After a stroke or brain injury to the right side of the brain, many people experience a neurological condition known as “left neglect.” Left neglect results in a person being unaware of things that appear in the left side of their visual field, even though their eyes are fine. While treatment can help, it’s important to determine whether the impairment exists early on to begin therapy right away.
Fortunately, there’s a professional cognitive training app that provides both testing and treatment for neglect. Running on an iPad, Visual Attention Therapy helps retrain the brain, allowing the person to improve awareness of the neglected side.
Traditionally, a person with neglect has been given a printed page and a pencil and asked to cross out, or cancel, a given symbol or letter wherever it appears on the page. If the person misses several items on one side, it indicates the presence of a visuospatial deficit. This is known as a cancellation task.
The latest release of Visual Attention Therapy updates the cancellation exercise and adds functionality you won’t find anywhere else.
Faster and more convenient than the old paper-based technique, the app saves paper and time and prevents calculation errors. The therapist can use the Test mode to quickly screen for the presence of a scanning deficit. Automated scoring provides data about the user’s accuracy in each quadrant, time required to complete tasks, and number of mistakes.
Help for the Client
In Practice mode, Visual Attention Therapy provides the user with instant auditory and visual feedback. This makes learning fast and more independent.
A sidebar signal can be set to flash in various colors, drawing attention to the left or the right side of the screen. The user is asked to find letters or symbols—or a combination of both—and to focus on either one or two targets. An errorless learning format requires correct answers before moving on to increase awareness.
Practice scanning across a page can help retrain the brain to move the eyes correctly. Strengthening this essential skill improves reading, concentration, memory, attention to detail, and speed of processing. The app requires the user to tap the targets from left to right and from top to bottom, to reinforce the same scanning pattern used for reading.
Timed exercises motivate the user to work quickly and accurately, racing against the clock for faster times.
The latest app improvements address customer feedback and requests for new features.
The customization options have been expanded, allowing you to tailor the app for a more personalized experience based on vision and therapy approach.
Test mode now provides five different ways to indicate cancelled targets as the user accurately taps them:
- Fade—The selected target fades out, so it looks lighter on the screen
- Cross Out—A diagonal line appears across the selected target (this is most like the paper version of the cancellation task)
- Red—This selected target turns red, making it more distinct
- Negative—The selected target is reversed (that is, instead of black type on a white background, the target becomes white type on a back background), making it more visible for someone with low vision
- Blank—The selected target disappears from the screen.
Practice mode now includes four signal color options—red, yellow, green, and blue—that can all be shown as either flashing or static on either side of the screen. Matching the app’s signal color to the color of the tape used around the rehab unit and in personal spaces can provide important consistency for the user.
Visual Attention Therapy’s many other settings include a choice of either one target or two, 10 levels of letters and symbols, and 12 combinations of size and spacing to create various field sizes, providing thousands of cancellation tasks for assessment and practice.
Getting the Latest Version
Want to try before buying?
Visual Attention Therapy Lite is free to download. It offers a sample of the customization and functionality you’ll find in the full version. The Lite version allows you to try one or two targets with all the different signal options and cancellation styles in both Test and Practice modes using one level and size.
The full version is available for just US$9.99 on the App Store.
If you already own Visual Attention Therapy, you can get the updated version at no charge. When you a purchase Tactus Therapy app, you own it for life. That means all updates are free. If you like this update, please leave a review on the App Store.
5 Power Tips
Visual Attention Therapy was designed by certified speech-language pathologist Megan Sutton, the co-founder of Tactus Therapy Solutions. Here are a few of her best practices from clinical use in inpatient rehab. You can find many more on the website too.
- In Settings, turn on Maximize Font for a user with low vision. This increases the size of the targets for all but the largest field sizes.
- Refrain from automatically selecting all target levels. Choose only the levels that offer sufficient challenge. You’ll find 10 options on the level selection screen, with combinations using similar and dissimilar symbols and letters with distractors from the same or different type.
- If you want to target working memory, choose two targets instead of one or try symbols instead of letters.
- If better reading is the objective, choose levels featuring letters. The closer therapy is to the functional outcome, the better and faster it is likely to work.
- Take a screenshot after completing the Test but before pressing Done. This will give you a visual record of missed targets for users with decreased awareness of their neglect. Review the image to build insight and discuss strategies.
Are you a Visual Attention Therapy power user? Leave a comment below to let us know what you like best about the app or what you’d like to see.
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