FOSTERING Clinical EXPERTISE, RESEARCH & EDUCATION
Making a Difference: Gavin, Age 8
An update on Gavin's progress: He is actually doing very well. He is wearing his glasses full time without any hesitation. The entire family was surprised at that. I have made a list of improvements that we have observed with Gavin since starting the Vision Therapy and wearing the prism lenses in November. I believe the prism lenses and the Vision Therapy are helping to bring together our intervention efforts. (ABA, Speech, O.T., Hyperbaric’s, GF/CF diet, Nutritional Supplementation, etc.) The list is somewhat random, but I believe are significant observations for Gavin.
1. We were in the check out line at Wal-Mart and Gavin noticed we were buying like saver gummies. He picked them up and said, “I want one.” I was quite surprised because he typically does not notice or comment on what we are buying at the store. I explained that they are called “gummies” and he could have one in the car after we purchased them. He placed them back on the conveyor. Once in the car he asked, “Where are the gummies?” This is also significant because we were actually buying the “gummies” for his brother. His brother has eaten them numerous times in the car in front of him and Gavin didn’t seem to notice and certainly didn’t comment.
2. He noticed a blue ball hanging behind a swing in his Speech Therapist’s room and asked, “What’s that?”
3. He had his best Occupational Therapy session ever. His O.T. asked him to draw a sun. He said, “How?” Then he proceeded to draw based on her verbal instructions. He also color coded a candy cane to match the example she provided. He did a great job coloring and matched the colors perfectly. This type of exercise has always been challenging for Gavin.
4. He never looks at a new movie or T.V show until there has been repeated exposure. He watched part of Charlette’s Web with his brother. He only watched a small amount, but it was more than ever before.
5. We actually took him to a real movie in the theatre and he watched about 25 minutes of it. I took him home after that because I wanted to leave while the movie was still a positive experience and I could tell he was getting tired.
6. The Grocery store has always been a challenge. He sat calmly in the grocery cart white I bought LOTS of groceries! He was even o.k. when I stopped the cart for a minute.
7. He is using more language.
8. He is improving with the eye exercises with the distortion glasses. He would cry when we first started using them when he would miss the basket for the bean bad toss. Now he rarely misses it but if he does he doesn’t cry.
9. He went to the dentist for the first time and he let them brush his teeth.
10. I had on a new coat and he came over and “petted” my arm and said, “Mommy has a new purse.” I thought that was so cute. He noticed it and commented on it even though it was a coat not a purse.
11. We had to fly to Austin Texas to see Dr. Kartzinela and Dr. Krigsman. Gavin did well waiting in a long line at the Airport Security.
12. He is now saying, “I need to go potty.” We have worked and worked on this for years but were still having to schedule him. Now he initiates.
13. Overall seems calmer.
14. He entertained himself for a few minutes looking at books. He never does that.
Life Without Depth Perception: Tori, Age 7
Dr. Kaplan has changed our daughter’s life so much that we’re often considered erecting a life size statute of him to adorn our Living Room. Seriously, our daughter’s depth perception issues seemed insurmountable until we heard about Dr. Kaplan’s book, Seeing Through New Eyes. No amount of OT or PT could have solved her issues since she not see the world in the same way as us. Her brain used to see an average stair as a mountain to climb, or fall off of. Climbing a playground structure was not a possibility because she was so scared. She could not navigate a supermarket where there were big aisles, and white floors without holding onto a grown up for dear life. Life seemed like a scary roller coaster ride for her before prism lenses and vision therapy. Our daughter can now navigate stairs, play on structures, and navigate in markets like every other kid. It’s been several years of hard work and dedication. She’s really our hero because she works so hard.
Children Who Kiss Their Glasses Goodnight: Matt, Age 9
Dr. Kaplan was gentle and very patient with our son. The staff is very accommodating, and flexible. From day one, our son refused to take off the prism lenses. I saw his body quiet down during the evaluation. He really wanted to wear the lenses, and couldn’t wait until the day we picked them up. The first day that we received the glasses, I had a hard time convincing him to take them off when it was ready for bed.
