Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Life and Times of Stella: Yoked Prisms and Personality

The eye as a double system: the foveal system ...Image via WikipediaIn essence, yoked prism goggles help re-wire the brain, forcing it to re-map spatial relations. Every time she wears them, they help her gauge the world more accurately. The repercussions are stunning. This isn’t just addressing Stella’s vision. Changes are happening in her brain, in how she perceives the world and her place in it. And that dramatically affects how she feels and behaves.
When Stella leaves those vision therapy sessions (wherein she wears the prism goggle, of any strength, really), she is more outgoing. She is open. Allow me to explain why that fact is so incredibly huge. I don’t label Stella as shy. I don’t want to presume, at age two, that “shy” is who she is and I don’t want to convince her that it is. But I will say that she is often quite tentative. We do see flashes of wonderful social interaction and friendliness–she’s very attached to her best friend, Cooper–so I know her social self is in there. But most often, she shrinks back under even the friendliest gaze from a stranger, or is daunted by mere proximity to people.
On the playground, Stella’s crowd avoidance is overt. She rarely uses structures if anyone else is there already. If someone playful soul is on or near the slide, instead of waiting for a turn or walking up with the understanding that they’ll be down soon, she avoids it completely. If people step aside and watch her, with a smile and friendly encouragement or quiet patience, she refuses to go down. She’s protective of herself. At music class, when the basket of instruments is placed in the center of the room, every other child in the room just flat-out goes for it. They make a beeline for the basket, and grab what they want, carefree! Stella immediately takes a step or two forward, only to halt as everyone rushes by. She waits for a big opening instead of squeezing in willy-nilly like the rest. Part of me has long wanted to push her into the fray. To tell her that she’s just as entitled and doesn’t have to wait for everyone else to take first pick. I just chime in with lighthearted encouragement, and a hand on her back.
Qualities like patience and shyness seem almost beside the point when I think about her vision, and the effect of the yoked prism goggles. I’m now convinced that such reserved, cautious behavior is due, at least in part, to the effect of her visual field–not just her innate personality. Crowded places (especially new ones) and chaotic situations can be so, so anxiety-producing for Stella. Thankfully, at long last, I now believe I understand why. She has trouble gauging her place in relation to a crowd. Per Dr. T and our vision therapist, Stella’s peripheral vision is likely limited, creating a type of tunnel vision that makes life more stressful. She’s always on guard because she’s learned that objects in her proverbial mirror are closer than they appear. She can’t quite trust her visual system in those situations. How startling that would be! And how draining and frustrating to be startled so often. So she takes extra precautions. Her separation anxiety, viewed through this lens of understanding, makes much more sense to me now. I’m her anchor amid the unfamiliar and unstable.
The same visual issues that cause this sort of defensiveness also give rise to her toe-walking. It’s not so much a problem as a solution Stella has come up with to better orient herself in the world as she perceives it. I get it now–the details may be hazy, but I am starting to understand a bit better how Stella sees, and how it affects her way of being.

http://lifeandtimesofstella.com/2011/03/22/how-vision-therapy-is-saving-stellas-toes-and-then-some/


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