Virtual Reality and Vision
If it’s not on every kid’s Christmas list this year, it will be soon enough. Virtual Reality (VR) is the next big thing in gaming and, with Google having released the Daydream View phone recently, VR will really start to change how people get their entertainment.
While Virtual Reality headsets have seen some slow and expensive development over the years (Oculus Rift), Google is really changing the landscape by offering Virtual Reality viewers made out of cardboard for mobile phones that when paired with a VR app can offer the viewer a 360-degree, 3D interactive experience.
How it Works
VR works by presenting a slightly different image to each eye, so that when the brain puts both images together, it creates a 3D effect. The apps in the phone then additionally track your head movements to put you in a simulated environment.
The most common side effects so far with VR are nausea and disorientation which can be even worse if the experience is poorly rendered. Looking at any object for too long of a time can create eye strain. Doctors also worry about the development of myopia in youth which many of these games are targeting. As a matter of fact, some people feel that children shouldn’t use the VR technology at all, since we aren’t sure of what the negative effects might be.
Something else that can be a concern with VR technology is the exposure to too much blue light. Too much blue light exposure can interfere with circadian rhythms making restful sleep difficult, and there are concerns that it could be responsible for retinal damage.
Some of the negative effects depend upon the brightness of the VR screen, the contrast of light vs. dark, and both the frequency and duration of play. As with any digital viewing, we recommend the 20/20/20 rule. After 20 minutes of any activity, look at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds just to break things up and give your eyes a break.
Another negative effect with VR is called past-pointing which happens after use. Your brain becomes used to viewing objects in the virtual world which can be slightly off from reality. After taking the headset off, the gamer can have a difficult time adequately estimating distance (for example try to grab something when it appears closer or further away.) This can really impede hand eye coordination and make moving around a bit dangerous.
Believe it or not, there are some great benefits to this technology. Because each eye needs to work with the other eye, and the brain has to interpret what is being seen, the visual system has a self-correcting property. The eyes and brain learn to work together. This self-correcting property is what is currently being used in some Vision Therapy clinics through Vivid Vision. Vivid Vision has developed some programming specifically designed to help people overcome such visual processing issues such as amblyopia and strabismus.
As VR tech continues to take off and find its way into homes, it will be more and more important to study its effects. Hopefully as it becomes more sophisticated, the negative effects will become less significant and the positive ones will create a viewing experience that can be beneficial for the eyes as well as entertaining.
Meet the Vision Therapist: Ashlie
Ashlie graduated from Concordia University, Nebraska in 2015 with a degree in Exercise Science. As an athlete, she’s always been intrigued by working in a therapeutic environment. When she came across the opportunity to learn more about Vision Therapy and found out she’d be working with mostly kids with visual issues, she knew immediately that she found what she wanted to do.
When kids come to Vision Therapy for the first time, Ashlie can see how frustrated they are with school and reading. With the help of Dr. Rachel Smith, she gets to work creating a plan to help set goals for the patients. She enjoys getting to know each child and helping them build confidence in themselves and in their ability to read.
“When they finally realize that they can cross their eyes or read without skipping a line, the joy on their faces really makes my job fun!”
Ashlie has been a part of the Center for Vision Development team for a few months and has been enjoying the camaraderie with her co-workers. “They love what they do, and it shows when they walk in the door to work every day!”
Ashlie knows she’s had a good day when her patients leave feeling accomplished. She feels that making sessions fun and as stress-free as possible is the key to making each child feel successful and confident.
To find out more about Vision Therapy and how it might be able to help your child do better in school, click here.
Meet the Vision Therapy Grad: Allison
Allison was referred to the Center for Vision Development last January by Dr. Brian Brightman after having problems reading and adjusting from the board to her desk in math class.
She recently graduated from the program and her father, Mark was thrilled with her progress. “It was nice to find out that there was a Vision Therapy program to help Allison. The staff was always friendly, caring and very professional. Erin was always great with Allison from caring how her day was going to how the home activities were helping her with school. Thanks for all you’ve done!”
Find out more about our Vision Therapy program: eyecarespecialties.com/vision-therapy.
Meet the Vision Therapy Graduate: Eva
Last year Eva suffered headaches after coming home from classes in 3rd grade. Her parents had her vision tested and discovered that Eva needed assistance tracking and switching her focal point in the classroom. She was referred to the Vision Therapy program at EyeCare Specialties.
Eva’s parents credit the enthusiasm of vision therapists Michelle Hoatson and Rose Walker as the motivation for her progress. After several weeks, Eva’s headaches stopped and she gained more confidence in reading.
“Sometimes it was easy. Sometimes it was hard,” confesses Eva in regards to staying committed to the Vision Therapy exercises. “Now my eyes have fixed all the problems and I have met all my goals!”
Congratulations, Eva! And best of luck to you in 4th grade.
Reading and Vision Therapy
Did you know that 80% of what we learn in school comes from our vision? Much of that comes from how well we can read. Reading is fundamental to a child’s success in school and truly forms the foundation of our education.
At EyeCare Specialties Vision Therapy Program, we treat students who struggle with reading due to a vision disorder. We often find those students also have problems with other subjects like math, history, science, geography and technology. Our goal is to examine the student and determine if the child may be struggling with a vision disorder that is affecting their learning abilities.
