(Repost from article by Joy Thomas from Crixeo Magazine)

AN ACCIDENT UNLOCKED JASON PADGETT’S MATHEMATICAL AND ARTISTIC POTENTIAL, MAKING HIM ONE OF ONLY 40 PEOPLE IN THE WORLD WITH ACQUIRED SAVANT SYNDROME.

Jason Padgett, who has acquired savant syndrome, says he wouldn’t change any of the pain he underwent after being beaten, as he now sees the world in an overlay of geometric fractals that he believes hold answers to some of life’s biggest questions.

With the popularity of shows like The OA, The 4400 and Second Chance, questions about the human brain’s hidden abilities surface, leaving many of us to wonder what price we’d pay to unlock hidden neurological gems. Though these shows are fictional, the brain science behind some of them is not. And there are real-life people to prove it.

Read more…

Acquired Savant Syndrome: Meet an Accidental Genius

(Repost of article by Joy Thomas from Crixeo Magazine)

MANY PEOPLE SEE THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN SERVICE DOG AND HANDLER AS A BEAUTIFUL, SYMBIOTIC BOND, BUT SOME ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVISTS VIEW IT AS HARMFUL. ARE SERVICE ANIMALS ‘HAPPY’ WORKING? WE ASKED THE EXPERTS.

Amanda Bagwell-Chase, a self-proclaimed animal rights activist, proudly wears a T-shirt displaying a lion’s paw print next to a human handprint, referring to Cecil the Lion and symbolizing unity between animals and humans. But on several occasions Bagwell-Chase has been the target of public ridicule while wearing this shirt. The reason? She wears it while holding the harness of her service dog, Patsy.

Read more…

Service Animals: A ‘Chosen’ Career Path or a Life of Servitude?

The question of “How are your eyes?” pops up from time to time at a social gathering with friends or a holiday meal with extended family.  I don’t find this question rude or intrusive, but I’m never quite sure how to answer.  Especially when the question often seems to come out of nowhere – not even closely related to the last topic of conversation.  Is the question being asked as a polite “How are you?” to which a “Fine” or “Okay” is expected.  Or is the questioner hoping for a detailed description of my last trip to the optholmologist? Did they see me accidentally dip my finger in the salsa bowl, thus prompting them to wonder how much more vision I’ve’ lost since they saw me last?

My typical response goes something like, “Well, RP is like getting older – it happens so slowly over time that you don’t notice the changes on a day to day basis.  Yes, my eyes are worse than they were 5 years ago, but I can’t exactly define how worse.” The questioner typically changes the subject as abruptly as they started it, leaving me to wonder if I’d given a clear enough answer.

A recent trip to a retina specialist at the Casey Eye Institute provides an updated answer to the “how are your eyes” question for those interested in details. Continue reading

20247589_1900845293573972_6553534300030194330_oLesson #1:  Paddle boarding visually impaired is the perfect illustration to describe the continuum of blindness that confuses the public (i.e. for people who are perplexed when they see someone with a guide dog or cane reading a text message with their eyes).  

Navigating around Newport Harbor today reminded me of my favorite quote about my eye disease, Retinitis Pigments. ”RP is seeing a tiny piece of paper across the room and then tripping over an elephant on the way to pick it up.” I paddled hard to the right in order to avoid a small buoy, feeling extremely proud of myself for spotting the bobbing mound of plastic, only to ram the tip of my board directly into a giant boat, which seemed to literally appear out of nowhere, though it rocked there gently all along. That’s RP, my friends: the person standing silently by the elevator, unbeknownst to you, who suddenly says “hi”, startling you to a halt. The trickery of RP is that you see many things. And then you don’t. You think you’re gliding along just fine. And then you crash. You see just enough for your mind to convince you that you’re seeing the whole picture. But you’re not.

The mobility help of a guide dog or cane might seem confusing or unnecessary to some. But it isn’t. Mobility aides keep second-guessing to a minimum and prevent run-ins with mute elephants and strangers near elevators who come out of nowhere (and perhaps with silent sea vessels if they were useful in water). #blindpaddleboarding #guidedogsfortheblind

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This blog has unintentionally become a long lost friend. The kind of friend that you treasure and wish you stayed in touch with more. As the days pass by, this friend frequently comes to mind and yet the fullness of life continues to distract from finding time to connect. But this friend is always there when you return, waiting to pick right back up where you left off. Alas, so much time has passed that a quick text “hello” won’t do.

