Friday, December 17, 2010

Acupuncture for successful Amblyopia treament

Recently my google alerts exploded with proclamations of a new treatment for Amblyopia. The new treatment being not some miracle drug or new technology but rather ones of the oldest treatments around...  Acupuncture .  Recent studies have shown acupuncture could be very successful for treating Amblyopia, moreso than patching - in the "older child" population.

Read on to learn more about it (CNN): Needles trump patches in treating kids' eye problem

The whole idea of acupuncture intrigues me yet scares me at the same time. But, I am fascinated enough that I want to learn more about this - whether my daughter would be a candidate or not remains to be seen. I'm not going to run right out and sign her up for acupuncture - but I'm interested in learning more about why it is that it works.

Dr. Nate at Bright Eyes, also blogged recently on the topic and gave his take on it:
Acupuncture for Amblyopia (Lazy eye)?

Would you consider acupuncture for your child's amblyopia?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Plea for updated picture eyechart

Last week I was talking to a friend of mine whose little girl that also wears glasses & patches. It has been  such a blessing for Belle and I to have someone local to go through this together with (but that's a whole new post).  So...  she and I were talking about our latest trips to the eye doctor for the girls and comparing notes. My friend shared with me that her daughter has a hard time with the picture eye chart which makes the appointment challenging. Oh Boy, could I relate to this!  Now, thankfully as she is a bit older, Belle now primarily uses the letter and directional charts. But on occasion when she has had to use the picture chart her responses to the pictures can be quite puzzling and a bit comical. In fact, the responses often don't indicate whether she can see or not - moreso that she has no idea what the picture is supposed to be.

In particular this picture from the children's eyechart sorely needs updating. 

Would your preschool or young child know what this is?

This is a phone.    
It seems so simple but most kids these days would get this wrong.

When was the last time you used a rotary phone? Has your child ever seen a rotary phone?   My daughter hadn't and I had to explain this picture to her.  It was funny because when she saw Toy Story 3 and the Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone character she made a comment that "it was the phone from the eyechart".

It is definitely time for the phone picture to get updated,  perhaps with something like this:

Monday, December 6, 2010

Eye Patch Review: Eye-Lids cloth patches

I first learned about Eye-Lids (kids eye patches) on Facebook at the recommendation of an Amblyopia Kids facebook fan.   When I received a few patches to try out - of course she fell in love with the Hello Kitty pattern right away. The patch style we have (shown in the photo) is meant to be worn with glasses that have a nosepiece. They do offer glasses for frames without nosepieces as well as "pirate style" patches.  

To give you an idea of size,  Belle is wearing the Eye-Lids medium and my her glasses have an eyesize of 45 (lens width) [style: Rayban 1018T].  The medium is suggested for ages 4-7 and it fits well.  Eye-Lids are available in a smaller size (suggested for ages under 3) as well as large (for 7-10 years of age).  If there's any question with size, be sure to contact the creator of Eye-Lids, Lisa Smith, she designed eye-lids and started selling them as a result of first hand experience - her daughter having to wear an eye patch.  I have found with this style of "under the glasses" patch the sizing is definitely a sweet spot.  Too small and they can peak around it - too big and it becomes cumbersome and covers up half of your child's face!!  The shape of Eye-Lids was made so it provides good coverage and therefore full occlusion while still being comfortable for a child to wear.  Eye-Lids are also made with batting in between two layers of fabric so even light colored fabrics cannot be see-through.  When ordering specify right or left eye - ours have a pattern fabric on the outside and solid flannel on the inside - it actually can be reversed. However in order for the pattern to be facing in the proper direction you will need to specify if you patch right or left :) We wouldn't want Hello Kitty to be upside down now, would we? (Well maybe my silly daughter might!)

When browing the Eye-Lids website, you'll see that they offer a wide variety of patterns ranging from plain to funky - appropriate for boys or girls. My daughter gave a thumbs up to the Hello Kitty pattern! Being made of cloth, they are re-usable and also washable. A benefit to cloth patches over adhesive is that you aren't tossing out patches in the trash every day.  My daughter likes the Eye-Lids patch, which means it passes her seal of approval and I'm confident she can't see through it which means I approve too! 