There are over 20 different visual skills involved in the process of reading, but for teachers and parents looking for more information, the American Optometric Association (aoa.org) categorizes these skills in seven key areas: visual acuity, visual fixation, accommodation, binocular fusion, convergence, field of vision and form perception. Of those seven skills, only one is routinely covered in a basic eye screening done at the pediatrician’s office.
Visual acuity is the ability to see clearly. This is the skill the basic eye chart measures at the pediatrician’s or school nurse’s office. The test usually measures how clearly a child can see both close-up and at a distance of up to 20 feet. If there is a problem with seeing objects clearly, the student should be referred for a comprehensive exam with an optometrist.
Visual fixation is the ability to aim the eyes on fixed or moving objects. The ability to fixate vision requires split second timing in order for the eyes to transmit information immediately to the brain. Just a slight delay can cause comprehension and fluency problems which can be discouraging to the young learner.
Accommodation is the ability to refocus the eyes back and forth between different points of focus. In the classroom, this would mean being able to transition between focusing on the board in class to text on a desk. This extremely important during tests and other activities that require quick changes in focus.
Binocular fusion is the ability for both eyes to work together at the same time. When a child has eyes that fail to work together properly, one eye can overcompensate for the other, resulting in decreasing vision in the underutilized eye. A child with a binocular vision disorder may be found closing one eye when trying to read.
Convergence is the ability for both eyes to turn inward in order to focus on close up images. Because most school work is done at a close proximity, this is an important skill to have.
Field of vision is the entire picture that the eyes see. The ability to see out of the corner of one’s eye is important to the process of reading. Having good center vision and peripheral vision will help the child receive all vision cues that are important for learning.
Visual and form perception are links between the shapes of objects being seen and the brain’s interpretation of those shapes. When a child struggles with form perception, it can slow down the reading process and make it difficult for the child to increase reading fluency.
A comprehensive eye exam will discover if a student is struggling in any of those areas. Treatment could include corrective lenses, vision therapy or both.
Vision Therapy is a series of treatments and exercised designed to address any of the above situations. We will customize a course of treatment for each patient with a goal of increasing the student’s reading fluency, comprehension and vocabulary.
I have found that when a child’s vision problems are addressed, his/her confidence soars. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a child who previously struggled with reading and schoolwork, become motivated to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
Information from aoa.org and education.com.
Vision Therapy at ECS
As COO of EyeCare Specialties, I decided to go through Vision Therapy more to evaluate and learn about the entire process rather than to be an actual patient. However, I quickly realized that I actually needed Vision Therapy as an adult after hearing about the symptoms and common frustrations that occur while reading. Those symptoms were validated as one of the tests proved that my eyes do not team well together and they tend to bounce around and move back-and-forth while reading. I thought that everyone had those issues and that I just needed to push through it. I have always loved the “idea” of reading but as a result of my frustration with bouncy eyes, I never actually liked to read. In high-school and college I thought the reasons why others read better or got their college tests done before me was simply because they could read faster. So, this issue with my eyes not teaming well was kind of an “Aha!” moment for me. One of our therapists, Michelle, noticed that I may be also having contrast sensitivity issues with the black text on white paper. Once again, I just thought the “ghosting” or fading of the black letters was normal. She tested my reading with a few different color filters placed over the page. The moment she placed a specific color of green over the page, all the annoying fading effects of the text disappeared. I could read clear and smooth like never before.
Over the next several weeks, I had the pleasure in working closely with Dr. Morrissey and each Vision Therapist we had on staff. It was quickly apparent that Dr. Morrissey and our Vision Therapists were not simply working intently with genuine enthusiasm just because I was the COO, but rather because they all truly believe in what they are doing. They have a dramatic and direct hand with enhancing vision with kids and adults in ways that are unique. In ways that most people take for granted and in ways that others simply think that their only option is to push through the difficulty like I had done all those years. You see, I have 20/20 vision without the need for glasses and was always praised for how well I could see. So, I thought I had no visual issues at all. This Vision Therapy team has a chance to work with patients that may have prefect or subpar visual acuity and enhance that patient’s life in new ways that glasses simply can’t completely fix at times.
Through the various exercises and instruments our therapists used, it was also quickly apparent that my left eye lagged a little in catching up to meet my right eye when focusing from near to distance. Working on these exercises in the clinic and at home helped improve the speed of eye-teaming with my left eye. In fact I noticed a significant improvement with lining up my putting game while playing golf. I wish I could say that Vision Therapy shaved 10 strokes off my game. However, that is not the case, but it isn’t the lack of positive effects from Vision Therapy but rather my lack of practicing at my golf game. ;) I bring this up because as an adult, I need to practice more often than the kids do with keeping my eyes teaming up. I use the home computer program often that the Therapists gave me early in the process. I do notice that when I haven’t used the program in a while or any other home techniques, that my reading can tend to feel slightly frustrating. However, I quickly notice reading improvement after spending some quality one-on-one time with my computer program and exercises.
The amount of time I spent with the Vision Therapy team and all the hours of home practicing was a commitment, but for me the benefits far outweighed the time invested. I wish I would have known about Vision Therapy in high-school or even college. It would have saved me from numerous unnecessary moments of frustration.