Our son has benefited greatly from vision therapy. He has made a lot of progress since he started working with Dr. Kaplan. It is no longer difficult for him to go down hallways and stairs. He looks forward to going to Dr. Kaplan’s office, and that by itself is an indication that he is enjoying the therapy, and that he knows that the therapy is helping him.
What's Vision Got to Do With Language and Social Ability?: Will, Age 13
We firmly believe the emphasis on incorporating verbal responses as part of the exercises have had a very positive impact. Obviously, there are a lot of factors involved but we do see an increased ability in his ability to focus on verbal responses. Last year you indicated that his exercises would help alleviate his fears of dogs, elevator’s and Lowe’s. This year we can go anywhere in Lowe’s, dogs unless they are aggressive seldom bother him and he will go on any elevator now. Now this year you suggested we would be working on conversation.
You wouldn’t believe Will’s performance at Anna’s family birthday party last week.
The day of the party, Will got here first and went to his room to play but did ask Nancy to tell him when the rest of them got here. Nancy called him when they got here and amidst all of the hub bub of greetings, Will came out with arms crossed and “Hi Uncle Tommy how are you today?” Tom said good how are you and Will answered good. Then Will asked Uncle Tommy what he had been doing today? Uncle Tommy answered and asked Will what he had been doing. Will said he had been to Lowe’s and he had seen a dog. Uncle Tommy then asked him what he had bought at Lowe’s and he answered tools. Will left and came back in about 5 minutes again with his arms crossed and said to Uncle Tommy, “where did you go on vacation”. When Tommy didn’t know he was the one that should ask Will about his vacation I told him to ask Will. With some back and forth Will told him they had stayed at Atlanta, Savanah and Jekyll Island, what they had done at each place including the hotels and floors they had stayed on. He really wanted to have the conversation.
Later in the pool he heard aunt Shelli say she had to go to Meijers when they went home and he asked her when, what she would buy, how long she would be and when she would get back home. All this was totally unrehearsed. Later in the family room Brady was playing our slot machine and Will said let’s clap when Brady gets a hit and basically led the group in his made up game for about 5 minutes.
You can imagine how happy we were for Will. For the first time ever he was an active participant in a family event and he obviously enjoyed every minute of his interactions. Tommy called Nancy the next day and told her how amazed they were in the difference in Will since Katie’s birthday party in March.
Three other show stoppers in the last week:
In Lexington saw a building going up about a block over from the road we were on and said “What are they building over there?” A first for us. Before we could have driven straight through a construction site and if he noticed it we wouldn’t have known.
We have a new restaurant in Georgetown and to reward him for being so good at the party etc., we said we could have lunch there on our way home from Lexington. He said, “good”, but about 5 minutes later he said let’s wait till Saturday night. Another first, his choosing delayed reinforcement. We went to Rooster’s on Saturday night.
Will hurt his back falling back on an exercise ball. Stayed in bed most of the morning and said “my back is healing today”. He hears and uses words he has never been formally taught.
Looking forward to the next set of exercises!
Labels Are For Cans, Not For Kids: Kat, Age 5
I found Dr. Kaplan through a friend who suggested my daughter Kat might benefit from meeting him. After a full year on the waiting list, Kat finally had the chance to meet with Dr. Kaplan. It was worth the wait although painful to think of the year that passed, and how things might have been different for out family had we seen him sooner. Kat was over 4 years old when she has her initial appointment with Dr. Kaplan. While in a special needs preschool, receiving OT, PT and speech therapies, Kat has no specific diagnosis. The simplest way to describe her was to say something was “off”. She was a very sickly child, in a pattern of almost one week sick, one week healthy. Her energy level was poor, and her disposition difficult. Cognitively she was inconsistent – age appropriate in some areas, and behind in others. Physically she was uncoordinated, imbalanced, and stressed by dynamic environments. She was unwilling/unable to throw, catch, or hit a ball, would pedal a bike a few times, and quit, and would trip, fall and run into things constantly. While socially she was outgoing, she was inappropriate- talking to teachers who were across the room as if they were standing next to her, going from classmate to classmate repeating the same thing to each, etc. Needless to say, a very adept child, study team acknowledged her shortcomings, and placed her in a special needs program. After her first year in the program, her case manger (appropriately or not) informed us that she expected Kat to be in a Special Education program for the foreseeable future. In