Stella’s developmental optometrist views patching as a first step in amblyopia treatment. Patching (in our case, Magic tape over the lens of the stronger eye) boosts the acuity of the weaker eye. Stella’s lazy eye is growing stronger, and vision therapy is more and more focused on training her eyes to work together for strong binocular fusion, in an effort to encourage stereoscopy, prevent or minimize regression and provide a lasting fix.
Stella’s daily patching time now feels pretty turn-key, even though (as is my nature) I do it on the fly. She does a solid hour, at least, first thing in the morning, kicked off by some video watching. Sometimes it says on and patching is done by late morning. Sometimes patching is completed in two or three chunks. I seize opportunities strategically. If she’s engrossed with a toy that demands a ton of hand-eye coordination, I’ll throw on her patch to give her amblyopic eye a workout. We’ve got patching down! Vision therapy? Or more accurately, getting 20 to 30 solid minutes of vision therapy done at home? Still a challenge. But as her weaker eye improves, the nature of her vision therapy is changing. The latest exercises seeming to provide more improvement bang for our frustration buck. So we’re trying harder than ever.
Ever since Stella’s vision therapy progress evaluation which showed great gains, we’ve been doing a bit of what Susan Barry discusses on page 150 of Fixing My Gaze: monocular fixation in a binocular field (MFBF). This means that instead of being completely excluded via the patch, the stronger eye is merely put at a disadvantage. Her dominant eye is still able to receive and contribute visual input, allowing the eyes to work together, but the amblyopic eye is forced to do the heavy lifting. Several doctors/researchers, over several decades, have endorsed the effectiveness of this approach (Brock, Cohen and Hess for starters). Our experience with MFBF is limited but growing.
Almost every day, Stella dons a green-tinted patch over her strong eye and watches a video on our TV, the center of which is covered by a transparent red sheet. Her strong eye can’t see what’s in the red area thanks to the green tint, but it can still see what’s going on the periphery. In order to take in all the action and view the complete picture, her un-patched amblyopic eye has to pick up the slack and garner what is usually the most important part of the scene (whatever is centered, like close-ups of facial expressions, etc.). Her eyes are working together but her weaker eye has to perform at a higher level, setting the stage for binocular fusion. This work counts as patching time, so hooray for that!