February 24, 2009
Therapy helps improve vision deficits related to illness or injury
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News
Like many of the physical challenges that follow an injury or illness, vision problems can seriously threaten a person’s independence. Take it from Linda Craft of Flowood, who recently had to rely on her 91-year-old mother for rides to work.
Stroke-related vision deficits had robbed Craft of her autonomy. But she’s back in the driver’s seat, thanks to a new form of occupational therapy at Methodist Outpatient Neurological Rehabilitation in Flowood.
Called Low Vision Rehabilitation, the therapy addresses deficits such as blurred vision, double vision and blind spots. Typical causes for such conditions include stroke, traumatic brain injury, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy – all big problems in Mississippi.
“Doctors are welcoming that we offer this service,” said Ashlee Ricotta, one of two Methodist Rehab occupational therapists trained in Low Vision Rehabilitation “It’s a natural fit for occupational therapists because we’re trained to address anything that affects activities of daily living.”
Each rehab candidate undergoes an extensive evaluation process before beginning a customized therapy plan. “A lot of times it is clinic-based therapy, plus home visits,” Ricotta said. “Once we get in the home setting, we can see if they need modifications and what’s already working.”
Craft’s driving problem was related to limitations in her peripheral vision, which called for therapy sessions on Methodist Rehab’s Dynavision 2000 Light Training Board. The wall-mounted electronic device can help improve peripheral attention and other forms of visual function, such as gaze shifting and scanning.
In addition to such high-tech training, people in low-vision therapy also learn simple compensation strategies, such as using magnifiers or contrasting ink and paper colors for printed materials.
“It has been real interesting,” said Craft, director of accounting for First Baptist Church in Jackson. “I didn’t realize all the equipment and different aids they have to help you. It’s just phenomenal.”
Craft said the experience taught her not to take her vision for granted. And she’s also grateful that Methodist Rehab had the foresight to add low vision rehab to its list of services. “A facility like this, you don’t realize how valuable it is until you need it,” she said.
For more information on Low Vision Rehabilitation, call 601-936-8889.
Methodist Rehab therapists employ a variety of strategies to help patients address visual problems caused by illness or injury. Here. Linda Craft works on the Dynavision 2000 Light Training Board, an electronic device that can help improve peripheral attention, gaze shifting and scanning.