My own pilot study: Microwaves’ effectiveness in increasing compliance with vision training

The solution was there, sitting in the corner of the kitchen all along. My microwave timer has saved patching. The  obtrusive but helpful-in-a-pinch black box has also helped salvage the vision therapy we do at home. Cue an annoying series of loud, celebratory beeps!

It makes sense. The only reason women endure childbirth is because we know that it will end in a few (okay, maybe 32) hours. It’s a relatively short timetable. This is why, at the Cape Cod Bay Basketball Camp, I managed to swallow suffering and push myself to the limit of heat exhaustion and muscle failure during drills on sizzling hot blacktop that threatened to melt the soles of my black Nike hightops. It’s how I now carry my giant toddler home from the park down the street, when we’re running behind which is always, even when my arm is about to detach and my grimace nearly devours my face. The end is in sight.

Over recent weeks, Stella did her best to refuse to patch. Which meant I spent all day trying to eek out small periods of patching in order to accumulate two hours’ worth. But last week, the answer suddenly came to me. I took her hand and led her to the holy shrine of now-passe cooking technology that is the microwave, and said, “It’s patching time. So we’re going to set the timer for 90 minutes, and when the timer beeps, you can take it off yourself!” I said it the way you would say, oh, “We’re going to Disney World right now. When this timer goes off, you can eat ice cream while riding the tea cups with Mickey Mouse!” As if Tinkerbell had cast a magic spell, Stella quietly allowed me put the patch on the glasses and place them on her face without any fight or resistance or complaint whatsoever. It has been working ever since. Trust me this is just as miraculous as, say, seeing Jesus in a piece of toast.

So yesterday I tried applying this super brilliant countdown strategy to vision therapy. We are currently only doing very physical, “vestibular” activities (spinning, rolling, etc.), and they go fast (you know, when they go). I turned into Jack Bauer, set the timer for 15 minutes, and informed Stella that we had to do four eye games before the timer went off. I told her this with the urgency of a counter-terrorist expert called in to thwart an impending explosion. Only my voice was much, much higher, more enthusiastic. It helped! Though by about 10 minutes, we were significantly derailed by someone’s whining and avoidance tactics. So, I’ll split “eye games” up into two 10-minute sessions, spread apart, and see how it goes. Aaaaaand that sentence shows clearly how such mind-numbing minutia has officially taken over my life. Hey, we do what works, and you’ve got to celebrate the little triumphs (our children’s and our own), right? RIGHT? [Insert guzzle of wine directly from the bottle.]

Please excuse me while I go high-five Stella and snuggle with the microwave.


  1. Lynda Rimke · March 12, 2011

    What a huge break through— I’m so happy for you both.

    Does Stella ever complain about motion sickness? I’ve been getting it after my exercises when sessions go longer than 10-15 min, and sometimes I just have to quit before I would like because it becomes counterproductive.

  2. Jim Mayer, OD, FCOVD · March 12, 2011

    I love the psychology of only “x” number of minutes to go! Stella’s response is wonderful. And everyone wins because of the microwave timer – brilliant. Thanks for sharing what might seem to be a tidbit but can be a great nugget.

  3. Mandy Smith · March 14, 2011

    Oh my gosh, you crack me up! I love reading your blog. My son (almost 2) just got his first pair of glasses last week. So far, so good! Luckily we don’t have to do any patching (at least not yet) but if the day comes I will def. use your blog as a reference!

  4. kathleen · March 15, 2011

    Way to be creative! Nice work, Mama!

  5. Mimi · March 16, 2011

    You continue to be wicked smaht!

  6. olga · March 19, 2011

    i would also go high-five the microwave and snuggle stella. just to have it all covered, you know?
    that’s an impressive girl and mama you’ve got going there. seriously, 90minutes? an eternity in their worlds! you’re totally rockin’ it.

    [demure glugs of port here, while hoping the toddler coughing calms down soon…]

  7. Juni'sMu · February 19, 2012

    Hi Amber,

    Only just discovered this blog, which surprises me, as I’ve been casting a destructive deep sea bottom scraping net wide for about 17 months since my little girl was diagnosed with an optic nerve coloboma in one eye (she’s now 20 months so we found it very early due to delayed visual function and no eye contact with her distressed Mummy). She also subsequently has amblyopia and a little strabismus too as the icing on top of her cupcake. Anyway, thank you first of all for elucidating all the intricacies of your journey together. I’ll keep reading. I am familiar with the excellent Little Four Eyes site.

    We too have to patch daily, but only for 30 minutes, so I guess it’s less punishing than 90 minutes; however thought worth sharing my tricks of the trade with you. First of all we use Masteraid Ortopad patches and they are brilliant (currently the junior size, for 0-2’s). We need a new one each day but we turn that into a game whereby Juniper gets to choose the patch (there are 5 different designs, and they do a range for boys and girls), remove it from the packet, and then I put it on her (miraculously she doesn’t struggle most of the time). She then tends to go straight to the mirror these days to check herself out and interact. I use the normal oven timer and when she’s done I remove it, but I expect she will soon learn to do that herself.

    I expect I’ll become a regular poster here, but bye for now!

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