1996-2007, Optometrists Network
What is Vision Therapy or Visual Training?
Vision therapy (visual training, vision training) is an individualized supervised treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies which have various causes, such as:
Vision therapy trains the entire visual system which includes eyes, brain and body. However, it is important to understand that vision therapy is a form of neurological training or rehabilitation (it can be compared to some forms of occupational therapy or physical therapy). The goal of vision therapy is to train the patient's brain to use the eyes to receive information effectively, comprehend it quickly and react appropriately.
- inadequate sensorimotor development
- trauma to the nervous system (i.e., birth injury, brain trauma, closed head trauma, etc.)
- in some cases, contributing hereditary factors (i.e., crossed-eyes, wandering eyes)
Vision therapy sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain's ability to control eye alignment, eye movements, focusing abilities, and eye teamwork (binocular vision). 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.
Can vision therapy help children with learning problems?
Yes! Vision therapy can be an important part of the overall treatment of a child's learning problem. Vision and sensorimotor deficits can cause eyestrain, headaches, blurred or double vision, loss of place while reading, and difficulty maintaining attention on close work. Even intelligent, highly motivated children can be severely handicapped by these problems in the academic environment.
Correcting these deficits allows affected children to benefit from academic remediation and to achieve their full potential in the classroom.
What are possible symptoms of learning related vision disorders?
Please see the Parents' Checklist for Learning Related Vision Disorders.
How many children are affected by learning related vision disorders (such as in cases of children with suspected or diagnosed learning disabilities, developmental delays, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, or with double vision, reading difficulties, etc.)?
Approximately 20% of school-aged children may be affected to some degree by learning related vision disorders. This percentage dramatically increases within the special education, learning disabled and remedial reading populations, where as many as 70% of the students have a significant visual component to their learning problems.
My child tested as having 20/20 eyesight and healthy eyes after having a standard eye exam with an eye chart. Should I still investigate the possibility of a visual problem?
Perhaps . . . being able to read the letters on an eye chart at 20 feet distance does not guarantee adequate visual skills for reading and learning. In fact, the children most handicapped by vision or sensorimotor deficits often have 20/20 distance eyesight in at least one eye. The problems with eye alignment, eye teaming, focusing, and visual endurance which are likely to affect school work are easily missed in school screenings and conventional eye exams (with the 20/20 Snellen chart). Find out what visual skills should be tested in a comprehensive Eye Exam
How can I find a qualified eye doctor to examine and treat my child?
Doctors who offer special services in the areas of learning related vision disorders and vision therapy can be found by consulting a National Directory of Board certified doctors at www.vision3d.com. You can receive a free and immediate referral by submitting a form at this Directory.
What other problems can be helped with vision therapy?
Vision therapy is not only for children. Many adults find that vision therapy effects an improvement or recovery of their vision impairment; even in cases in which visual problems have been previously pronounced uncurable or hopeless by other vision care professionals. For example, many cases of lazy eye (amblyopia) can be successfully treated with vision therapy at any age. For many years, it was thought that amblyopia (lazy eye) was only amenable to treatment during the "critical period". This is the period up to age seven or eight years. Current research has conclusively demonstrated that effective treatment can take place at any age, but the length of the treatment period increases dramatically the longer the condition has existed prior to treatment.
Eye doctors trained in vision therapy are uniquely qualified to treat the visual consequences of traumatic brain injury (birth trauma, closed head trauma, etc.).
Turned eyes or crossed eyes (strabismus) are effectively treated with vision therapy. In fact, vision therapy is often the only alternative to surgical intervention AND vision therapy -- the non-surgical alternative -- has much higher success rates than eye surgery. Success rates following surgery for strabismus are actually quite poor and multiple surgeries are frequently performed on one individual. If you would like to learn more about vision therapy as compared to eye muscle surgery, visit a page on Eye Muscle Surgery
Is there more than one type of vision therapy?
Yes. Not all vision therapy programs are the same. Differences in the approach to vision therapy can be as diverse as the doctors who provide it. Make sure you understand what you can expect from the program and how goals will be achieved.
Are computers used in vision therapy?
Yes. The computer has produced major advancements in the administration of vision therapy. State-of-the-art technology and software allows vision therapists to offer patients challenging programs for the enhancement of eye teaming, focusing, binocularity, fusional and convergence skills, and perceptual-cognitive skills, etc.
Can a vision problem affect a child's self esteem?
Yes. Children with vision problems often have a history of underachievement and frustration. They often conclude that the reason for their low achievement is that they are not as "smart" as other children. Low self esteem and a lack of confidence are often the result of this conclusion. Correcting the vision problems which have been interfering with normal performance can have dramatic effects on both performance and self esteem.
How long does vision therapy take to correct learning related vision disorders?
Vision therapy programs are individually designed for each child based on the severity of the conditions being treated, the patient's motivation and readiness, and the number of therapy sessions per week the patient can attend. Therapy programs might range in duration from 3 months to 2 years. However -- to use some common terminology -- vision therapy is "short-term therapy" or "goal-oriented therapy." Unlike some other forms of therapy, you will not hear of an individuals being in therapy for years without goals being met. Vision therapy is effective AND cost-effective!
How long do the results of vision therapy last?
Most healthy vision therapy patients enjoy long term resolution of their visual problems. Generalizing the newly acquired visual abilities to the activities of daily life allows these new visual skills to become self-reinforcing. Efficient vision becomes a habit, as hard to break any other habit! Sickness, extreme fatigue or emotional trauma may cause temporary changes in visual skills. Patients with strabismus, amblyopia or traumatic brain injury may need to perform a minimum level of periodic maintenance therapy in order to sustain the high levels of visual performance attained during regular in-office therapy.
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, Optometrists Network
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