by Jolene from Malaysia
As a woman with Strabismus, and a mother with 2 children diagnosed with Strabismus (“eye turn” or “crossed eyes”), I understand the anxiety we all feel when our children experience any pain or deficiency. The passion we have to “fix” problems is very real! We are troubled by the “unchartered” waters that we are about to dive into. We worry about our children’s well-being, their self-esteem and our ability to give them the very best chance to succeed in life.
When Caleb was a toddler, he was diagnosed with a type of Strabismus called esotropia (crossed eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye). We followed the usual route of consulting an eye surgeon who prescribed daily eye patching. Whilst she is a wonderful surgeon, her approach led us to believe that Caleb could only hope to achieve 3D vision if he underwent eye-muscle surgery on both his eyes as soon as possible. She explained that if his eyes were more aligned, he would stand a better chance of developing 3D vision like other children. Desperate, we dove in instantly to “fix” this problem and Caleb underwent the surgery when he was 3 years old.
The surgery did help cosmetically for a few months, but Caleb’s eyes were never 100% aligned and he never did naturally learn to see in 3D. Sadly, after a year, his eyes began not only reverting inwards again, they were also drifting UPWARDS. This is a very common side-effect of eye muscle surgery called disassociated vertical deviation (DVD). Caleb had to continue patching daily, and in fact, after the surgery, he was asked to patch for up to 6 hours a day!
On hindsight, I now realize Caleb’s strabismus was NEVER an eye muscle problem. Caleb’s eye muscles worked perfectly. His brain, however, just didn’t know how to use BOTH eyes together as a team! If your child has a speech problem, we should not rush to have tongue-muscle surgery; but instead seek the help of a developmental speech therapist first.
After Caleb’s surgery failed to keep his eyes aligned, I began researching vision therapy. I read an incredible book, Fixing My Gaze by Susan Barry, which opened up my mind to the possibilities of vision therapy for anyone with strabismus.
I studied many articles online, and contacted a developmental optometrist in the USA. Over 2 years, he patiently and compassionately answered all my questions via email. He basically gave me the courage to stop all follow-up visits to the eye surgeon, and change Caleb’s spectacles prescription to the therapeutic lenses with binasal occlusion that he recommended.
Thanks to Susan Barry’s book, I was also able to explain the wonders of 3D vision to Caleb, while helping him understand how strabismus affects his vision in practical ways. It gave him a purpose and a hope. Caleb desired 3D vision for himself. He understood what it meant to have strabismus – there was no “shielding him from the truth” – and he remained positive and confident. Our young son had absolutely no problems looking people straight in the eyes and explaining the meaning of “strabismus” to strangers at the grocer, park or lift!
When Caleb was 7 years old, the vision therapy doctor introduced me to a colleague and fellow neuro-developmental & behavioural optometrist, one who is here in Malaysia. Caleb officially began vision therapy when he was 8 years old in 2013.
A year of therapy later, Caleb woke up one morning and saw his ceiling fan looming down at him from his bed. He screamed in fright. When he finally realized that he was beginning to see in 3D, Caleb had a time of his life examining everything around him. He was in awe of how 3D vision transformed the way everything and everyone looked. For the first few weeks, Caleb’s 3D vision only lasted for a few hours in the morning. So for over 2 months, he was uniquely straddling both the 3D world in the mornings and the 2D world in the evenings. During this period, we kept a journal of all the wonders he noticed, and more of this is shared in our latest children’s storybook, “Unlocking The 3rd Dimension”.
Caleb just turned 13 years old a few days ago. It has been more than 3 years since he developed his 3D vision, and he can no longer remember or imagine life without it.
Was gaining 3D vision worth it? “YES!” exclaims Caleb, “Today, I can stand in front of you and actually see your nose sticking out of your face!”