What is Vision Therapy

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

Vision therapy (also called vision training, orthoptics, eye training, and eye exercises) is a clinical approach for correcting and ameliorating the effects of eye movement disorders, nonstrabismic binocular dysfunctions, focusing disorders, strabismus, amblyopia, nystagmus, and certain visual perceptual (information processing) disorders. The practice of vision therapy entails a variety of non-surgical therapeutic procedures designed to modify different aspects of visual function. Its purpose is to cure or ameliorate a diagnosed neuromuscular, neurophysiological, or neurosensory visual dysfunction.

Vision therapy typically involves a series of treatments during which carefully planned activities are carried out by the patient under professional supervision in order to relieve the visual problem. The specific procedures and instrumentation utilized are determined by the nature and severity of the diagnosed condition. Vision therapy is not instituted to simply strengthen eye muscles, but rather is generally done to treat functional deficiencies in order for the patient to achieve optimal efficiency and comfort.

Look for these signs and symptoms

You observe the following behavior in your child:

  • One eye drifts or aims in a different direction than the other (look carefully – this can be subtle).  This is significant even if it only occurs when the child is tired or stressed.
  • Turns or tilts head to see
  • Head is frequently tilted to one side or one shoulder is noticeably higher
  • Squinting or closing of one eye
  • Excessive blinking or squinting
  • Poor visual/motor skills (often called, “hand-eye coordination”)
  • Problems moving in space, frequently bumps into things or drops things

While reading or doing close work your child:

  • Holds the book or object unusually close
  • Closes one eye or covers eye with hand
  • Twists or tilts head toward book or object so as to favor one eye
  • Frequently loses place and fatigues easily
  • Uses finger to read
  • Rubs eyes during or after short periods of reading

Your child frequently complains of:

  • Only being able to read for short periods of time
  • Headaches or eyestrain
  • Nausea or dizziness
  • Motion sickness

Signs to Look for in Infants and Toddlers:

  • One eye seems to turn in or out
  • Doesn’t respond to visual stimuli
  • Difficulty following moving objects

A second opinion is warranted when your eye doctor:

  • Diagnoses amblyopia or strabismus, but offers only surgery and/or patching – no mention is made of eye exercises or other supporting vision therapies.
  • Recommends surgery only for cosmetic purposes (to make the eye appear straight to others) and does not believe that your child can develop binocular vision 
  • Tells you that it is too late for either surgery and/or patching and that your child cannot develop binocular vision.
  • Your Child is Labeled as “Lazy, “Slow Learner”, “ADD/ADHD” or “Behavior Problems”

In the above cases, parents are advised to consult an eye doctor who offers comprehensive functional eye examinations, supervises vision therapy to children, particularly a behavioral optometrist.

If you have checked off several items on the checklist, please call our office to schedule a Perceptual Eye Exam.

A Perceptual Eye Examination includes the testing of the following visual skills:

  • Eye Movement (Tracking)
  • Eye Teaming (Convergence)
  • Eye-Hand Coordination
  • Focusing (zooming in and out like a camera)

Catching Visual Problems Early:

Early detection of visual problems greatly increases the chances of successful rehabilitation.  An eye doctor should examine children during infancy and preschool years to detect potential problems with binocular vision.  This is particularly important if any member of the family has had amblyopia or strabismus.  Testing of binocular teaming skills should be a part of every child’s comprehensive eye examination.

Many of these vision problems will not be detected during a vision screening, part of a school physical or routine pediatric health evaluation.  Seek an eye and vision examination by an optometrist who is experienced and knowledgeable in dealing with learning-related vision problems.