Some visual conditions cannot be treated adequately with just glasses, contact lenses and/or patching, and are best resolved through a program of Vision Therapy.
What is Vision Therapy?
Vision Therapy is an individualized, supervised, treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. Vision Therapy sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain's ability to control:
- eye alignment
- eye teaming
- eye focusing abilities
- eye movements
- visual processing
Visual-motor skills and endurance are developed through the use of specialized computer and optical devices, including therapeutic lenses, prisms, and filters. During the final stages of therapy, the patient's newly acquired visual skills are reinforced and made automatic through repetition and by integration with motor and cognitive skills.
Who Can Benefit From Vision Therapy?
Patients of all ages can benefit from vision therapy. The nature of the therapy program varies with the condition treated. For example, a three-year-old child with amblyopia, or "lazy eye", may simply have the better eye patched for a short period of time. An eight-year-old child with strabismus, or "crossed eye", may require therapy for a period of a year. A thirty-year-old computer programmer may require three to six months to solve a visual problem that causes significant eye strain.
Children and adults with visual challenges such as the following are often benefitted by vision therapy.
- Learning-related Vision Problems
Vision Therapy can help those individuals who lack the necessary visual skills for effective reading, writing, and learning (i.e., eye movement and focusing skills, convergence, eye-hand activity, visual memory skills, etc.).
- Poor Binocular Coordination
Vision Therapy helps individuals develop normal coordination and teamwork of the two eyes (binocular vision). When the two eyes fail to work together as an effective team, performance in many areas can suffer (reading, sports, depth perception, eye contact, etc.).
- Strabismus and Amblyopia
Vision Therapy programs offer much higher cure rates for turned eyes and/or lazy eye when compared to eye surgery, glasses, and/or patching, without therapy. The earlier the patient receives Vision Therapy the better, however, our office has successfully treated patients well past 21 years of age.
- Stress-induced Visual Difficulties
21st century lifestyles demand more from our vision than ever before. Children and adults in our technological society constantly use their near vision at work and at home. C.V.S. (Computer Vision Syndrome) is one of the fastest growing health concerns in the workplace today. Environmental stresses on the visual system (including excessive computer use or close work) can induce eyestrain, headaches, and/or visual difficulties which can be effectively treated with corrective lenses and/or Vision Therapy.
- Visual Rehabilitation for Special Populations
Vision can be compromised as a result of neurological disorders or trauma to the nervous system (such as traumatic brain injuries, stroke, whiplash, developmental delays, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, etc.). Vision Therapy can effectively treat the visual consequences of trauma (including double vision).
- To learn more about brain injuries and vision, visit braininjuries.org.
- Sports Vision Improvement
Strong visual skills are critical to sports success. Not much happens in sports until your eyes instruct your hands and body what to do! Accurate vision and athletic visual skills can be measured, developed, and enhanced through Vision Therapy. We measure and successfully improve eye-hand coordination, visual reaction time, peripheral awareness, eye teaming, focusing, tracking, and visualization skills (to mention just a few).
Frequently Asked Questions
Vision Therapy can be the answer to many visual problems. Don't hesitate to contact us with your questions. To read definitions for Vision Therapy by outside sources, visit children-special-needs.org.
Vision therapy is administered in our office under the guidance of your doctor. Sometimes a number of office visits are required over a period ranging from several weeks to several months. Usually the patient performs several exercises, then the doctor teaches the patient techniques to be practiced at home to reinforce the developing visual skills.
Vision therapy can effectively treat eye movement disorders, inefficient eye teaming, misaligned eyes, poorly developed vision, focusing problems, and other visual information processing disorders.
The following are some frequently asked questions about vision therapy.
Is Vision Therapy New?
Although it is a dynamic optometric specialty that improves visual function and performance, vision therapy is actually an outgrowth of orthoptics. Orthoptics: which literally means "straightening of the eyes,” was introduced to this country by physicians in the late 1800s. As physicians became more focused on eyeglasses, medication, and surgery, the benefits of orthoptics were taught to fewer and fewer practitioners. However, optometrists in the mid 1900's took the best that orthoptics had to offer, and pioneered the development of vision therapy.
What Is Involved in a Vision Therapy Program?
Patients typically come to the office twice weekly for thirty minutes each visit. In addition, a workbook is included which contains instruction for activities to be done at home to reinforce what was learned during the office therapy sessions. Commitment to the therapy program and maintaining a schedule of weekly visits are important in the success of the program.
Can I Just Do the Therapy at Home by Myself?
Vision therapy programs are individualized for the patient, and careful guidance and frequent monitoring are required for success. When attempted by patients without guidance, poor visual habits may actually be reinforced. In addition, specialty computer programs with liquid crystal polarizing goggles and other specialized instrumentation are used which do not lend themselves to unsupervised use at home.
Will My Insurance Cover Vision Therapy?
Some of the better health insurance policies cover the medical aspect of vision therapy. Coverage has no relationship to vision care plans which cover eye examinations, eyeglasses, or contact lenses once every year or two. Do not allow insurance companies to make arbitrary decisions that prevent you or your child from receiving necessary care.
How Long Does Vision Therapy Last?
When the program is complete, the benefits of vision therapy will last for a lifetime. Accurate focusing and the efficient use of both eyes together is a reflex which, when conditioned, should operate effortlessly. Self-monitoring activities are prescribed at the end of each therapy program. Non-medical vision therapy, as related to visual perception, prepares children for lifelong learning, and it fills in gaps for many adults who have lost visual skills and abilities.