Is Vision Therapy Right for your Child?
Vision therapy, also known as vision training, is a process guided by an optometrist in
which the eye and visual system are trained to improve vision skills through eye exercises
which involve the use of instruments and customized activities. Vision therapy does
not improve your actual vision, but as part of a broad vision care plan, it can fix visual
processes in the brain that are not functioning properly.
Many children that have trouble in school, particularly with reading, are actually
suffering from a vision disorder. School work such as reading, writing and drawing can
require children to focus on small, close materials for many hours a day. This can cause
changes to a child’s vision skills, resulting in eye strain and even more serious vision and
visual processing problems.
Oftentimes these problems are missed during standard eye exams because a vision
screening such as one that might be administered with an eye chart in school, only
assesses visual acuity at a distance. Meanwhile, there are many other processes that are
required for children to succeed in school that may be not functioning properly such as
tracking, using both eyes in synchrony and the ability to focus for a long period of time.
Optometrists use vision therapy to correct the following vision related problems:
Binocular Vision/Eye Teaming:
Vision therapy has been shown to help with some developmental issues that are caused
by eye teaming problems. Ambylopia, commonly known as “lazy eye”, is when one eye
develops poor visual acuity typically due to strabismus (which is when the two eyes fail
to align properly) or other problems with eye teaming. Convergence Insufficiency (CI)
is a type of intermittent strabismus that occurs when looking at something close – such as
a book, while distance vision is undisturbed. This means that only one eye is able to focus
properly on a close object at a time.
Vision training is also known to assist with eye focusing issues such as accommodative
disorder, when the eye has difficulty shifting focus from near to far or vice versa or
vergence dysfunction which affects how your eye muscles work when moving your eyes to change focus.
Eye tracking problems can be characterized by an inability to sustain focus from one
space to another. Difficulty with this skill results in problems reading and following
Visual Information Processing:
Disorders in visual information processing include hand-eye coordination, spatial
awareness, identification and discrimination and integration with other senses.
Before you can determine whether vision therapy is right for your child, a comprehensive
eye exam must be performed to determine whether the child might be a candidate for
vision therapy in the first place. Subsequently, a diagnostic exam must be done to fully
assess the child’s visual processing. A battery of tests will examine the child’s tracking
and visual reading skills, visual perception skills, eye-hand and eye-body coordination
and more. Using these results, the optometrist will decide if and how to proceed with
vision therapy treatment.