Now here we are, finally sitting down for that long awaited cup of coffee. Let’s catch up.

First off, I’m going back to school! I know, can you believe it?! Here I am teetering on the tail end of my 30’s with 2 young children, and I’m going to be a student once again. I’ll be pursuing my MSW (Master of Social Work) at the University of Washington in Seattle beginning this fall. My husband pointed out that I will be on campus with students who were born the year I graduated from undergrad. Super helpful fact – thanks babe.

Classes haven’t even started yet, and I’m already behind on my reading. I’m excited and slightly overwhelmed as I peruse the course schedule for this 3 year program. Between research papers and commuting to Seattle for classes, I will find time to give updates on my new life as a student/wife/mom/daughter/sister/friend/yogi/grant-writer/crisis-line advocate/blogger.

Now I want to tell you all about my crazy amazing summer. It started off with that retreat I’d been talking about forever. Yes, the Brene Brown Rising Strong retreat at the National Ability Center in Park City, Utah. I’m not sure if I should start with the inspiring women I met, or the 35 foot high climbing wall/ropes course, or water skiing for the first time, or breath-taking hikes, or the magical disappearing foot scrub. It truly was an experience I will cherish forever. Oh, and did I mention the group of bad ass blind women with me on this retreat? Our tribe continues to grow.

Joy and Jenelle wearing sunglasses and helmets at the high ropes course in Park City, Utah.

Next up, family camp at Enchanted Hills in Northern California. Incredible camp counselors and staff, HOT weather, the best talent show I’ve ever attended, and quality time for the Thomas/Landgraf families. It doesn’t get much better than that. You have to listen to the fun interview with Joy and family from the last day of camp.

My 4 year old son riding a horse with a camp counselor while another camp counselor leads the horse at Enchanted Hills Family Camp.

My 4 year old son riding a horse with a camp counselor while another camp counselor leads the horse at Enchanted Hills Family Camp.

I can’t leave out my trip to Portland to see my best’ies combined with a visit to the Casey Eye Institute to meet with a new retina specialist. I will have to tell you all about that visit over our next cup of coffee, as some of the details are interesting. My husband and kids picked me up from my appt, and with my eyes fully dilated, we headed straight to Mt. Rainier where we enjoyed meeting up with family. One of our beautiful hikes included a rickety bridge with a sign that read “One person at a time”. Whoever said I wasn’t a risk taker?

Jenelle standing on long thin suspension bridge.

Jenelle standing on long thin suspension bridge.

After returning from all these travels, we were blessed to have a full house of visitors throughout the remainder of July and August. If we had more time, I would tell you about all the fun we had rafting the river and SUP boarding at the lake, followed by delicious BBQs. But this cup of coffee is about done, so we’ll need to schedule another one. Hopefully it won’t be too long until next time.

Oh, and did I tell you Joy started a new job? Well, I’ll let her tell you about that.

Pasted Graphic.tiffEHCPIC    In July, our families attended Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa, CA, an incredible 4-day family camp run by the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind. EHC has their own podcast, and on the last day of camp, we were interviewed for one of their episodes! We’ll share a bit more about our camp experience in future posts but wanted to give you a taste of it here…

Listen to the Everything EHC Podcast Episode 32

(Check out more Everything EHC Podcast Episodes)

 

This week, I had the pleasure of co-presenting at the Spring ADA Paratransit Conference with my friend and fellow blogger Keith Edgerton.  I felt instantly at ease alongside this seasoned public speaker as we shared our experiences of using public transportation with visual impairment.  Each year a transit authority from one of Washington’s Counties puts on the event.  39 out of 40 counties were represented at this conference held in my hometown of Leavenworth.  Talk about a short commute!

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Photo Description: Jenelle (left) and Keith (right) standing outside in Leavenworth with the Cascade Mountains in the background. Continue reading

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Joy and Jenelle laughing and holding hands at Aliso Creek Beach in Orange County, CA.

