At my #2 vision therapy appointment, my vision therapist Jeri and I were talking about suppression. I was starting to do the pencil push-ups without an eye patch, and I was worried because I was seeing just one squishy clam with my two eyes.
I was (and still am) worried I might be failing to see with both eyes…but I’m less hysterical about it because Jeri assigned an exercise to alleviate my concerns a bit and foster awareness of suppression.
“Watch TV for 30 minutes with these on the TV screen,” said Jeri, as she handed me two sheets of 8.5 x 11 acetate, one red, one green, “and wear these with the red lens on your right eye,” as she handed me the latest therapy tool paid for with my $85 supply fee, dorky red/green lens glasses.
The idea is this, which I will demonstrate with photos of the acetate taped to a window (a TV image is too dark to show up in a photo.) Looking at the window with normal eyes without any special glasses, it looks like this picture. Looking at the window with both eyes while wearing the funky red/green lenses, it also looks like this…but darker overall, like when wearing sunglasses (makes sense, right?)
Then I put on the red/green glasses, and something cool happens when only one eye is working. If only my right eye, looking thru the red lens, is working, it looks really red, like this, and the green acetate area turns black:
So I taped my acetate to my TV, I put on my red/green glasses, my husband queued up Deadliest Catch on Teh Netflix, and I proceded to watch the TV program with a big dark 8.5 x 11 black patch, because my left eye was supressed, basically nonstop. It was not what I expected…I expected to just see the TV show. At the very start, I was looking through just the green side, and then it instantly flipped over to the red side, back and forth a little–I can only describe it as a flickering–and then the left eye would go “out”. Even though my left eye was wide-open, it was not seeing. The acetate on the TV was as blacked out as it is when I cover my left eye with my hand.
I did this activity a few more times over the next few days, with tamer shows than Deadliest Catch (for example, I watched radar weather instead.) And I realized that my brain does shut off my left eye, sometimes…especially when that time is late at night, after a long day of looking and living. But I also realized my brain keeps my “deviant” left eye on quite a lot, too.
This exercise was assigned to help me become aware of suppression, and to help me realize, as Jeri says, that “the hardware’s all there.” I imagine there are a heap of red/green anti-suppression exercises and activities for strabbies in vision therapy. I’ve read Squinty Josh’s strabby blog and he has described his card games to help him stop suppressing. But for now, I’m just supposed to be aware of suppression.
This part of my recent vision therapy inspired me to read what author Mitchell Scheiman says on page 235 of his book Understanding and Managing Vision Deficits: A Guide for Occupational Therapists with regards to suppression:
This therapy can be useful for individuals who have the ability to develop normal binocular vision but who are unable to do so because they are actively suppressing the information from one eye…Antisuppression therapy can take many forms. Generally, it requires the individual to wear anaglyphic (red and green) glasses.
Anaglyphic glasses, and here I’ve been calling them dorky glasses! My mistake.