September, we saw Dr. Kaplan for the first time. Within the first two minutes of the exam, Dr. Kaplan asked Kat to stand on one foot. She attempted to do so as her face grimaced, her hands failed quickly, and she had to put her foot down. Dr. Kaplan put glasses on her, and asked her to try again. She stood like a statue, and I was reduced to tears. The exam continued, converting me into a believer much more quickly than my skeptical husband. Trying to process the immediate and dramatic change in our daughter was challenging- but we saw the results first hand. In fact, my husband went one step beyond, and had Dr. Kaplan test him. My skeptical husband now wears the glasses, plays tennis at a higher level, and is able to read more than two pages of a book before falling asleep. The changes in Kat are almost too far reaching to list as we now can appreciate how challenging her world once was. Her digesting issues, her low energy levels, her difficult temperament, and her chronic health problems have all disappeared. Never would I have imagined her visual function would be related to all of these seeming tangential characteristics. Looking back, it all makes sense. When someone is tense as a result of their not feeling visually stable, their body is exhausted trying to compensate thereby causing many physiological issues. Cognitively, Kat has shown tremendous progress as well. She has quickly learned her letter sounds, can count, and can reason- all contributing to her being placed in a mainstream preschool for a few days each week. She also has grown physically. She now initiates throwing, and catching, can sustain herself on a bicycle for an extended period, and has even learned to write. We have worked hard with her over the past few months - never missing her prescribed vision therapy exercises that we do at home each day. While it would be difficult for Kat to comprehend the reason for her glasses and her exercises, she knows how she feels. She never takes her glasses off and works hard at her exercises. She clearly feels better wearing her glasses. At her most recent IEP meeting, one teacher described her as “the happiest child she has ever met.” And she is right. Kat’s life and our family’s life has been changed forever thanks to Dr. Kaplan and his wonderful staff.
Neuroplasticity & The Ever-Changing Brain: Adam, Age 19
Adam is talking much more. He is building simple sentences. He is requesting more, he is commenting more and becomes easier to find out what is going on. He is still struggling with word finding, but he is making constant progress.
Adam is noticing more and more of his environment. He notices wild berries and wild raspberries in the woods, stops, points to them and wants us to get them for him. He even started to get them himself. He has never done this before. He was just not seeing them. I suspect that he also begins to notice petals, but it is not confirmed yet.
Adam is managing stimuli better now. We have a cottage in the woods which he loves, but after 20 minutes of being there he would escape into the car, had to sit there for about 20 minutes, then came out, was active for a moment and went back inside the car. There was a pattern in his behaviour. Going inside the car seemed to be his regrouping strategy in order to be ready for more stimuli. He is not doing that anymore. We spent couple of days in our cottage lately and he never went into the car.
Life with a Visual Disturbance, Anne Age 28
Baby/Kid: I had crossed eyes as a baby and strabismus surgery at the age of one, showing a cosmetic improvement. I was described as a well behaved but "spacey" baby. My mom said she could sit me on the corner of a bed and I would sit smiling staring into space rather than climb down (as most babies would). At the time nobody knew why I did not like to play with my brothers (they were typical boys, very physical).
· My academic performance was inconsistent through all levels of school.
· 1st grade was reported to have trouble organizing papers (lost completed homework in which the teacher would later find).
· 2nd grade was reported to write letters backwards ('b' and 'd', 'p' and 'q') and required an alphabet sticker on my desk.
· In 3rd grade had persistent spelling problems and the teacher reported I was often times "looking up" during class.
· It was suggested I have an attention problem however I was never disruptive to other students so no diagnosis was made.
· I never read, or completed reading assignments in school but got by somehow.
· I failed my first driving test (never felt comfortable driving)
· Always had trouble distinguishing right from left. My piano teacher always reminded me "no, the other right" because my left hand was quite impulsive
· I was accident prone and avoided advanced team sports (too confusing as well)
· I was usually described as looking “flustered” or “lost”. People said my eyes appeared to be looking off into a distance or looking through objects and people.
University, Work, Graduate School
· I went to Georgia Institute of Technology for undergraduate, finished with average-low GPA
· Worked as a non-student Engineer for 2 years and frequently got into trouble with my manager for failure to complete administrative paperwork, or answer emails.