Price - $9.99 Canadian dollars/  Shipping $1.50

To order: 
Become a fan of Eye-Lids on facebook: 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Slow Cutter

 This has taken me a few weeks now to swallow, mull around inside my brain, feel sick to my stomach about, mull around some more - and finally sit down and put my thought into words.

I recently had the pleasure of my daughter's parent-teacher conference for Kindergarten. Kindergarten conferences at my school tend to be short and sweet. You sit down with the teacher who tells you how cute your kid is, and shows you their first period report card highlighting how great they are doing and minimizing the road bumps.  Being that I know the drill,  I went in with my list of things I wanted to discuss with her teacher.  It is not surprising that my concerns mostly dealt with how her vision challenges are impacting learning.  Recently I've noted more worksheets in her folder tagged "finish at home" and Belle letting me know that she didn't have enough time to get it done.  Also, her weekly workbook pages can take her a very long time to complete. As in 4 pages of work taking between 2-4 hours when talking to other parents with the same workbook and hearing how it takes their child well under an hour to do the same.  So, the 4 or 5 pages take what seems to be an eternity but  when they are finally completed.. the finished product is really well done and quite neat.  Over the past few months her writing has improved tenfold. Its gone from gigantic, backwards and often illegible to pretty darn good. Not too shabby for my little lefty!  Still, the time it takes to get that sparkly end product is outright painful.

Now, I know and recognize that all children are different.  After all, my son has autism - so I know all about different learners.  More and more I realize that even though Belle is not autistic, she is a "different" learner and her vision (although improving) does make a significant difference.

At my daughters conference I was greeted with the usual smiles and small talk (which went by all too quickly) and then tone turned to frowns and crumpled up faces.   It went something like this...

 Belle is really a smart cookie and I enjoy having her in my class. She is so excited to be at school and extremely cooperative.   (Smiles Smiles, that's my girl).  But... She's a slow cutter.

I blinked.  Excuse me?

Yes, she is a slow cutter.     And, she is too slow when working at centers and seatwork.  Other kids are up and enjoying free play or moving to the next center and she is still working.  

And so we spent the next 45 minutes discussing and rehashing and rehashing again about her vision. Her teacher seems to think that it is all really that my daughter is a perfectionist and that her vision has little to do with it all.  I know that it does.  I also acknowledge that she is a bit OCDish and a perfectionist.  I also know that she is hyperaware of the fact that she should stay within lines, write - cut - and color neatly.  She is also a lefty and has notable issues with 'crossing the midline'.  All of this coupled with her vision means she needs extra support (as well as time).

Telling her to hurry up and cut faster isn't the answer.

Low Vision Friendly Electronics- Great Gift Ideas!

Low Vision Friendly Electronics - Great Gifts!

Now, the hottest Electronic devices have become more low vision friendly with larger sizes and displays.

For example, the popular handheld gaming device - the Nintendo DSi released a larger model in spring 2010 called the DSi XL that has a screen 93% larger than the popular DS Lite model. The screen LCD screen is 4.3 inches (diagonally) when compared to the 3 inch screen of the DS Lite and DSi. The DSi XL can go on the internet, take photos, as well as play Nintendo DS game cartridges. Games are available in all genres with titles for children through adult. The DSi XL is priced under $200 making this an affordable handheld device.

Amazon was the first to come out with a low vision friendly book reader when they came out with the Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device with its 9.7" screen compared to the 6" of the popular Kindle reader. The Kindle also has the advantage of text enlargement (increasing the output of the Font size for text) as well as text to speech, so it can read books, magazines, blogs out loud.  Those with low vision could benefit from adding clip-on light to their reader which are very affordable accessories around twenty dollars.

