Monday, October 19, 2009

Occupational Therapy, Balance, Vision, Sports and People Sense

Occupational therapy with A Total Approach is fun. Typically, we work on Balametrics which is a kind of teeter board where I keep myself balanced for about an hour. While I am on the teeter board, I am also doing Tomatis, a listening program. Tomatis involves wearing a headset and listening to specially filtered Mozart or Gregorian chant. At the same time, we are doing exercises. We  throw bean bags up and down or across the body. Sometimes we do exercises involving fine motor skills such as moving coins around a path. Or, moving numbers  around blocks on top of large pegs in sequence. These exercises involve eye tracking, keeping your eye on the ball as it moves.  Other times we use a kind of skateboard and swivel 90°. Sometimes we swivel 360°. We do these things for an hour. 
The second hour we do creative drawing and then we play games. Drawing has been a big struggle for me. It is very hard for me to express myself. Especially with lousy motor skills. Add to that vision problems and problems in visual motor coordination, that is, hand to eye coordination for the layperson. (I am already starting to talk like a therapist.) My drawings look like a kindergarteners. I did some stick drawings because they are easy. Then I started to graduate to surrealism. Surrealism has been very helpful because I don't have to do any kind of realistic representation. In other words it doesn't have to look like what I am seeing. Or what anybody has seen. I can use relatively simple shapes  and compose a picture. However, I do wonder whether anyone might think that I am a bit psychotic because the split portraits look a little weird. On the other hand that's as much as I can bring myself to draw. Simple shapes flat shapes and this is not very easy. So after about a week of this I do get the choice of playing a game which I am very happy about. We played this game called Labyrinth which involves moving around a pathway. Melissa, my therapist, always wins. Although we have a running joke about following the rules because she didn't know all the rules at the beginning of the game. She had to look them up and found she was wrong on a number of points.

Believe it or not, all of this is rather exhausting. I have to drive down Route 95 from north of Philadelphia past the city of Philadelphia, past the airport south of Philadelphia on Route 95. Some of this is during rush hour. All in all, it is a 1 1/2 hour to two hour trip one way. The therapy is about six days each week. So that is about 25 hours a week. 
This therapy is very interesting and is hitting the problems that I have hearing (Central auditory processing disorder), vision, and balance. I am often a bit queasy from working with Balametrics. We also do work on the balance beam so I'm going back and forth on the balance beam tossing bean bags. Sometimes I am also trying to walk on the balance beam with my eyes closed. Believe it or not walking on the balance beam with your eyes closed takes a high amount of concentration. One thing I noticed about all this therapy is how much I have to move out of the verbal world that I am so accustomed to being in and move into this Zen-like nonverbal, in-the- moment world. It is a world where I have to use my eyes to notice things like balls or bean bags and I can't think in verbal ways. 
I read this book, "The Athletic Eye" which goes  through a lot of the vision training that super athletes use to improve performance. Apparently, athletes like Billy Jean King dwell in the nonverbal world. They focus on the balls, the seams of the ball or other details of the ball. They are one in the moment. They try to track that ball until it hits the racket. When they are really in the zone, they can see the ball hit the racket. Now, that takes some extraordinary amount of eyesight. Another example is Bill Bradley. He had phenomenal peripheral vision. He said that as a kid he used to walk down the street and play game of trying to see what was in the stores as he kept his eyes forward. This gave him a "sense of the court" which is what all basketball stars have. They know where everyone is on the court and what they are doing and how they are moving.
 President Barack Obama also has the same ability that he has derived from his years on the court. He has translated this ability into superb people skills. He knows what everybody in the room is doing. He can “read a room” at an unbelievable level. He understands what is going on with an audience is. Great comedians also have this skill they can meet their audience and they can modulate their delivery to match the audience.  
What these people all have in common, is the ability to track motion whether it is a ball or a person’s facial expressions or body language.

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