Community Meeting Recap: Ocutherapy with Alex Theodorou

BY: JULIA RENAUD

BIST’s August Community Meeting was an Ocutherapy demonstration with Alex Theodorou.

Picture of Community Meeting Speaker Alex Theodorou, Founder & CEO of Ocutherapy.
Alex Theodorou

 About Alex

  • Alex’s father sustained a stroke in 2005, changing the lives of him and his family forever.
  • This event lead Alex to pursue a master’s degree in neurolinguistics from McMaster University. He wanted to find a way to improve the lives of people living with Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and other cognitive difficulties.
  • In 2016, Alex came up with the idea of Ocutherapy, a Toronto-based Virtual Reality (VR) program aimed at improving speed of recovery for individuals in post-acute care rehabilitation programs. The company was launched in 2018 and its momentum is strong.

Ocutherapy uses virtual reality to bring together patient and practitioner to inspire, motivate, and educate in the recovery journey. [It] offer[s] interactive experiences that make the healing process both engaging and intuitive.

 Health care and brain injury

  • ABI is one of the most common neurological conditions.
  • Treating ABI can be costly to the health care system and patients may receive limited treatment.
  • Limited care, high drop-out rates, and potential for re-injury can leave patients feeling defeated.

Clip art of a person in a science lab, with seekers, computers and lab equipment

 Features of Ocutherapy:

Patient-centered

  • The program learns from the user to determine the level of difficulty.
  • It tailors its exercises to help train the areas of the brain and skills that are most important to each individual.
  • A check-in is included at the end of each game to get feedback about how the user felt the game went.

Utilizes a connected rehabilitation approach.

  • Data can be easily accessed by health-care workers to better track the progress of each patient.

Beneficial and fun!

  • There are different tasks involved with each game allowing the individual to stave off boredom while focusing on key areas of the brain.
  • Works on fine motor movements and can enhance quality of life.

Accessible

  • The virtual reality headset and controller make Ocutherapy portable, improving access to care.
  • The headset can be worn with or without glasses.
  • The headset also utilizes bone conduction technology. This permits the user to hear the sound without having their ears covered and, if you aren’t the wearer, you don’t hear any of the sound at all, which is very cool!

Intuitive

  • Since Ocutherapy throws away the traditional method of therapy*, it learns from the user and adapts the program accordingly all while tracking progress.

*For me this involved the wall clock, laser and stick pointers, tones of papers and tape everywhere to name only a few. Also, if I never had to see the letter ‘A’ again, I would be completely fine with that!

Who could benefit from Ocutherapy?:

  • Ocutherapy aims to improve speed of recovery for individuals in post acute care rehabilitation programs.
  • Benefiting individuals include those who have experienced or continue to experience effects from:
      • ABI
      • Neurodegenerative disease (such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s)
      • Aging
  • Ocutherapy may aid with memory, attention, spacial orientation, brain fog, and mood, to name a few.
  • Due to the nature of the VR device, Ocutherapy may not be ideal for individuals with:
      • Visual impairment that cannot be corrected by glasses.
      • Motor impairment affecting the hands.

Why haven’t I heard about Ocutherapy before?

  • Ocutherapy is in its early stages and is in the midst of being trialed and tweaked.
  • Early testing has been conducted; however, Alex and his team continue to adapt the program, improving its accessibility, technology, and ease of use.

Want more info about Ocutherapy?

  • Check out the official website: www.ocutherapy.com where you can meet the team, read articles about Ocutherapy and watch Alex’s Tedx Talk.
  • Have any ideas, suggestions, or questions? Alex and his team would love to hear from you!

Julia Renaud is a ABI survivor with a passion for learning new things, trying new activities, and meeting new people – all of which have led her to writing this column. She is an advocate within the health care community and has been featured in the coffee table book, A Caged Mind by May Mutter, which exposes the nature of concussions through body painting.

 

 

TTC subway line numbers: what do you think?

At our October community meeting, BIST member Shireen Jeejeebhoy spoke to us about her concerns with the change of TTC subway line names to numbers.

picture of TTC subway signs
PHOTO VIA SHIREEN JEEJEEBHOY 

To summarize, Shireen thinks the subway line renaming, and TTC signage create cognitive and navigational challenges for people living with brain injury, and possibly people living with other kinds of disabilities as well.

Shireen also spoke about her experience at the TTC Public Forum on Accessible Transit this September, which she attended with BIST board member Kerry Foschia.

You can read more about  Shireen’s thoughts on the subway line name changes, and her recap of the TTC meeting on her blog, jeejeebhoy.ca.

Many members shared Shireen’s concerns about this issue, and expressed interest in contacting the TTC about their thoughts on TTC subway number lines and other accessibility issues.

Shireen has provided the following contact information for anyone to wants to share their concerns about the TTC:

TTC officials

Ian Dickson, Manager, Design and Wayfinding  https://twitter.com/ttcdesign or Ian.dickson@ttc.ca

Brad Ross, Head of Communications  https://twitter.com/bradttc or brad.ross@ttc.ca

PHOTO VIA SHIREEN JEEJEEBHOY
PHOTO VIA SHIREEN JEEJEEBHOY

TTC contact info for complaints, suggestions or compliments

For help with questions and concerns 7am-10pm 7 days/week: 416-393-3030; https://twitter.com/TTChelps

The TTC’s online form for complaints, suggestions or compliments

For service updates – When a service update gets tweeted, Shireen re-tweets it with the original line name and adds #accessibility in the post https://twitter.com/TTCnotices

For more information, you can contact Shireen via her Twitter or through her blog.

August community meeting: positive affirmations

At our August community meeting, BIST programs and services coordinator Kat Powell taught us about positive affirmations. After her talk, we made affirmation baskets – creating beautiful places to put our positive affirmations in and read when we need to.

a sample of affirmation baskets

Positive affirmations stem from a psychological theory which became popular in the late 1980s, coined by Claude SteeleAffirmations can be negative or positive, and it’s important to work on positive self-affirmations as a way to help ourselves and believe in ourselves. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, self-affirmation is:

The recognition and assertion of the existence and value of one’s individual self.

Negative affirmations, such as thinking ‘I’m no good at this’, are easy. How many times a day do you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, or self-critiquing? Negative affirmations erode at our self-esteem and happiness over time.

We generate many affirmations throughout the day, and when we doubt ourselves, the negative affirmations can cancel out whatever positive affirmations we have. This is why it’s important to develop your positive self-talk, think of it like building muscle,  so that you’re strong enough emotionally for when you need it the most.

Two BIST members work on affirmation baskets

To make our baskets, Kat brought some samples of positive affirmations she had found online. BIST members chose which ones suited them, and then decorated plastic baskets to hold their affirmations.

Most people used bright coloured tissue paper to decorate.

BIST member holds up finished affirmation basket

You can find many examples of positive affirmations online, including these two sites for  people living with brain injury and their families / caregivers:

3 tips for writing affirmations

There are also many examples of creating affirmation jars online – they range from the super-simple, to the very complex – for the more artistically inclined:

BIST member works on Affirmation basket

NEXT COMMUNITY MEETING: SEPTEMBER 28th, 6-8 p.m.
TOPIC: POSITIVE PSYCHOLOLOGY
MORE INFO