Wide-eyed Wonder: an artist's musings on three-dimensional vision

Some are color blind. I am stereo blind.

Sue Barry teaches the Brock String (Part 1)

with 11 comments

My new toy has only three beads

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells.” — Dr. Seuss

I posted a link to a 9 minute youtube video of Sue Barry’s demonstration of the Brock String exercise on my last progress report. But I doubt everyone took advantage of that link.

There are some incredible epiphany moments that Sue shares that are identical to my own. Sue was, and I am, an alternating esotrope for over 40 years. Until she was 48, Sue used to see out of one eye at a time, and the non-seeing eye would turn in. She did this her whole life, until she began to work with the Brock string and teach herself what normal people learn as infants.

Read the transcript below to understand why, after five weeks of vision therapy, I am out-of-my-mind excited about graduating to a new career with the Brock String at age 52. It’s never too late!


Sue begins by saying her developmental vision therapist, Theresa Ruggerio “taught me how to aim the two eyes at the same place at the same time … what I first did was use a technique called the Brock String, developed by my hero, Frederick W. Brock …

“He was brilliant, an absolute genius. He understood strabismus better than anybody else and he developed techniques for it, and he published a lot in Optometric Weekly in the 1940s, which is why nobody knows of him. But I do have copies of all his papers …”

Sue hands out strings with only one bead to the audience and instructs them to hold the string straight out from the nose, with the bead at the far end, next to the outstretched hand.

“How many beads to you see?” Sue asks.

“One.” The whole audience answers.

“Go-ood!” Sue offers warm positive feedback and the audience chuckles.

“How many strings do you see?” She asks with just a touch of orneriness.

The audience is mostly silent, then you hear ” … two.” … scattered answers from the three braver folks.

“You see two strings!” Sue confirms. “Why? Because you’re fixated on the bead; your two eyes are aiming at the bead. The bead is falling on the same central part of both retinas. But the string, which is in front of the bead, is falling on non-corresponding points of the two retinas … It’s not in the same plane as the bead. It’s in front of the bead, and so you see two images of it.

“The right eye image is the string image on your left and the left eye image is the string image on your right.

“Now take the bead and put it in the middle of the string. … What do you see now?”

(Multiple answers, some saying the strings are crossing)

Susan Barry points to the Brock String "X" made by two eyes fixated on the middle bead.

“So you might see something like this …” (see photo)

“What you’ve got here is the line of sight of both eyes. This is giving you the feedback to know where your two eyes are pointing.

“Now if you’re strabismic like I was, you don’t aim your two eyes at the same point at the same time. For me to learn how to do that (which is an automatic response that most people develop within the first six months of life … I did not) … I need to learn where the two eyes are pointing. How am I going to know where they’re pointing? The Brock String gave me the feedback to know where the two eyes are pointing.

“This to me was (she’s speechless for a second or two) … fantastic. It was just fantastic feedback.

“It wasn’t easy for me to do what you are doing now. What I had to do was start with the bead right about an inch from my nose, where people who are cross-eyed do have a little binocularity … and so I would start at what Brock would call the centration point where I could actually make a normal convergence movement and see one bead and the “X” shape around it.

“And then I would move the bead back a little, and again get the double (string) images and keep moving it back, and back and back, to develop a range where I could make normal movements of my eyes: diverge them for looking further, converge them for looking close. The bead and the string gave me the feedback to know.

“Initially when I moved the [bead] back, the left eye image of the string was going right into the bead, and the right eye image was faint, and somewhere (she waves her right arm) in the wrong place. And now I had the feedback to know how to move my eyes to get them both pointing at the bead. (She brings both hands together and touches her fingers to emphasize the centration point.)

“And then … I didn’t work with just a little short string. Eventually I graduated to an 11 foot string with five beads …

It took me a year to get to the point where I could do five feet, using three different beads. It took me a year to master that, because my whole life had been directed toward turning in one eye and suppressing this. So to get this new way of seeing, it look a long time.”


Now you know what I’ll be doing every day that I can for the next year, and for 5-10 minutes a day for the rest of my life, along with other vision therapy exercises to widen my gaze and improve all my eye-brain connections.

I’ve been at it two weeks, and can see a bead from 4-7″ with that marvelous “X” … and I am working on using two beads, one at 4 or 5″ and one at 7 or 8″, to converge and diverge.