· While working I started the GA Tech graduate program, taking one class per semester but had frequent fevers. During two screenings I was found to have a low white blood cell count in which the doctor could not explain.
· Started having minor car accidents (hitting corners, running into walls) leading me to eventually abandon driving all together due to fear of a potential serious accident. My driving limitations caused more problems with work attendance and class performance
· Worked as a student research while getting Masters and PhD
· Study load was harder so I could no longer ‘get by’
· I randomly picked an ADHD specialist who gave me medication for 3 years. It kept me focused despite the side effects (insomnia, low appetite) and I often looked like a zombie. It made me overwork myself.
· To investigate more I underwent a more detailed diagnosis consisting of neuropsychological tests. Results revealed deficits in 'visual sequential scanning', 'visual discrimination', 'auditory-verbal learning/memory', and a very poor 'silent reading rate'
· The psychologist started to investigate potential conditions other than ADHD (dyslexia, audio processing, language...) and scheduled extra test sessions but it started to get complicated.
Vision: I had glasses from 4th grade to age of 13, switched to contacts in college as vision seemed to be stable. My vision started getting worse when I started working full time and using computer more. My most recent eye doctor had trouble finding a lens that worked for me and was strongly reccomending I get lasik surgery but I never did.
Finding The Center for Visual Management: After the neuropsychological tests (mentioned above) I was recommended medication and counseling and nobody was able to explain the mirror writing ability. The tests however made me dizzy and nauseated and I came down with a fever again. My eyes were oscillating back and fourth for days. Since the tests involved visual scanning of numbers, letters, colors...etc and I was thinking that the test may have activated or agitated something (as they were probably designed to). That was when I decided to contact Kaplan’s office
Current Job: I am a graduate researcher in the school of electrical engineering, working on RFID's, and wireless bio-monitoring. My work consists of material characterization (measuring the dielectric properties of liquids and semi-solids), studying the electrical properties of body tissues, and performing electromagnetic simulations to analyze the effects of radiation on the human body. I used to do work in the area of Radar signal processing.
After starting Therapy: I was not aware that my breathing was bad until I started the breathing and movement exercises and noticed they made me more coherent, and relaxed. I did have to focus though and be reminded to breathe. I am not sure how I got by for so long with bad breathing patterns but that may explain why I was very low on energy and moody.
I saw the most striking visual change after performing the Base-In walk towards balloon/ball exercises. It did not start to work until I started focusing more on breathing. With enough persistence (at least 2, sometimes up to 4 5-minute sessions a day), the position(s) and movement of the balls changed dramatically from day to day. By the end of the week I could see two balls with a large gap in between. After a week of the exercise I noticed my surroundings looked different (not wearing the training glasses). When I leaned my face towards a flat wall it would bend towards me, as if it were approaching me. Also door frames would bend outwards as I walked through them, as if the door itself was pulling me in. I guess I found it quite amusing because my roommate caught me bending back and fourth towards the door a few times. The bending effect only happens with large simple objects, but not for faces or small objects.
I appreciated the Light-Box exercise very much because of the relaxing effect it produced.
Other improvements I noticed from the vision therapy
· My desk at work, and apartment was always messy, now they look more organized.
· My work attendance increased from less than 1-2 days a week to 5 and I have the mental energy to do things after work like shopping and cooking.
· I am able to answer emails, and complete administrative work.
· I was able to wrap up my MS Thesis and graduate by Dec 2009 (it had been delayed for 2 semesters).
· I travel through Europa, Africa and Asia to present graduate research and it is usually stressful to the point that I come home sick. I stayed in London for a month and I had to visit the hospital for a stress/allergic reaction. After starting the therapy I went to Australia and New Zealand and held up quite well. I adjusted to the jet lag very quickly and seldom had problem waking up for early appointments. I also did not have huge headache after navigating airports as I usually do. Was much better at packing and was well prepared for all climates. I was able to pack and go from hotel to hotel through Australia without abnormal stress (I was better prepared than my colleagues this time). It was also convenient that the therapy program utilized simply supplies that I could easily obtain abroad (plastic box, light, tissue paper). Since certain countries do not allow wood through airports I replaced the balance board wood with a standard board purchased from the sports store and had no trouble with immigration.
