The visual problems that are most common and that most of us are familiar with are nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.
These refractive conditions are addressed with eyeglasses.
Many children have vision problems that eyeglasses don't solve, such as amblyopia ("lazy eye"), eye alignment or eye teaming problems, focusing problems, and visual perceptual disorders. These non-refractive vision problems can cause eyestrain, fatigue, headaches, and learning problems.
What is Vision Therapy?
Vision Therapy is an individualized program of eye exercises and other methods to treat non-refractive vision problems. The therapy is usually performed in an optometrist's office, but most treatment plans also include daily visual tasks and eye exercises to be performed at home.
Some doctors call this orthoptics, although orthoptics is really just a subsection under vision therapy. Some doctors might use the term vision training. Parents often refer to Vision Therapy as "Eye Therapy". In fact, we are not training or giving therapy to the eyes, but rather enabling the child to use their brain to better control their eyes. Most often, eye muscles are considerably stronger than they need to be. Vision Therapy does NOT build eye muscles, but rather coordination and ease of using the visual system. A construction worker is often a strong individual, but you would not expect them to necessarily be able to play the piano. Playing a musical instrument or riding a bicycle has more to do with muscle coordination than muscle strength.
Optometrists who specialize in vision therapy and the treatment of learning-related vision problems are called behavioral optometrists or developmental optometrists. Many studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of Vision Therapy. The degree of success achieved with vision therapy, however, depends on a number of factors, including the type and severity of the vision problem, the patient's age and motivation, and whether the patient performs all vision therapy procedures and visual tasks as directed. Not every vision problem can be resolved with vision therapy.
Vision Therapy is customized and specific
The activities and eye exercises prescribed as part of a vision therapy program are tailored to the specific vision problem (or problems) a child has. For example, if a child has amblyopia, the therapy usually includes patching the strong eye, coupled with visual tasks or other stimulation techniques to develop better visual acuity in the weak eye. Once visual acuity is improved in the amblyopic eye, the treatment plan may then include eye teaming exercises to foster the development of clear, comfortable binocular vision to improve depth perception and reading comfort.
Vision Therapy and Learning Disabilities
Vision Therapy does not correct learning disabilities, however, children with learning disabilities often have vision problems that contribute to a child's learning problems. Often correcting the underlying vision problems through Vision Therapy can solve many of the obstabstacles that make learning more difficult than it need be.
During the first part of the examination, it is important that you let us know if your child has been diagnosed as having a learning disability or is having school-related difficulties. If we identify that your child's vision problems are contributing to learning difficulties, we can communicate with your child's teachers and other specialists to explain our findings. Often, Vision Therapy can be a helpful component of a multidisciplinary approach to remediating learning problems.
Schedule a comprehensive eye exam
If you suspect your child has a vision problem that may be affecting their performance in school, the first step is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam so we can determine if such a problem exists. If learning-related vision problems are discovered, we can then discuss with you whether a program of vision therapy would be helpful. Often other doctors of optometry, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists, audiologists, learning consultants, pediatricians, etc., refer patients to us for evaluation and/or vision therapy.
Can Vision Therapy eliminate the need for glasses?
When someone demonstrates that they are just beginning to move toward becoming nearsighted, then Vision Therapy for Myopia Control can be instituted. Vision Therapy often builds the skills needed to prevent someone from becoming more nearsighted. As someone becomes more nearsighted and eyeglasses are prescribed, the nearsightedness becomes more embedded and part of the individual and thus more difficult, and often impossible to reverse. The purpose of Vision Therapy is not to get someone out of eyeglasses, but rather to enable them to achieve the necessary skills of becoming visually efficient so that inputting and processing visual information is more effective. Vision Therapy is NOT the same as self-help programs that claim to reduce refractive errors and the need for glasses.