Eye Exercises for a Visual Field Cut
Eye visual field cuts are almost always the result of brain injury, including stroke, traumatic brain injury and cancer. Eye exercises are used by speech and occupational therapists to retrain your brain and the eye to attend to the entire visual field and interpret the data the optic nerve receives. Although eye exercises rarely completely restore the entire visual field perception, an article published in the Journal of Neurology notes that eye exercises can significantly improve visual field awareness with long term effectiveness.
Start with a simple black and white outline drawing, such as a coloring book picture that has not been colored in. The two-color structure provides a reduced-stimulation activity that will not be distracting to you in the early stages of eye rehabilitation. Make sure to choose a picture with multiple objects that you can be challenged to locate. Place the picture directly in front of you and locate different objects on the side of the picture that corresponds with your visual field cut. Consciously turn your eyes to both sides of the picture without turning your head. Have an assitant provide cues to you to help you locate objects if you cannot do it on your own.
Place multiple everyday items on the table directly in front of you. Consider using items such as a hair brush, scissors, apple and eyeglasses. Without moving your head, try to locate and identify the items that you see. Have an assistant notify you if you did not locate some items on the side of your visual field cut. Ask your assistant provide a description of the item you neglected, such as color or function and look again for the items. Remember that with a visual field cut you may also have verbalization loss, which would limit your ability to participate in this activity until speech therapy can facilitate increased word use.
Scanning an Advertisement
Once you have partially rehabilitated your visual field cut, increase the intensity of the exercises to further enhance your visual awareness. Look through a local advertisement from the newspaper from a store that the you enjoy shopping at. Have your assistant ask you to locate specific items in the ad, particularly an item located on the side of the paper that is identical to your field cut. Or the assistant can ask you to locate every item that is a certain price.
Locate the Word
Scan through an article and circle every time the word "the" is written in the article. Your assistant can provide clues such as telling you how many circles they should have. Also, you or your assistant can draw a colored line down the center of the page using a highlighter to give yourself a visual point of reference to know where to look in order to find words that you may have missed.
- Willard and Spackman's Occupational Therapy, Maureen E. Neidstadt and Elizabeth Blesedell Crepeau, 1998
- Springer Link: Eye-movement Training-induced Changes of Visual Field Representation in Patients with Post-stroke Hemianopia
Melissa Sabo is an occupational therapist who started writing professional guidebooks for all Flagship Rehabilitation employees in 2009. Specializing in applied therapy and exercise for non-medical readers, she also coauthored a manual on wheelchair positioning. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy.