WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) – Occupational therapist Amanda Whipple was the first person from Wisconsin to be certified in low vision rehabilitation. She’s now one of five people statewide, but it’s still a small number for a type of treatment that can bring hope to so many.
Whipple said she first became interested in the discipline during her studies. She worked with stroke patients who had vision problems, and she said that even though people learned in rehabilitation to learn to work on movement and coordination, vision was largely overlooked.
âI was really looking for some type of occupational therapy branch where I could help these people who were basically told to go home and take care of them. And that’s what brought me to low vision rehabilitation, âshe said.
Low vision therapy uses various exercises to relearn the brain to respond to visual stimuli. It also teaches the patient to approach vision in a new way, playing on the strengths of the injured eye to compensate for its weaknesses.
Patient Donald Voight fell into therapy after a chance conversation with Whipple. His wife was seeing the therapist to treat his macular degeneration, and he happened to mention some problems he had himself.
âI had a central retinal vein occlusion that basically took my left eye and put it on a shelf somewhere so I really couldn’t see outside and I had about 10% of my left eye. optic nerve, âhe said.
This condition causes partial or total closure of the main vein which drains blood from the retina. This put a lot of pressure on her eye, and after several injections and surgeries, her doctor told her it was a lost cause. Whipple disagreed.
âIf we can strengthen the eye, work on endurance, also make changes to the environment so that they can do things like go out to eat with their friends and family without shying away from that, that’s my goal really. as an occupational therapist is to get them back to doing the things they love, âshe said.
Voight said he was skeptical of the exercises at first, calling them weird. After five months of treatment, however, he went from an inability to read or interpret letters as large as three inches tall to reading 20 point characters.
“I learned a lot just coming here and it is obvious now that as long as I keep doing the exercises she gave me, I can now read and I read two articles yesterday”, a- he declared.
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