Computer therapy

The school district here has been fantastic for Laini academically. But the related services (speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc.) haven’t been as good as she got in Stamford. (Thank you, Norwalk Rehab). The team in Stamford recognized that Laini had signifcant sensory and motor planning issues so the OT & PT worked together with the classroom teachers to address those issues. We all agreed that as long as her handwriting was legible, it wasn’t something to spend a lot of time on.

Here, all the OT does is handwriting. It’s a waste, completely ignoring the bigger issues. Laini is able to do grade-level work, but she has to be in a small classroom with a lot of attention given to her sensory needs in order for her to succeed. I raised the sensory issue at her annual review and I was told “sensory diet is something that you should do at home.” Yes, but….

I got some referrals and we took Laini to see Sara Seemann, an Occupational Therapist in Princeton who specializes in sensory integration issues. She referred us to an audiologist, who found that Laini has central auditory processing issues, and a pediatric opthamologist, who found that Laini has “convergence inefficiencies” which means she can see 20/20 but her eye muscles are weak so she doesn’t track moving objects well. Her sight and hearing are near perfect (audiologist said she can probably hear grass grow), but her brain is not properly interpreting the signals it receives.

When I was a kid, I had similar visual issues and I did visual therapy for a while. What did that mean in the mid 70s? I had to spend 15-20 minutes a day staring at pencils and working my eyes to keep the pencil in focus as I moved it closer to my nose. Gave me headaches.

What does Laini have to do? Play computer games! Five days a week, for about 20 minutes at a stretch, she has to wear 3-D glasses and work through exercises in the HTS vision therapy program. It’s a series of exercises designed to address very specific issues as coded into the system by the eye doctor. Most exercises are a 3-D space invaders-type game that makes the left and right eye muscles work harder in order to keep the moving targets in focus. Her results are uploaded over the Internet to a server that the eye doctor can access to follow her progress. The program runs just fine on the kids’ Mac Mini, and the $200 cost is considered “durable medical equipment” so insurance is covering it as an out-of-network expense (at around 80% after deductible). She’ll also be starting a similar listening program to work on her auditory processing issues (likely something like FastForWord, but we’ll see what the therapist recommends after the reports come in).

This isn’t the first time that there’s been homework from Laini’s therapy, but I always wonder if I’m doing it right or long enough. With the computer, I only have to be there to look over her shoulder for moral support and if there’s a technical glitch. The computer program does the rest, and stops when it’s time to stop. Good stuff. We go back to the eye doctor in two months and we’ll see if the therapy is making any difference. We’re hopeful.


3 responses to “Computer therapy”

  1. Thanks for a good site and discussion. My son also has autism and was the inspiration for developing a web-based application for communication management for families with autistic and special needs kids. It is provided at no charge for everyone. Would love to get your thoughts and reviews on it.