Vision Therapy involves the use of eye exercises over time in order to strengthen the visual system. It is used to treat visual conditions that can’t be treated adequately with just glasses, contact lenses or patching.
Vision Therapy is an individualized, treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies.
Vision therapy improves:
- The ability to move one’s eyes free of the rest of the body.
- The ability to easily shift fixation from one place to another.
- The ability to accurately point both eyes to the same place in space without excess effort and with a stable alignment. Unstable alignment often leads to the complaint of words moving on the page or momentary jumbling of the letters, or misalignment of numbers in math problems.
- The ability to sustain near-centered visual attention.
What is the behavioral approach to therapy?
If someone were asked to identify a classical music composer without ever hearing classical music, how would they do it?
A behavioral optometric evaluation can be compared to taking an inventory of visual abilities and skills and finding which are present and which may not yet have emerged. The lack of the emergence of these visual abilities no more represents a physical or physiological or mental deficit than it does in the music example above.
In this situation, no one would diagnose a neurological music processing brain center in need of medication. There would be recognition that the life experiences necessary had not been encountered. (Of course there are isolated instances of such problems but these are few and far between.) The vast majority of what we see in clinical practice are visual development problems.
Why are children not developing skills when we expect them to?
- Not enough self-directed movement while young: In our modern fast-paced society, families seem to always be on the go. So we transfer our young child from the baby carrier to the car seat to the stroller and we move them around for much of the day, rather then having them exploring the world around them with their own visually directed mobility.
- Attention demands too short: So many of today’s television shows geared for children are so fast-paced that they seem to flit from one thing to another almost like an MTV video, barely giving the child the opportunity to learn to sustain attention. Thus, they seem to come to school needing a “USA Today” version of school.
- Too many pictures supplied rather than constructed by the child: When a child gets to listen to a reader who orates in an interesting manner, using descriptive prose, the child gets the chance to learn to make, modify and recall visualizations and visual imagery, which will become the basis for spelling and reading later in life. When a child is given a steady diet of graphics and cartoons they become passive viewers of “interesting” content but they don’t get the opportunity to develop the necessary mental imagery skills.
Where do glasses fit in?
In some instances, a student is under a great deal of stress trying to perform sustained near-centered visual tasks such as reading. Besides the difficulty of the actual work, one of the factors contributing to this stress may be an inability to focus their visual system at near.
As we shift focus of our eyes from distance to near we have to supply about 2.50 diopters of accommodation (“focusing power”), a bit more so at the closer working distances representative of most children. Stress-relieving lenses are glasses designed to take some of the load off of the focusing system. On average, these lenses reduce the amount the eye has to change focus by about 40%.
This has the dual effect of helping the child stay on task for a longer period of time before their visual concentration begins to deteriorate as well as allowing them to stay further away from their close work, thus reducing the on-going demand on the focusing mechanism.