Vision is the result of the brain and the eyes working together. It is vision that directs most of the body’s movements and action. Vision Therapy is a sequence of activities designed to improve and re-train the way that the brain, eyes and body work together. While it is the case that many visual problems are corrected with optical aids such as glasses or contact lenses, other visual functions and skills require a different approach. Vision Therapy can be used to improve eye coordination and tracking, improve eye teaming and binocularity, improve focusing flexibility (changing focus from near to far) and change how a person processes or interprets visual information.
This is an excellent TED talk on vision therapy.
Benefits of Vision Therapy
Typical improvements noted as a result of our Vision Therapy program include:
- improved concentration
- increased interest in reading, along with better comprehension and speed
- improved focusing ability and control
- reduction or cessation of eyestrain or headache symptoms associated with visual tasks
- reduction in light sensitivity
- improved depth perception
- improved night vision
- clearer vision
- improved peripheral vision awareness or spatial awareness
It is also an effective treatment for eye turns and for "lazy" eyes.
Is Vision Therapy possible at any age?
There is no age barrier to treating vision problems with Vision Therapy. Many people assume that they do not have a vision problem because their clarity of sight is generally good. Yet eye sight or clarity is only a small part of the overall process of Vision. Vision is the result of the process by which the brain and the eyes work together. Consequently, many adults never imagined that some of their life-long difficulties are caused by a vision problem.
Life-long problems caused by an undiagnosed vision problem include:
- falling asleep when reading
- closing one eye to read
- avoiding reading
- sore or tired eyes
- finding it difficult to make eye contact
- difficulty judging distances while driving or playing sport
Our Vision Therapy programs are customised to the individual and work well with children and adults. Our vision therapists work closely with you to guide you through the program.
Vision Therapy should not to be confused with any self-directed or self-help program of eye exercises. Research shows that office-based Vision Therapy Programs provide much better results than computer-based or self-directed programs alone. In-office Vision Therapy is supervised by eye care professionals and involves using treatment devices including:
- corrective spectacle lenses
- therapeutic spectacle lenses
- prism lenses
- optical filters
- eye patches or occluders
- electronic targets with timing mechanisms
- computer software
- vestibular (balance) equipment
- visual-motor-sensory integration training devices
How can Vision Therapy help my child?
If you are sharing your child's frustrations with school-work, then Vision Therapy may be the key to unlocking your child's potential. It is also extremely beneficial for children on the Autism spectrum.
Imagine no more fights over homework, a child who is not cranky and tired after school, a child who enjoys reading, is happy to complete their work and has renewed self-confidence.
Vision Therapy is not a replacement for reading tuition, remediation, or phonic awareness training. It does not "cure" dyslexia, ADHD/ADD or academic difficulties. So you might ask, then why do it? There are many good reasons. Even something that appears as “simple” as an eye-teaming problem can have a dramatic impact on both children and adults. Available concentration is "burnt up" by the need to concentrate on the mechanics of keeping the eyes aligned. Obvious symptoms are headaches, eye-strain or complaints of blur, however many people tend to suffer less obvious symptoms such as avoidance of near tasks, concentration loss and reduced reading fluency. Vision problems may be a primary barrier to learning or they may be a further burden to a child with other difficulties (such as ADHD).
- Research has demonstrated that children can improve in reading skills and mathematical ability from vision therapy alone.
- Failure to acquire good visual processing skills is a reliable predictor of future poor academic performance. This is because vision is the dominant sensory process.
- Even a phonetic or phonic approach to reading requires the ability to hold visual attention (look at things), move the eyes quickly and easily and visually recognise letters and words. Fatigue of the eye muscles that hold visual attention may explain why some children start out reading well in the early grades, only to start to encounter difficulties after grade 2 or 3.
The Role of Vision Therapy with Reading and Learning
Vision, reading and learning are complex processes. A child's difficulties with reading or learning can be the result of multiple factors. The role of vision in learning is to allow the person to maintain good attention and concentration easily, without experiencing blur, discomfort or double vision. Vision guides fine motor control when writing and helps us understand spatial concepts. Because vision is a sense that we rely on heavily, even relatively mild dysfunction in the automatic operations of vision can, for some people, result in significant difficulties with attention, concentration and visual comfort. So regardless of the primary cause of difficulties with reading or learning, treatment of vision problems is important in any person not achieving his or her potential.
Further information is available at the College of Optometrists in Vision Development website: www.covd.org.
Also, see Jillian's story: www.jilliansstory.com and Dear Jillian for information about a young girl whose visual function improved significantly with vision therapy. A copy of this book is available for loan form Fitzroy North Eye Centre.
How much time commitment is involved?
Office-visits: Vision Therapy at Fitzroy North Eye Centre is performed in-office in blocks of 10 weeks. The visits are weekly and of 40 minutes duration. 2-4 blocks are generally required. Review appointments with the optometrist will usually take place at week 5 and again after 9 weeks of vision therapy.
Homework: In addition, 5 sessions of 20 minutes homework need to be completed each week. This is the key to success. Vision therapy will improve symptoms much more successfully if the homework is completed. It is important to not expect instant results. Vision problems are often embedded patterns of behaviour and it usually takes several weeks of disciplined work to see the fruits of therapy. Working through a vision therapy program you will notice that it makes so much sense, i.e. you appreciate what you need to do to make the visual process more comfortable and automatic.
Please contact us for more information.