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Equipment: Six-foot length of string, yardstick/meter stick/3 foot dowel (like a short broom stick), colourful thumb tack (so long as you can easily see it stuck on the end of the dowel/yardstick), button/bead/target.
Method: These exercises emphasize VSA (pursuits, saccades, accommodation, fixations, and peripheral awareness) and reinforced by gross body movement and awareness. The instructions are not entirely clear, so imagine the following:
The child is standing straight. Her one arm is to her side, the other is stretched out in front of her and in the hand of the outstretched arm she is holding a stick (dowel/yardstick, etc) straight up and down. The stick is about 3 feet long, and she is holding it near the bottom with her preferred hand, so that the top of the stick is directly in front of her eyes. There is a thumbtack stuck to the top of the stick. A string about 6 feet long is tied to the tack. About 16 inches from the other end of the string (that is, the loose end) is tied/affixed a button, bead, or some other small target. (A Brock String may be substituted, with one end attached to the tack at the end of the stick/dowel.)
The client is asked to hold the loose end of the string to her nose using her non-dominant hand. She is also told to keep the string taught by stretching her other arm outwards, extending the stick and tack as far away from her nose as she can. Now, the exercise begins.
At first, the client is standing still. The child should hold the tack straight out in front of the nose, as far as possible while keeping the string taught. She should start moving the tack slowly side to side, keeping the head steady and facing forward while following the tack with the eyes only. Move the target (the tack) within a comfortable range of vision only; the target should move towards the edge of vision left and right, but not so far the eyes have to strain to see it. Repeat this 12 times. Later, when loading the task, the range of movement may be gently extended equally on both sides. When this simple task is mastered, try repeating the movement, but move the stick vertically: Move it high above the head, then bring it down the the waist level and back again. Again, do 12 repetitions. The movement should be steady (from extreme to another and back in 4 seconds or so at first) and easy at first. The child should repeat the exercise with the non-dominant hand holding the stick and the non-dominant hand holding the string to her nose.
Next, repeat the exercises, but alternate focus and attention from the tack to the button (target) and back. Again, start slowly and with simple movements left and right, up and down. Encourage the child to be sure that she sees the tack clearly before she looks at the button, then the button must be clear before she looks back to the tack. This way, you can be sure she is actually fixating the desired target. She should try to continue to move the stick/dowel smoothly while alternating her fixation between the button and the tack.
Try different movements:
- • Circles, clockwise, counterclockwise
- • Figure 8s (clockwise then counterclockwise)
Once this is fairly easy to do:
- • Speed things up using a metronome.
- • Have the child repeat the movements while walking slowly around the room.
- • Have the child hold her head steady and follow the target with her eyes only. Do horizontal and vertical movements, gently extending the range of sight by moving the target slowly beyond the limits of vision. Then, have the child continue watching while you slowly bring the target back into view, then again through it’s path to the other extreme where again you move the target out of the limit of sight and back.