Loyal, lovely readers, our apologies for the scarce posts in recent months.  We’ve received emails from some readers checking in on us, and we appreciate your encouragement.  You, our courageous tribe, are why we will continue to write amidst bustling schedules.  And we thank you for taking time out of your busy lives to stop by Doublevision blog.

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Joy and Jenelle’s young children smiling in front of a fountain.

We are actually writing this post together IN PERSON, as Jenelle is visiting Joy in sunny SoCal for a couple weeks. Our kids are getting lots of cousin time building sand castles and soaking in Vitamin D while we catch up and enjoy our time together.

Today we’d like to loop back to a topic that everyone LOVES to talk about (insert sarcastic undertone here). We’ve written posts on it and spoke on a podcast about it and its relationship to blindness. While it’s not something that most people deal with daily, it does have a way of Continue reading

My mom sent me this list, and I read it on a day I really needed a different perspective.  After my kids’ ride to their theater rehearsal cancelled, it was too late to call an Uber, so I had to quickly ask a neighbor to drive them.  She was in the middle of cooking dinner for her family and seemed stressed by my request, and since inconveniencing people is always a fear, I felt like a complete burden.  If it hadn’t been one of their last practices before their big show, I would have just had them skip it in order to avoid having to ask.  Even when people tell me they are happy to be helping me out, I still feel like I’m imposing on their day.  Reading my mom’s perspective helped me to see that there are some benefits for the driver, or at least my generous mom chooses to see the benefits!  Even though I live too far from her to regularly enjoy the benefits of riding with her (lucky duck, Jenelle!), I am grateful to know all of the many reasons she considers her chauffeuring days a gift.  Thanks mom!  

Visual Description: Joy and Jenelle with their mother, Judy, decked out in snow gear with a snowy background.

Visual Description: Joy and Jenelle with their mother, Judy, decked out in snow gear with a snowy background.

  1. Quality time talking, planning family events and attempting to solve the world’s problems.
  2. Someone to share an “adventure” with.  My family knows my motto is “life is an adventure” (which I say every time I get lost driving somewhere).
  3. More chances to see my grandchildren.
  4. Better price shopping because two heads are better than one.
  5. I swear less at rude drivers.
  6. I get to research good parks to play at.
  7. It provides an opportunity for my old brain to practice multi-tasking.
  8. It reminds me to clean my car more often.
  9. It keeps me from taking the gift of driving for granted; I am very grateful. In a few years, I’m sure I will need someone to start “driving Miss Judy”.

Joy and I took a little “holiday” from blogging at the end of 2016.  We were busy enjoying a family visit together in the Northwest filled with snow shoeing, aerial yoga with our girls (including Roja!), and ringing in the new year at “pretend midnight” for the kids and then official midnight for the adults.

Photo Description: Scenic winter picture of our family snow shoeing.

Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, mountain, sky, snow, outdoor and nature

Photo Description: Aerial yoga swings hanging from the ceiling with red mats underneath.  Roja is laying on a red yoga mat in the left corner of the picture.

Fast forward to January.  The egg nog is long gone, the holiday decor packed away, and it’s back to the routines of daily life.  In many ways it feels refreshing.  A new year offers new beginnings, and yet old habits often follow us into new years. I’m choosing to share one of my on-going challenges knowing that many of us struggle with our inner critic.  I invite you to try some self-compassion exercises along with me as a step towards a healthy 2017.

This “self-compassion lesson” begins with a story followed by some self-compassion exercises.

The sun streamed brightly through the trees, illuminating the large piles of crisp white snow as I rushed out the front  door.  I chatted distractedly with Joy on my cell while grabbing the long blue sled from the front porch and tossing my son’s after school snacks and snow gear onto it before zipping off.  Joy and I finished up our conversation as I walked the 1/2 mile to Benny’s preschool.  I quickly plucked his lunch box from the sled to prepare for his famished after school snack requests, and discovered that the bag of snow gear I had packed him was no longer in the sled.  I’ll just retrace my steps and find it on the way home, I thought, and signed Benny out of school.  I knew finding a white plastic grocery bag against white snow would be challenging, but Benny is a good little helper and I figured we’d stumble on it eventually.  But soon we were home with no bag of snow gear.  My husband. who works from home most days, had just started his lunch break and offered to take the car out and look for the missing gear.

