Yesterday was sunny and crisp. A Golden Delicious apple of a day. Okay, a frozen one. I’d recently read about how incredibly important and beneficial outdoor time is to kids’ eyesight, and was determined to whisk Stella off to the neighborhood park immediately after her nap. Stella woke up, and after wasting about 30 to 45 minutes doing absolutely nothing in particular, I removed the eye patch from her glasses and we headed out on foot.
Half a block into our walk, which was really more of a run, Stella seemed to have a revelation. I saw it before she said a word. She suddenly paused, looked around, smiled, and excitedly exclaimed, “I can see with BOTH eyes!” She went on to make this declaration at least twenty times. “Mommy! I can see with BOTH eyes! I can see the leaves. I can see the berries. I can see with BOTH eyes! Mommy! I see with BOTH EYES!” While she was having a great time, seeing with BOTH eyes, my mind raced to interpret this statement in relation to her amblyopia and strabismus and vision therapy. I tried not to let my hopes soar, and simply focused on the happiness of the moment. She was thrilled. I was spellbound and silent, mostly. I did say, “Yes, you CAN! You can see with BOTH eyes.”
What did Stella mean, exactly? It could be clear, simple, and run-of-the-mill. Even with her amblyopia, Stella does see with both eyes–with one more than the other, but still. I see with both eyes, as do most people, obviously. Was she simply making a smart, toddler-esque realization about the world and how it works? Or was a shift taking place in her vision? The whole point of our current vision therapy and patching efforts is to help her see with BOTH eyes, equally. Out of nowhere, she was expressing the essence of everything.
I mentioned the incident to Stella’s vision therapist today, and naturally, she found it very interesting. We both acknowledged that because Stella is two, it’s hard to know why she was saying that she can see with both eyes. But yes. Be still my beating heart! It could be that her eyes are working together better. Binocular fusion and increased stereoscopy (3D vision) could certainly create such an excited and interested reaction. On the other hand, it’s also possible that she’s seeing double–which isn’t necessarily bad. Sometimes kids in vision therapy see double here and there as their brains figure out the path to binocular fusion. But I don’t think that’s it, because she had no trouble grabbing small berries or pebbles, no difficulty running fearlessly up and down the small but steep slope that runs parallel to the sidewalk. She made eye contact with me frequently and purposefully.
When Stella’s eyes crossed severely on that day last April, the day that (thankfully) set us on the path to glasses and patching and vision therapy, she couldn’t see or do much of anything. Eye contact was impossible. She could walk, but not as steadily, and if told to walk to mommy, she’d miss me completely and sail by to my left, aiming at one of the two inaccurate, fuzzy mommy images that she saw. Her arms flailed in front of her, grasping. She wasn’t scared. She seemed dazed and thoroughly amused, playing around in the blurry void. Nothing of this sort happened yesterday. There was a general feeling of clarity, in the way she spoke and behaved. Regardless of what Stella was actually seeing and experiencing, I view this small but striking incident as positive development. Even if her vision was not being transformed in that moment, it was still wonderful to hear and behold.
Due to a rough night of broken sleep, today’s vision therapy session was challenging. Stella was tired, and her fuse was short. But we did some solid work, and learned some new exercises. During the long-ish drive home, again I noticed something out of the ordinary. I looked back several times to see Stella positively beaming. Smiling such a sweet, powerful grin while gazing at something specific–one time it was the cherries hanging from the rear-view mirror. Stella smiles a lot, but this was different. Focused, for no obvious reason. We were listening to NPR, so I know music wasn’t the spark for her pronounced delight. I think it was her eyes again. Maybe she was seeing double and found it entertaining. Or perhaps she was seeing the world in full depth and dimension. How beautiful that would be.