VALDOSTA — Not every problem can be fixed, but Specialized Occupational Therapist Adrienne Broadfoot thinks the impact of some issues can be diminished through training and retraining. Though she says she didn’t end up following her mom’s lead and becoming a school teacher, one could argue that her practice is very much an institute of education. at her Insight Therapy Service near South Georgia Medical Center, Broadfoot teaches visually impaired babies, children, adults and seniors how to optimize their use of the visual capacities they still have. “We’re helping people achieve things that are important to them,” says Broadfoot. “It’s nice to see the difference you make in people’s lives when you help them.” She uses prisms, pegboards, polarized filters, computer software, balance boards and high-powered lenses to teach patients how to get the most out of the visual capacities. The University of Alabama at Birmingham and Valdosta High school alumnus said her husband, a dentist, encouraged her to open the practice here. She said they wanted to move their family back to Valdosta from Birmingham, where she had worked with a team of optometrists to offer visual rehab and eye care services from the same building. however, she said she was hesitant to move back home to Valdosta because there were no visual rehab practices in town. After receiving her masters in occupational therapy at UAB, she supplemented it with a certificate in specialized occupational therapy with a focus in visual therapy and low vision rehab. with a few years of general rehab work at South Georgia Medical Center and contract work at Wilson Eye Care Center, Broadfoot decided to strike out on her own and she launched Insight Therapy Service, LLC, in December of last year. “I love what I do, but it really just all fell into place,” says Broadfoot. “It’d be easier to go back to work in a general rehab facility than in a specialty practice, but this is what I do and I love it — and I’ve invested so much of myself into my work.” Her facility has filled a void between Atlanta and Tallahassee, which are the only other visual rehab services available to our area. Business license filed and equipment ordered, Broadfoot’s practice now is at cruising speed as it utilizes a variety of office and home-based exercises in order to rehabilitate her patient's eyes. People of all ages relearn to converge their binocular focus — the teaming of the eyes to form a single image — and effectively track the motion of object with their ocular motor visual systems. She essentially teaches people things that 20/20'ers learn involuntarily, and with little effort in most cases. Visually impaired individuals and their loved ones may not always be aware of their visual deficiencies. Broadfoot says she’s rehabbed patients who were once thought to have problems in reading comprehension, and she sends them to a physician for evaluation. She’s helped adults who’d loss their independence after a stroke or through the creeping, corroding effects of macular degeneration, a disease that softens the visual focus of sufferers over the age of 50. But there is help for the visually impaired and their families, even for those whose visual capacities are impaired beyond the help of contact lenses and Lasik surgery. Step into Broadfoot’s classroom, a full-feature ocular rehabilitation laboratory, for an orientation session. you may find out that there is help for their diagnosed visual problems or that their child’s eyes are to blame for a learning shortfall. Lecture One, Pre-K “For babies with visual impairments, I do more of a developmental and functional visual evaluation. their eye doctor determines what their vision is and what I look at is how it’s interfering with their development,” says Broadfoot’s. “with kids, there are a lot of different toys and things that I use in the therapeutic process – and a lot of it focuses on using everyday activities in a therapeutics way.” The following items are a list of warning signs that Broadfoot cautions parents to look out for in their babies’ development: • Poor development of motor abilities, mobility, and the ability to manipulate toys • Difficulty with spatial awareness and environmental exploration • Difficulty with feeding, toileting, and dressing (peer comparison) • Resistive to textured foods, hair and dental care • Difficulty engaging in play • Difficulty recognizing face of caregiver • Poor communication skills • Rocking, eye poking, or excessive eye-rubbing • Poor localization of sound • Excessive fussiness • Resistance to change/new environment. Lecture two, K-12 Broadfoot says children and preteens start to experience a big difference in the first six weeks. “a lot of kids come in because they have horrible headaches,” says Broadfoot. “They’ll have their eyes checked, try different medication and have an MRI, all of which needs to be done. they come to me as a last resort and often times I’ll find it’s just inefficiencies in the way their eye muscles work. I feel like I’m helping." according to Broadfoot, the following are a list of symptoms that parent’s should watch for in their children’s visual development: blur • headache • eyestrain/fatigue • fatigue or sleepiness • squinting or rubbing eyes • poor reading comprehension • avoidance of reading • slow to complete board work • frequent loss of place • slow reading speed • difficulty copying from the board • covering an eye while reading • titling head while reading. Lecture Three, Post Secondary school and Adult Education “There was a woman with macular degeneration who couldn’t drive anymore — it was a huge loss of independence,” said Broadfoot. “She wanted to continue teaching Sunday school at her church. The first time she stopped by, we looked at some adaptive technology and compensatory techniques. soon she was able to read, not like before, but she could go to church, read off of PowerPoints and continue teaching her Sunday school class.” Broadfoot says a look at driving and reading habits can reveal symptoms of serious visual impairment in adults. here are signs to look for in adults to determine if they are experiencing pronounced visual impairment, especially adults who’ve suffered a brain injury such as a stroke: • Ignores or misses objects/ people on one side • Difficulty scanning/finding people/objects • easily frustrated in a visually complex environments • Hesitates when approaching curb or subtle change in support surface • Misses curb or does not see it until directly on top of it • Trips when transitioning between support surfaces of similar hue • Bumps into/trips on obstacles • uses hands to guide self • keeps eyes shut with light • Complains that print looks too fuzzy, small or faint • Complains of inability to bring print into focus with Broadfoot’s short orientation session coming to a close, the specialized occupational therapist says it’s not a one sided relationship with her patients. She learns a lot from her patients. “when you work with a lot of people from all walks of life, they teach you things,” says Broadfoot. “I spend an hour a week or more with individual patients over the course of several months, and I feel like I’ve acquired a lot of good relationships with people of all ages and from all walks of life.” before Broadfoot can start to provide you or a loved one with visual rehab therapy, a referral must be issued from a physician or optometrist. Learn more about Insight Therapy Services, LLC online at www.otvisiontherapy.com, by phone at 229-247-0038 or stop by in person at 302 University Drive, Suite #2, Valdosta, Ga. 31602.