Apple's  iPad is the most exciting of all. The iPad measures in at 9.7" when compared to the iPod touch with its 3.5 inch display. The iPad is a do-it-all device (almost) that can browse the web, supports email, view photos, play games, play music and movies, and supports over a thousand apps available for download to the device. Accessibility options include spoken menus as well as a high contrast touch screen. The iPad starts at $499 for a base model and upwards to $829 for the top of the line device. When compared to the smaller iPad Touch (or iPhone) it offers powerful capability with a more user friendly output and display - especially for those with vision issues.

Selecting Safe Toys to Avoid Eye injuries

Selecting Safe Toys to Avoid Eye injuries

It is important when picking choosing toys for children to keep children's safety in mind. A trip to the ER because of an eye injury will not only ruin the holiday but it could also permanently affect a child's vision for the rest of their life.

I'm constantly reminded of the timeless classic movie, A Christmas Story and the famous line, "You'll shoot your eye out!. As a child, we were never allowed to have toy guns of any kind - even nerf type of toys. One reason was that my mother was certain that one of us would injure either ourselves or our brother or sister.. we would "shoot our eye out", in effect.

The reality is that toys that shoot, fly, or have projectiles account for many an eye injury in young children. When giving such a gift be certain that it will be used with adult supervision or consider a safer alternative.

Likewise, avoid toys that with points, sharp edges, and "fake" weapons. Some building toys like Tinker Toys can poke an eye and cause serious damage. It is important to check the age recommendation for toys and think about if there are younger siblings in the home. Even things like crayons, markers and colored pencils could cause an eye injury if misused.

Trust me on this one.... You'll shoot your eye out!

A Christmas Story (Full-Screen Edition)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Top Ten Low-Vision Household Gift Ideas

Top Ten Low-Vision Household Gift Ideas
Gifts that can help make daily life easier if there is someone in your life with vision challenges.

Top Ten Household Gifts for the Low Vision Household

1. Jumbo Universal Remote Control TV VCR Cable DVD Satellite: With the amount of buttons that are on remote controls these days, and the fact that every electronic gadget has its own remote - means multiple remotes and mayhem! This can cripple an individual who has deteriorating or low vision from being able to access the television completely. A large button, oversized, universal remote can remedy this problem and also has the benefit of being harder to misplace!

2. The Voice Control Talking Digital Alarm Clock There are many large display clocks and alarm clocks, but they are of little use when the buttons and actions required to program them are too small or the process to set the clock is complicated and requires good vision. Select a clock with large display, easy to program, voice controls/voice activated and audio output. Additional features include a clock that can speak the time and temperature on command or at a regular interval or serves as a nightlight.

3. Reading books doesn't have to be a thing of the past for folks with low vision. The Kindle DX Wireless Reading Device is Amazon's popular book reader on a larger scale. It has a much larger reading size (9.7" display) compared to the standard 6" Kindle display. You can also magnify the text size to make any book "large print". In addition the Kindle has text-to-speech capabilities so it can read books, publications, magazines, and even blog subscriptions out loud.

4. A Computer Display screen magnifier makes images on the computer monitor instantly larger. Also check out large print keyboards such as this Visikey Large Print Keyboard Pc Mac.

5. With the price of electronics dropping, you can now get large screen plasma and LCD TV's like this 50" Panasonic Plasma TV for around $1,000 or less! TV's can be wall-mounted so they are space-saving and you can enjoy a "front row seat" view from anywhere in the room.

6. Every year you buy a new calendar but what good is it if the boxes are too small and you cannot see the date. This Jumbo Large Print Low Vision Wall Calendar is the answer.

7. For the health conscious, a Digital Talking Bathroom Scale is a nice gift. I learned about this product by accident when visiting a friend for dinner and I stepped on their bathroom scale and announced my weight to the whole house. It wasn't funny at the time, but I made a mental note that this product could be quite useful for those with low vision.

8. For those who like to play games, consider Large Print Scrabble Tiles, Large Print Playing Cards, or Large Dice .

9. For "stocking stuffers" or small gifts, consider getting one of these Large Print Crossword Puzzle Book or Large Print Sudoku Volume 1 books.

10. I love this Talking Calculator which also has a built in alarm clock and music on it, it is perfect for home, office or travel.

