Stimulating sight
Visual therapy helps stimulate the neural pathways for our special needs child.
Nura was a baby when we realized she was visually impaired. We started doing visual exercises with her – using black and white geometric shapes/images against a white background to strengthen her sight.

We know she is not completely blind as she can distinguish between light and dark; she is able to follow shapes and focus on images and contrasts.

What she is interpreting is the mystery. The problem does not lie with her eyes, but with the damage to the neural pathways, relaying the messages to her brain, the interpreting of the image/message and transmitting that back to make it meaningful for her. We felt quite stuck in not being able to assist her more in developing and improving her vision.

In 2007 our neurodevelopmental therapy (NDT) paediatrician put us in touch with a behavioural/developmental optometrist (Donovan Savage at Michèle Hlava Optometrists in Somerset West) who has been using Neurofeedback therapy in an attempt to improve visual ability.

Nura is connected to a computer programme with electrodes on her visual cortex. The aim of the programme is for Nura to learn to focus and concentrate for long enough so that messages have a chance to go from her eyes to her brain, be interpreted and make their way back to be meaningful.

Electrodes are placed at strategic places on her ears and head through which the brainwaves are recorded through an electronic device, while a visual stimulus is displayed on the computer screen and she has to keep a music sequence going with her concentration.

The instant she loses concentration the music stops, as she searches and finds it again the music plays. All the time she is doing this the programme is also measuring her theta, alpha, SMR and beta brain waves. Basically she is having an EEG (electroencephalograph) each time we do a visual therapy session.

The focus of visual therapy

The focus of the programme is to get her brain to react correctly to visual stimuli – an attempt to slow the electric currents from being as erratic and chaotic as they are. It’s like saying ‘she’s all over the place and cannot focus’. Some days we have lots of music playing continuously, other days we have almost no music. It all depends on her mood.

In the last few months her sessions have gotten better and she seems to calm down when she hears my voice. While I am talking to the behavioural optometrist she appears to be listening, while also keeping the music going. We have tested this a few times and she focuses better when she hears me. I have also given her something to drink during a session and again she drank her water and kept the music going. Perhaps she is just better at multi-tasking.

The behavioural optometrist moves the electrodes from time to time to stimulate other parts of her brain and to see what responses we may get. She is also quite picky about the music she likes. She concentrates and keeps the music going for longer periods when it’s faster paced.

When it slows down she loses interest.

At the same time Nura is trying to focus and keep the music going her eyes are also stimulated with a light box – TLB (Translid Binocular) lights that flash. The box is moved through different visual fields and her tracking is tested and stimulated. We have used the TLB on ourselves and it can only be described as your brain being bombarded with stimuli – all you see are lights, shapes and colours all at once. The kind of mind-numbing, crazy experience that gives you a migraine. So of course Nura’s natural reaction is to turn away from the lights – which means she is experiencing something. There is a message being relayed to her brain telling her to get away from the light. Clever girl.

Visual therapy, as with all the therapies we do is a way of keeping her stimulated, constantly introducing her to new experiences and pushing her boundaries and comfort zones.

Have you heard of visual therapy?


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