· As my vision changed I noticed other effects. When approaching or passing by objects their relative position seems to delay (i described it in my last score-sheet through a drawing)
· I no longer wear the contact lenses and use the new glasses provided. They are very nice and make the surroundings look different, especially when I move with respect to other objects. The ground also looks and feels different, as well as sitting at a table. I also started sleeping better and my eyes are less swollen (i do not know if it is just coincidence, or the therapy and glasses). Since the prescription is not as strong it is harder to read letters at a distance. At first it annoyed me but then I realized that I could read more important things (like objects and the environment) much better and felt more relaxed…which I definitely preferred.
My Story: Lisa, Age 42
I was a wonderful student- a bit talkative by many of my elementary teacher’s standard, but I pulled off the grades. Throughout middle school and high school, I was very active in theater and debate teams. I, too, just needed an audience to prosper. That all changed when I turned 21.
I was a senior at University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT. I was walking across campus one day and started to get a fearful feeling. I thought it might be because I hadn’t eaten, but by the time I got to class, I was nauseous, and my heart was palpitating. This incident led to a series of obstacles that led to me leaving college to go home to be treated by my personal physician. One week later I would have my first panic attack- a condition that has only proceeded to worsen over the last 24 years.
Once I had my first panic attack, my future was minimized. I did not even return to the University of Connecticut in Storrs but completed my last year in Waterbury after taking a semester to recuperate at home. I didn’t like to be left alone, so my parents had to ensure that there was always someone around for me at all times. For a few months, I felt like a two-year-old again. I then decided I needed to force myself out again, so I took a job that I felt comfortable at and tried to ease back in to life. The damage had been done; I was no longer the girl that lived carefree. Every decision I made was done in fear and anticipatory anxiety. I would just begin to conquer one fear, and another challenge would be placed before me- new job, driving on my own long-distance, flying to a destination. Over the years, my world became smaller, and the things that I was willing to take a chance on became few and far between.
When I was thirty, I married. What should have been one of the happiest days of my life became another challenge. I had to find a small church; one with many exits so that I could “escape” if the need should arise. I would just accomplish one fear and be faced with another. My poor husband has had to coax me to do most mundane tasks for some- going on our honeymoon, driving long-distance on vacation (away from familiarity), going to the movies (must sit in the back), a play or concert (claustrophobia), an amusement park (God Forbid!!!). I have been able to survive all these years because of laying low- never leaving my hometown, never challenging myself in a new career because I have remained with the same employer for over 20 years. Psychotherapy has helped only in making me feel not so alone, but all the medicines that physicians prescribe for my condition, I am not able to tolerate due to sensitivity toward antidepressants. I will take a Xanax (anti-anxiety medication) when it is desperately needed, but I have a very strong constitution and refuse to be dependent on a medicine. This same stubborn nature is what Dr. Kaplan contributes to me getting as far as I did in childhood without running into problems before turning 21.
When Dr. Kaplan sat down with my husband, son and I, he immediately determined that I forced myself to tunnel my vision, but in so doing this, I have caused my system to become tighter and tighter. I was able, at one time, to go to a city and enjoy the sights; but over the years, every time I drive by, or enter a city, I seem to get vertigo. I have difficulty looking up- or even seeing what is around me. My “safe” world has become smaller and smaller. Some life experiences I have chosen to forgo completely; if I do not get proper help, I can see myself becoming forever homebound.
On April 26th, 2008, I received my first prism lenses. Dr. Kaplan has told me that my prescription (blind as a bat) had been overprescribed throughout the years I’ve worn glasses. I have dry eye syndrome that has led to corneal erosion of my right eye.
From the first time I was put through Dr. Kaplan’s testing, I was aware that what he was doing was remarkable. I can attest to the fact that my body and jaw relax as I’m wearing prisms and going through the necessary exercises. Sometimes after my therapy session, I feel like someone has injected my body with Valium.
I know I have a long road ahead of me; I have lived more of my life with this condition than without. I’m looking forward to clear skies ahead. As with my son, every accomplishment- no matter how insignificant they may seem- will be one step closer to my goal.
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