These are just a few ideas for gifts for those family members and friends in your life who may have vision issues.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Choosing a Gift for the Visually Challenged Child

Choosing a Gift for the Visually Challenged Child

With the holiday season going strong, it can be hard to select gifts for children who have vision challenges. Some toys may not be appropriate for a child with low vision, may be too difficult to play with, or not hold a child's interest regardless of the age recommendation.

A few things to consider when choosing a gift for a child with vision challenges.

In the case of books

Choose books with large print and few words on a page (depending on reading level and of course vision abilities).

I recommend the Random House has a
"Step Into Reading" books. They include popular children's characters and are very inexpensive (under $5 a book). The paperback books are all labeled based on level. Step 1 books (red) all have very large print and are a good place to start. Step 2 also have large print and use of picture cues, as well as ample spacing between words.

Electronic Toys

"Noisy Toys" - or toys that make sounds, music, or read books are good choices but only with a few caveats: a volume control and an on/off switch.

For a child who enjoys music, a keyboard or microphone can be a good choice.

For a child who enjoys stories but cannot read - look for books on tape/cd or consider a reading system like the LeapFrog TAG Reading System or the Poingo Interactive Reader. My daughter who has amblyopia and low vision is having difficulty learning to read but enjoys these reading systems as well audio books.


Sensory Toys

Look for toys with interesting textures and surfaces or that provide sensory stimulation.

Toys with bright lights, bright colors, or contrasting colors (white/black) can be beneficial and enjoyed by children with moderate vision challenges and low vision. I recommend a toy that combines music, bright lights, and also has a talking clock and alarm -
Zizzle Zoundz 



Toy Resource Guides

- Toys R Us has a
Guide for Differently-Abled Children

American Foundation for the Blind maintains a categorized list of toys according to the disability.

- Bright Tots
Choosing The Right Toy for Special Needs

- Prevent Blindness America:
Help Keep the Holidays Merry and Bright by Giving Safe Toys and Gifts to Children This Year (pdf)

This article was orginally published by me at Bella Online Vision Issues site

Greeting Cards for Low Vision or Visually Impaired

Braille and Large Print Greeting Cards

The day after Thanksgiving marks open season for sending holiday greeting cards. But, what about that friend or family member of yours who may be blind, have low vision, or be dealing with deteriorating eyesight.

Consider making a card or purchasing a Large Print or Braille card.

Make your own Large Print Card
I suggest making your own large print card.

This is also a great activity for kids! You can do this using one of the many free clipart websites online or the good old-fashioned way of putting pen (or crayons & markers) to paper. Even if the card is hand-made and decorated, consider using printed text in a large easy to read block print - use a font like ARIAL or COURIER in BOLD and choose a large font size of 20 or higher.

TIP: Print in black or dark ink on white or light colored paper.

Where can I buy Braille and Large Print Greeting Cards

The good news is that you can probably find a small selection of Large Print and braille cards in your local card shop or pharmacy. The popular Hallmark brand markets everyday greeting cards in both large print and braille.

If you are looking for Braille greeting cards, you will find a large selection online. Sources for Braille Cards include Braille Enterprises, the American Printing House for the blind, and the National Braille Press. For a truly unique Braille greeting - they even sell Braille Chocolate Bars at Choco Braille.

I searched high and low to find Large Print cards and found that the nicest selection was actually at a website called Greeting Card Universe. This is a unique website where you can either order paper cards, or select a card and enter your text and the recipient's address and the website will send the card to them via the US post office. Inputting "Large Print" into their search filter yielded 24 cards including birthday, holiday, and mother's day.

This article was originally published at Bella Online: Vision Issues., by me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Continued Improvement - a Good appointment!

Last month, we received the good news that Belle's eyesight was improving and that she was indeed using her left (amblyopic) eye again.  This was the news we needed to hear after patching diligently 6-8 hours a day and FINALLY seeing steps in the right direction.  We (the Doctor and myself) agreed that since there had been improvement we would continue with patching at the same duration of 6-8 hours per day. Belle had been hoping for a reduction and at first saw it as a punishment for her good work - but after some explaining she understood that she just needed to keep doing what she was doing and her good work would hopefully pay off bigger in the future.  This is a lot for a 5 year old to handle. But handle it, she did.

