Langley Willauer
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  • Hope, ME
  • United States
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Geographic engineer
I have alternating esotropia and I can fixate my eyes independently. This got its start young as my left eye had over four diopters of astigmatism. I’ve never had stereo vision but have otherwise functioned well visually all my life.

I just completed my first month of home exercises in vision therapy, tomorrow I see my vision therapist for the second time (it’s a long trip, so I go once a month). I’m not sure that what we’re doing is the right way to fix what I have. I’ve read her materials and they are all focused on children and a few adults with specific symptoms, none like mine. I’ve joined two Facebook groups and read of others doing vision therapy, but no one is doing what I’m trying. And as an engineer/computer scientist type, I’m not satisfied with any of the measurements that have been made, the prism tests seemed perfunctory and inaccurate. And vision therapy seems like something that’s ripe for a technological infusion, like what Robert Hess is doing at McGill University.

As I said, I was born with a 4-diopter astigmatism in my left eye. In kindergarten I remember having my right lens fogged for a time. I wore glasses that corrected my left eye to 20/20 and did nothing to my right eye, already 20/20. They stopped fogging within a year, maybe my eyes were more aligned? In third grade (age eight) I abandoned my glasses and didn’t think another thing of it until starting office work at age 24. I wore glasses then until about age 34 when I wore a single contact in my right eye for ten years. Since then I’ve gone back to glasses, so both eyes are again corrected. To make things more complicated (for vision therapy) I have progressive lenses. Both eyes still correct to 20/20.

Some history: I was called “spastic” on the playground basketball court (age 12), I think because I was using motion parallax to judge distances, but I don’t know. I played soccer in high school, in college I rowed.

When rowing I noticed that both I and another rower with no stereo vision had a similar flaw: lack of coordination in rough water. My theory is that rowers use stereo vision to help them stay oriented when eight people attempt to propel a narrow, 60-foot craft in choppy seas. I remember being very disoriented in rough water.

And one day on Maine’s iconic Knife Edge, leaving Mount Katahdin’s summit, I was trying to keep up with experienced hikers ahead. I was at the limit of my perceptual abilities, judging the leaps from boulder to boulder. At one point I misjudged, slipped, and caught myself before pitching over the 1,000’ drop. I then realized that I needed to slow way down, that leaping from rock to rock is more difficult without stereo vision.

I’ve known about my lack of stereo vision and in fact have been asking my eye doctors about it periodically for twenty years. They always said that I could not achieve stereo vision, “[because of your astigmatism] you won’t be able to fuse the two images,” or some other reason.

Along comes Sue Berry on Fresh Air and I say, “Whoa!” After a year, I order the book, and then, in a quiet moment last winter, I pick it up. A week later I’m giddy, perhaps there’s a way?

And so I got a recommendation and signed up. My current eye doctor asked if I wanted a referral, and I declined. The eye doctors have not been helpful in this journey.

Going into my second visit I’m asking a lot of questions. I’ve discovered that vision therapy takes a lot of time. Can technology help? How, when, and why should I patch? How much Brock String work? What other work? Is what I’m attempting even possible? Has anyone ever done it who shared my history? What am I learning, actually, to not repress the “unused” eye? I seem to do a lot of shifting rapidly back and forth on the Brock string to try and see X’s.

I’m prepared to give this nine months of daily effort. But like Columbus, information about what’s over the horizon would be useful.

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