes)

Vision therapy trains the entire visual system which includes eyes, brain and body. However, it is important to understand that vision therapy is a form of neurological training or rehabilitation (it can be compared to some forms of occupational therapy or physical therapy). The goal of vision therapy is to train the patient's brain to use the eyes to receive information effectively, comprehend it quickly and react appropriately.

Vision therapy sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain's ability to control eye alignment, eye movements, focusing abilities, and eye teamwork (binocular vision). Visual-motor skills and endurance are developed through the use of specialized computer and optical devices, including therapeutic lenses, prisms and filters. During the final stages of therapy, the patient's newly acquired visual skills are reinforced and made automatic through repetition and by integration with motor and cognitive skills.

Can vision therapy help children with learning problems?
Yes! Vision therapy can be an important part of the overall treatment of a child's learning problem. Vision and sensorimotor deficits can cause eyestrain, headaches, blurred or double vision, loss of place while reading, and difficulty maintaining attention on close work. Even intelligent, highly motivated children can be severely handicapped by these problems in the academic environment.

Correcting these deficits allows affected children to benefit from academic remediation and to achieve their full potential in the classroom.

What are possible symptoms of learning related vision disorders?
Please see the Parents' Checklist for Learning Related Vision Disorders.

How many children are affected by learning related vision disorders (such as in cases of children with suspected or diagnosed learning disabilities, developmental delays, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or with double vision, reading difficulties, etc.)?
Approximately 20% of school-aged children may be affected to some degree by learning related vision disorders. This percentage dramatically increases within the special education, learning disabled and remedial reading populations, where as many as 70% of the students have a significant visual component to their learning problems.

My child tested as having 20/20 eyesight and healthy eyes after having a standard eye exam with an eye chart. Should I still investigate the possibility of a visual problem?
Perhaps . . . being able to read the letters on an eye chart at 20 feet distance does not guarantee adequate visual skills for reading and learning. In fact, the children most handicapped by vision or sensorimotor deficits often have 20/20 distance eyesight in at least one eye. The problems with eye alignment, eye teaming, focusing, and visual endurance which are likely to affect school work are easily missed in school screenings and conventional eye exams (with the 20/20 Snellen chart). Find out what visual skills should be tested in a comprehensive Eye Exam

How can I find a qualified eye doctor to examine and treat my child?
Doctors who offer special services in the areas of learning related vision disorders and vision therapy can be found by consulting a National Directory of Board certified doctors at www.vision3d.com. You can receive a free and immediate referral by submitting a form at this Directory.

What other problems can be helped with vision therapy?
Vision therapy is not only for children. Many adults find that vision therapy effects an improvement or recovery of their vision impairment; even in cases in which visual problems have been previously pronounced uncurable or hopeless by other vision care professionals. For example, many cases of lazy eye (amblyopia) can be successfully treated with vision therapy at any age. For many years, it was thought that amblyopia (lazy eye) was only amenable to treatment during the "critical period". This is the period up to age seven or eight years. Current research has conclusively demonstrated that effective treatment can take place at any age, but the length of the treatment period increases dramatically the longer the condition has existed prior to treatment.

Eye doctors trained in vision therapy are uniquely qualified to treat the visual consequences of traumatic brain injury (birth trauma, closed head trauma, etc.).
Turned eyes or crossed eyes (strabismus) are effectively treated with vision therapy. In fact, vision therapy is often the only alternative to surgical intervention AND vision therapy -- the non-surgical alternative -- has much higher success rates than eye surgery. Success rates following surgery for strabismus are actually quite poor and multiple surgeries are frequently performed on one individual. If you would like to learn more about vision therapy as compared to eye muscle surgery, visit a page on Eye Muscle Surgery

Is there more than one type of vision therapy?
Yes. Not all vision therapy programs are the same. Differences in the approach to vision therapy can be as diverse as the doctors who provide it. Make sure you understand what you can expect from the program and how goals will be achieved.

Are computers used in vision therapy?
Yes. The computer has produced major advancements in the administration of vision therapy. State-of-the-art technology and software allows vision therapists to offer patients challenging programs for the enhancement of eye teaming, focusing, binocularity, fusional and convergence skills, and perceptual-cognitive skills, etc.

Can a vision problem affect a child's self esteem?
Yes. Children with vision problems often have a history of underachievement and frustration. They often conclude that the reason for their low achievement is that they are not as "smart" as other children. Low self esteem and a lack of confidence are often the result of this conclusion. Correcting the vision problems which have been interfering with normal performance can have dramatic effects on both performance and self esteem.

How long does vision therapy take to correct learning related vision disorders?
Vision therapy programs are individually designed for each child based on the severity of the conditions being treated, the patient's motivation and readiness, and the number of therapy sessions per week the patient can attend. Therapy programs might range in duration from 3 months to 2 years. However -- to use some common terminology -- vision therapy is "short-term therapy" or "goal-oriented therapy." Unlike some other forms of therapy, you will not hear of an individuals being in therapy for years without goals being met. Vision therapy is effective AND cost-effective!

How long do the results of vision therapy last?
Most healthy vision therapy patients enjoy long term resolution of their visual problems. Generalizing the newly acquired visual abilities to the activities of daily life allows these new visual skills to become self-reinforcing. Efficient vision becomes a habit, as hard to break any other habit! Sickness, extreme fatigue or emotional trauma may cause temporary changes in visual skills. Patients with strabismus, amblyopia or traumatic brain injury may need to perform a minimum level of periodic maintenance therapy in order to sustain the high levels of visual performance attained during regular in-office therapy.

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