Saturday we went back to the eye doctor for our 6 week recheck. As usual, I was nervous - yet Belle was excited to go. She loves the eye doctor we go to which makes trips there so much easier. That morning  she announced that her doll Elizabeth needed get her eyes checked too. So, in the morning the two girls got dressed and off they went.  Elizabeth and her pretty purple glasses were a huge hit with all the ladies who work in the office who took turns playing with Belle and the doll until it was our turn to see the doctor.

I knew right away when Belle was reading the eye chart that we'd seen improvement.  We did have the usual 'confusion' of Cs with Os and Ds - she always says "O" for these 3 interchangeably. But aside from that she was able to read more than 1 line before announcing that "everything is too tiny".  Even when she pulled the too tiny trick, when the doctor isolated each letter instead of her viewing it in the line she was able to get it.  We've noticed this before with her - she can't seem to read the letters when they are in a line but when they are singled out she can get them. Likewise, she will often read the last letter, then the first letter and then the ones in between.  I'm not quite sure what is going on here but I'm pretty sure it has to do with "crossing the midline" issues that we are dealing with..

Still, she is using her eye and scored slightly better than at the last visit.   With that - the doctor decided that we'd take things slowly and try a small reduction in patch time.  4-5 hours instead of 6-8 hrs.  He said to really try to shoot for the 5 and we will.  So, its only a little bit less than before but to Belle this is huge.  She went home with all smiles and didn't complain about putting her patch back on before we left the office. 

We go back again in 8 weeks and pray for more good news.  She still has a long way to go, but she has come so far, already.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fun eye patches for the holidays

I thought it would be fun to showcase some of the fun patches your child can wear over the holidays. My daughter is very into decorating her own patches and coordinating her patches to outfits - it makes it a lot easier for her to wear the patch if it is something that she likes.

Did you make your own holiday patch?
Have a picture of your child patching through the holidays?
Please share by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook page.

Looking for that special patch for the holidays? Here
are a few options!

Patches worn with glasses:

Anissa's Fun Patches
- Foam patch that slides under the lens of glasses. Several patterns available featuring Santa, Candy Canes, Snowmen. [review|site]

Ortopad Frame Friends -
new for Holiday 2010! cloth patches in a wide assortment of patterns ranging from strings of lights to gingerbread cookies. Patch is worn over glasses.

Patch Pals - felt patches that slip over the frames of glasses. Offers a fall pack, winter pack, and individual holiday patches. I love the turkey! [review|site]

Pumpkin Patch Eye Works -
cloth patches made of sturdy denim fabric. I love that these can go casual or dressy. Especially like the glitter snowflake and the holiday charm one [review|site]

Adhesive Patches
Krafty Eye Patches- Holiday patch decorating kits. 3 kits available for boys/girls. Christmas, Hannukah, Winter Wonderland (Snowmen, Snowflakes, Santa, Red/Green, Blue/Silver). [review|site]

MYI Patches/Fresnel Prism -
2 styles available - gifts or snowflake in Junior or Regular sizes. [review|site]

Ortopad - One set of Holiday stickers will be included (complimentary) with each purchase of beige or white adhesive patches (limited time) [review|site]

Pirate Style Patches:

esigner Eye Patches - "Pirate" style patches. Over 50 different holiday designs available - flat, padded or convex [review|site]

Eye Patch Heaven -
Concave "Pirate" style cloth patches can be worn with or without glasses. clear elastic available. [review|site]

Don't forget these fun "add-ons"!

Eye Doodle Eye Patch Stickers - add these stickers to your eye patches - they work on adhesive or cloth patches. Choose from Left or Right Eye. [review|site]

- fun charms for glasses! kids love to wear their glasses when they can add charms for any o
ccasion. They offer a few holiday styles too. Great stocking stuffer! [review|site]

Did you make your own holiday patch?

Have a picture of your child patching through the holidays?
Please share by leaving a comment here or on our Facebook page.