11 Responses

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  1. Hello Lynda,

    I found your blog while trolling the internet for strabismus/ vision therapy blogs and articles. I’m obsessed, too! I am 52 and started vision therapy 5 months ago. I’m an amblyopic esotrope and to the best of my knowledge have never been an alternator. As challenging as it is, I love that string! I’m a professional artist, too, and wonder how/if my view of the world and my art will change.

    All the best to you and all of us who are venturing forward with vision therapy.


    Kari Minnick

    March 8, 2011 at 10:08 pm

    • Kari, welcome to the strabbie sisterhood! (Look some of us up on facebook, too.) I look forward to seeing your art and sharing our vision therapy journeys to seeing what we draw and paint as it really is, in 3D space. Have you read Sue Barry’s book, Fixing My Gaze? It’s inspirational!

      I clicked on your name and it went directly to your website. I love that you have mastered abstract art … so excited to see another strabbie’s work! Mine is lyndarimke.com for art and rimkedesign.com for graphic design.

      Check out Sally’s blog, too. She is esotropic with amblyopia, like you. And I’ve seen artistic talent on some of her facebook photos and in her blog. Josh’s blog is full of great technical stuff explaining why we are doing what we are doing. Both links are in my right hand column under “Blogroll”

      Wishing you great success in art, vision therapy and life!

      Lynda Rimke

      March 9, 2011 at 8:14 am

      • I’ve just discovered you, Josh and Sally this week so I’m still catching up! I marvel at all of you in your ability to keep up blogs. I did view your websites. Wonderful! Abstraction is a huge challenge for me and relatively recent. I have done a lot of work with imagery and text over the years and it’s the basis for much of my teaching. I have started a piece or two based on my vision therapy! Stay tuned…Kari

        Kari Minnick

        March 9, 2011 at 11:24 am

      • I would love to do a post some day with both our thoughts on VT and art. I’ll be glad to share your new creations. It’s more an abstract idea for me right now and so my art hasn’t been affected … yet!

        There is a flood of info to read. I also subscribe to the visionhelps blog and sovoto … tons of info. It can be overwhelming. Sue’s writings and presentations are still my favorites because she is brilliant at presenting just enough technical information to be helpful.

        Lynda Rimke

        March 9, 2011 at 12:58 pm

      • I have read Sue Barry’s book twice and I watch the YouTube videos often. I’m sure there’s been an explosion of VT since the book and NPR segments which caught my attention last summer.

        Kari Minnick

        March 9, 2011 at 11:32 am

  2. I’m glad you are enjoying your Brock string so much! Here’s a fun variation that my vision therapist learned at a conference:

    Wear red/green glasses while doing the Brock string activity. Then you will have one red string and one green string. It’s gives you even more feedback about how your eyes are working, and it can make it easier to keep the strings “on” because they are different colors.


    March 9, 2011 at 11:06 am

    • Great idea! I can use all the clarity I can get.

      Kari Minnick

      March 9, 2011 at 11:25 am

    • Josh, I actually did the red green strings at my last appointment. I’ll have to make a painting some day … they look so purty! ;-)

      Lynda Rimke

      March 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm

      • Sorry, I’m just seeing this comment now. Anyway, yes! Paint red green Brock strings! That would be amazing.


        March 14, 2011 at 1:05 pm

  3. Lynda, this is so exciting!

    I admit–I did not take advantage of your video link (but only ‘coz I’ve already watched it twice!)

    I will be excited for the day when I can see beads like you, and converge & diverge. Eye-aiming is such a milestone! You must be very proud of your strabby self. :) and I look forward to your rendering of the red/green Brock string.


    March 11, 2011 at 8:21 pm

    • LOL … I was thinking of my parents, actually (and other facebook friends who visit sometimes) about not clicking through. And it was hugely helpful for myself to take the time to transcript and get really familiar with how to better communicate what I am doing. Sue B is such an awesome communicator …

      I’m surprised you’re not b-stringing yet. Have they said why?

      It’s bound to be soon! I think my therapist was going to delay it a bit more, but I’ve had to reduce office visits to once a month for a season, and she just let me take a whack at it saying “I know you’ve been waiting patiently …” :-)

      Lynda Rimke

      March 12, 2011 at 5:54 pm

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