Children & Vision Therapy
Vision problems in children, other than simple refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism are not uncommon. Vision problems such as eye alignment, amblyopia (“lazy eye”) or focusing problems, eye teaming problems and visual perceptual disorders require vision therapy. Left untreated, these non-refractive vision problems can cause learning problems, fatigue, eyestrain and headaches .
What Is Vision Therapy or Vision Training?
Vision Training or Vision Therapy also called orthoptics is an individualized program for the treatment of non-refractive vision problems. Eye exercises and tasks are tailored to the child's specific vision problem. The therapy can be performed in an optometrist’s office with additional visual tasks that the child will need to perform daily at home.
Behavioral optometrists or developmental optometrists are optometrists who specialize in vision therapy and the treatment of learning-related vision problems.
Could Vision Therapy Eradicate the Need for Glasses?
Most eye care specialist are in agreement that the self-help programs that claim to reduce refractive errors and the need for glasses are a hoax. There is no scientific evidence that these programs work. These self-help programs are NOT the same as vision therapy.
Many studies confirm the effectiveness of vision therapy. Vision therapy is approved by the American Optometric Association (AOA) for the treatment of non-refractive vision problems.
Not every vision problem can be helped with vision therapy. Children that can be helped must adhere to the established vision program. The degree of success with vision therapy is determined by a number of factors. The patient’s age and his level of motivation are key factors. As important is the patient's performance of all eye exercises and visual tasks correctly. Furthermore, the type and severity of the vision problem are taken into account when evaluating the level of improvement with vision therapy.
Vision Therapy is Always Customized
The activities and therapeutic eye exercises prescribed as part of a vision therapy program are customized to the specific vision problem (or problems) a child has. For amblyopia, for example, the therapy normally includes patching the strong eye, in conjunction with visual activities or other stimulation techniques to develop visual acuity in the weak eye. Once visual acuity is better in the amblyopic eye, eye teaming exercises to further the development of clear, comfortable binocular vision to enhance depth perception and reading comfort, may be added to the treatment plan.
Learning Disabilities and Vision Therapy
Vision therapy is not a corrective procedure for learning disabilities. It is important to note though that children with learning disabilities often have vision problems as well. Vision therapy can correct the underlying vision problems. These may be contributing to the child’s learning problems.
Be sure to explain to your doctor the details of all your child's diagnostics related to any learning disability. If the findings indicate vision problems as contributive factors to the learning problems, your doctor will typically wish to communicate with the child’s teachers and any other specialists to clarify the findings. Vision therapy is often a useful component aspect of multidisciplinary approaches to learning problems and ultimate remedies.
Comprehensive Eye Exam in Calgary
If you even suspect your child has a vision problem which perhaps is affecting school performance, do not hesitate to schedule a comprehensive eye exam to determine to what extent any problem exists. If learning-related vision problems are discovered your doctor will discuss available vision therapy programs and their relevance as a part of or holistic solution.
Q&A with Dr. Dianna Leong, Dr. Anh Bui and Dr. Thomas Jay Yung
Our Eye Doctors Answer Your Eyecare Questions
Q: At my child’s last eye exam, he saw 20/20. However, at the end of the last school year, his teacher informed me he’s falling behind in his reading. He was initially reading at grade level but now he’s having a hard time sitting still to even read one page with me. Is there something wrong with his vision?
A: Vision is more than just 20/20; it involves the eyes, the brain and the connection between the two systems. If basic visual skills, such as eye-tracking, eye-focusing and eye-teaming skills, are below normal, this can affect how a child views and interacts with the world. This is why annual comprehensive eye exams are essential for children 18 years old and under; it is to ensure any potential visual problems are detected and treated before they hinder a child’s learning experience.
One method of treatment is Vision Therapy. This involves individualized treatment plans prescribed by a Doctor of Optometry. It is used to treat eye conditions, such as strabismus (eye turn) or amblyopia (“lazy eye”). Through Vision Therapy, a Doctor of Optometry also teaches, improves and/or reinforces important visual skills, such as eye tracking, eye focusing and eye teaming abilities. Without these visual skills, simple tasks like reading or copying notes from the board become difficult. Skipping words or lines while reading, using a finger while reading, blurry near vision, double vision, eyestrain and/or eye fatigue are also common symptoms.
Multiple research studies have shown that Vision Therapy does improve visual skills if given the proper dedication and time from the patients and parents. Once completed, Vision Therapy graduates no longer struggle with reading for extended periods of time, headaches or eyestrain, which makes learning an easier experience.
At Foresight Eyecare, Drs. Leong and Bui would be happy to discuss any visual concerns you may have at your children’s next eye exams.