A shorter version of the article below first ran in the Torrey Pines High School newspaper, The Falconer in February 2010, in my monthly column, “Life As I See It.”
Imagine that you look at a person and your brain tells you that what your eyes see resembles a portrait by Pablo Picasso where the face is all broken up. This is how my vision processing worked before I had vision therapy. Since I have vision processing challenges, I had to train my brain to correctly process what my eyes were seeing.
When I was little I could see in greater detail than most children. I saw the dots and lines of black ink that made up each letter of a word on a page; I could not see the whole letter until my mom got the idea from a friend to make transparencies of the letters. I had to line up and match the transparencies to the same letters that were printed on paper. I had to train my eye and learn to look at the whole letter instead of the lines of black ink that made up the letter. Because this made looking at letters then easier, I learned to read. When I could read the letters, I read all the letters on a page at once because I realized I could. Pages were like my best friend because I could see familiar patterns. I liked patterns, and the letters formed patterns that had meaning. My mom read to me and showed me the words, greatly helping me give meaning to the patterns.
Last year I started vision therapy, which really helps my brain understand what it is looking at. I did exercises that helped my eyes see more like neurotypical people. My visual processing makes it really hard for me to see in general. Vision therapy seems to help me see the whole picture. Now, when I look at letters I see their relation to each other. I think vision therapy helps me to get my eyes and hands working together.
Before vision therapy I could only see fragments instead of seeing objects as a whole. It was hard to understand how different parts formed a whole. It was also hard to walk around without staring at the floor because I if I looked away, I had no perception and I felt like I could fall at any moment
Vision therapy trained my eyes to get the whole picture of everything I see. Instead of focusing on the detail first and then the whole, now I focus on the whole first and then the detail.
The vision therapy exercises helped a lot because they began to change noticeably how I looked at the world. I started seeing things that I wouldn’t really look at before like images on a frame, or the smile on my mom’s face, since before I would only see parts of a face without being able to recognize emotion. Vision therapy exercises also made me realize what the signs on the streets really were, and what they meant. Before, I would only notice the bright colors; now I know to read the signs and understand them.
Then, when I continued vision therapy, I got glasses with prisms. I remember when I saw through glasses with prisms for the first time I felt like I had been blind my whole life. When I put them on I felt like they were a brand new pair of eyes. I was so excited to understand what people see like, compared to what I saw before wearing the prisms. I finally understood what the vision therapists and mom meant by saying I was using my peripheral vision to see. Before I would not focus on what I was told to look at like everyone else does. It was easier for me to see through my side vision. But prisms changed this because I was could understand what it was to focus and to look at something directly with my eyes.
I have to say that prisms are helpful for my guidance through indoor spaces but they are enhanced even more by the addition of a yellow tint. Looking through lenses has greatly helped me with my perception of where I am in spaces. The yellow makes me see greatly the relationship between objects.
Before glasses I saw my dog, Handsome, as a ball of fur. With the prisms, I could see a tail and four legs. With yellow lenses and prisms, I very much see the great depth of my dog; I see the dimensions. I mean that he looks like he has more to him than just fur. He is visible as a very real and beautiful creature, and not just a blob.
I saw Donna Williams Ph. D., a person with autism and author of many books-including Somebody Somewhere; Like Color to the Blind- at a conference on autism where she talked about her visual perception at different stages of her life. As I listened to what she was explaining, I realized she and I have a lot in common. She talked about “object blindness” and I figured out that what I knew as Picasso–like faces and blob objects all my life, was the same thing as this term she was describing. I felt very excited to know that there was somebody else out there that knew and understood what I saw like.
One day I hope to be able to coordinate my body with my vision, and my vision with my body. It takes a great effort on my part to get my body used to my new way of seeing. It’s very hard for me to control the urge to take my glasses off, because my body isn’t used to having them on my head and on my face. I like to do vision therapy because I believe that one day with the help of my therapists and tutors, all the training of my eyes will pay off, and as well, I will be able to leave my glasses on. I think the glasses are a great component to my eyes and my brain because my eyes are like a door for my brain to understand and process the world around me.