Meanwhile, I started making lunch, but was so distracted with texting friends and neighbors about the missing items, that I forgot about the sauce simmering and burnt it to a crisp.  My husband used his entire one hour lunch break searching for the items with no luck.  I felt defeated as I recalled how much money snow gear costs, especially the brand new high quality Burton mittens that just arrived from Amazon the day before.  I could feel the tight knots in my empty stomach as I scrounged around the fridge, trying to put together a new lunch, and I snapped at my husband when he asked me a question.  He retreated back to his home office, likely relieved to escape the presence of his edgy wife.  Tears started rolling down my cheek as I thought about how much I had screwed up that day.

My pity party was interrupted by my phone ringing.  It was my Uncle Mark calling.  Joy has written about our uncle in previous posts.  He calls each day from his room at the nursing home to read us the AA prayer of the day.  Though Mark’s developmental disability keeps his mind at the age of an adolescent, his intuition often exceeds his mental capabilities.

I sniffled as I picked up the phone. “Hi, Uncle Mark.  I’m kind of having a bad day.”

I proceeded to tell him about my lost items, burnt lunch, and cranky behavior..

“I’m sorry you burnt lunch.” he stated in a flat tone.

“Thanks,” More sniffles.

“I’m sorry you lost your son’s snow pants.” he continued, still mono-tone.

A few more tears rolled down my cheek as I muttered another “thanks” into the phone.

“I’m sorry you lost your son’s hat.” he offered.  Oh man, is he going to say sorry for every damn item I lost?
I wondered to myself, feeling grumpier by the second.

“I’m sorry you lost your son’s new mittens.” he added.

I was about to mutter another bland thank you when I heard him say, “But you’re still a good mom.”  Now the hot salty tears came flooding out of my eyes as I sobbed,”Thank you, Uncle Mark! I really needed to hear that right now.”

Uncle Mark’s words cut right to the heart of why I was crying.  I wasn’t shedding tears over lost stuff, or martial tension, or burnt lunch.  I was feeling inadequate as a mom, and I was beating myself up over my mistakes.  Mark’s simple affirmation caused me to remember all that I have learned about the importance of self-compassion.  I first learned this concept from Brene Brown and Kristen Neff, and was able to put it into practice at the Daring Sisters women’s retreat last summer.  For yesterday’s fiasco, I chose to write myself a self-compassion letter, which is far less complicated and hokey than it may sound.  Other times, I’ve chosen a guided meditation.  There are lots of great tools to choose from on Dr. Neff’s website. 

Below is a step by step guide to writing a self-compassion letter that I found on Berkeley’s Greater Good In Action site.

Time Required:15 minutes. Try to do this practice once per week, or at least once per month

First, identify something about yourself that makes you feel ashamed, insecure, or not good enough. It could be something related to your personality, behavior, abilities, relationships, or any other part of your life.

Once you identify something, write it down and describe how it makes you feel. Sad? Embarrassed? Angry? Try to be as honest as possible, keeping in mind that no one but you will see what you write.

The next step is to write a letter to yourself expressing compassion, understanding, and acceptance for the part of yourself that you dislike.

As you write, follow these guidelines:

  1. Imagine that there is someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally for who you are. What would that person say to you about this part of yourself?
  2. Remind yourself that everyone has things about themselves that they don’t like, and that no one is without flaws. Think about how many other people in the world are struggling with the same thing that you’re struggling with.
  3. Consider the ways in which events that have happened in your life, the family environment you grew up in, or even your genes may have contributed to this negative aspect of yourself.
  4. In a compassionate way, ask yourself whether there are things that you could do to improve or better cope with this negative aspect. Focus on how constructive changes could make you feel happier, healthier, or more fulfilled, and avoid judging yourself.
  5. After writing the letter, put it down for a little while. Then come back to it later and read it again. It may be especially helpful to read it whenever you’re feeling bad about this aspect of yourself, as a reminder to be more self-compassionate.
 Another tip I learned from Dr. Neff is to add “I love you. I love you. I love you.” at the bottom of your letter.