What is Vision Therapy
Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, non-surgical treatment program designed to correct and improve certain vision problems and visual skills. Unlike eyeglasses or contacts that compensate for vision problems, the goal of vision therapy is to teach the visual system how to correct itself. Vision therapy is highly customized to address each patient’s specific visual challenges. As such, vision therapy may include the use of lenses, prisms, metronomes and balance boards.
How it Works
Vision therapy, also referred to as vision training, neuro-vision therapy, or vision rehabilitation, is an optometry subspecialty. Vision therapy is prescribed to develop, improve and/or enhance visual function so an individual’s vision system functions more smoothly. Vision therapy can be beneficial for individuals of all ages. The goal of treatment is to help ameliorate vision problems and improve a patient’s quality of life by maximizing vision performance and comfort.
How Vision Therapy Works
In order to understand how vision therapy can improve your vision, it is important to understand exactly how the brain creates an image. At the most basic level, a nerve cell sends and receives electrical signals from sensory neurons. This input and output is used to process visual images. Throughout their life, neural networks continually reinforce themselves in response to new experiences. Body-mind interaction is an important part of this learning process. While the quantity of neurons does not increase, new connections between these neurons can be built at any age. The more frequently a pathway is stimulated, the stronger the pathway becomes and the faster the transmission along this pathway will be. The goal of vision therapy is to reinforce and strengthen these new pathways.
There are several similarities between occupational therapy and vision therapy, especially when it comes to improving hand-eye coordination and visual motor integration. However, vision therapists have completed more in-depth training in the field of visual motor integration, as well as the use of lenses, prisms, and filters.
Who Benefits from Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is especially beneficial for individuals with ocular motor dysfunctions, binocular dysfunctions, accommodative dysfunctions, visual motor and visual perception disorders, learning-related vision problems, traumatic brain injuries, myopia control, amblyopia, and strabismus. Vision therapy may also be prescribed for patients seeking sports vision enhancement.
Vision therapy is customized to meet the needs of an individual. For example, if you are seeking sports performance enhancement, you will receive therapy designed to improve visual processing speeds, reaction times, visual endurance, accuracy, and eye teaming. Individuals with vision-related learning difficulties will receive therapy that focuses specifically on improving the visual input skills and visual processing skills required for efficient reading, writing, spelling and mathematics.
Depending on a patient’s needs, vision therapy may last anywhere between six weeks to one year. Most problems can be improved with bi-weekly sessions over two to three months, as determined by an eye care professional.
How Vision Therapy Helps
The goal of vision therapy is to treat vision problems that cannot be fully addressed through eyeglasses, contact lenses or surgery. For example, studies show that vision therapy may be beneficial for addressing eyestrain and other issues that can affect a child’s reading abilities. The human brain has significant neuroplasticity, which means it can change its structure and function in response to external stimuli. This neuroplasticity is present not only in childhood, but also into adulthood. As a result, custom vision therapy programs can help bring about neurological changes that correct vision problems for improved visual perception and performance.
What Vision Therapy Treats
Vision therapy addresses vision problems that include amblyopia (“lazy eye”), strabismus, binocular vision problems, eye movement disorders, and accommodative (focusing) disorders. For example, if one eye fails to attain normal visual acuity due to eye teaming problems, vision therapy can help improve this teaming and reduce an eye’s perceived “laziness”. Studies show that vision therapy can improve the accuracy of eye movements required for close-up work and reading, as well as minimizing eyestrain and eye fatigue.
Vision therapy is not a “cure all” for vision issues and it is not a replacement for glasses, contact lenses or eye surgery for certain conditions. For example, do not expect to “throw away your glasses” after attending a few vision therapy sessions or practicing eye exercises at home. Vision therapy cannot “cure” refractive disorders or reverse nearsightedness. However, it may play an important role in addressing visual anomalies associated with vision development, perception and function.
Unlike other forms of exercise, the goal of vision therapy is not to strengthen the eye muscles. Instead, this progressive program of vision exercises is designed to help individuals develop or improve fundamental visual skills and abilities. Vision therapy helps individuals improve visual ease, efficiency and comfort while changing how they interpret or process information. Vision therapy can be beneficial for individuals of all ages, including children and older adults.
Signs and Symptoms Checklist
Vision therapy, which is also known as vision training or visual training, is an individualized treatment program that can help identify and correct perceptual-cognitive deficiencies that are impacting visual learning, focus, and concentration.
Vision Therapy for Children: Checklist
While individuals of all ages can benefit from vision therapy, it may be especially helpful for young children with learning disabilities. Vision deficits can cause eyestrain, blurred or double vision, and headaches that make it difficult to stay focused while reading, maintain attention in the classroom or focus on close work. Vision therapy can help correct these visual deficits. With vision therapy, children are better positioned to achieve their full academic potential in the classroom.
Could your child benefit from vision therapy? Use this checklist as a guide.
- Your child turns or tilts his head to see
- Your child’s head is frequently tilted to one side or one shoulder is noticeably higher
- Your child has poor hand-eye coordination, which may be evident in poor handwriting, motor coordination, etc.
- Your child has problems moving through space and frequently drops objects or bumps into things
- Your child holds a book or object unusually close
- Your child closes one eye or covers the eye with his/her hand
- Your child omits or confuses small words when reading
- Your child reverses words when reading (e.g., “no” for “on”) or transposes numbers (e.g., “21” for “12”)
- Your child complains frequently of headaches, eyestrain, nausea, dizziness and/or motion sickness
If your child exhibits one or more of these behaviors, schedule them for a comprehensive vision exam.
Vision Therapy for Adults: Checklist
Vision therapy is beneficial for adults who may have difficult focusing on work or reading due to untreated vision disorders. Vision therapy addresses vision problems that include amblyopia (“lazy eye”), strabismus, binocular vision problems, eye movement disorders, and accommodative (focusing) disorders.
Could you or a loved one benefit from vision therapy?
- One eye drifts or aims in a different direction than the other
- You frequently experience headaches or eyestrain while reading, writing or typing
- You skip lines or words when reading or copying
- You substitute words when reading or copying
- You need to use a finger or marker to keep place while reading or writing
- You squint, close or cover one eye while reading
- You tilt your head in an unusual posture while reading or writing
- Your eyes “hurt” or feel especially tired at the end of the work day
- You experience vision blurs at a distance when looking up from near work
- One eye sees more clearly, even with glasses on
- You struggle with hand-eye coordination activities, like playing softball
If you or an adult under your care exhibits one of more of the symptoms, schedule a comprehensive vision exam.