WHAT IS VISION THERAPY?
Optometric Vision Therapy or “Vision Training” refers to visual exercises that are prescribed and performed under the supervision of a Doctor of Optometry. Vision Therapy can be considered a type of physical therapy for both the eyes and the visual parts of the brain. Vision therapy is a non-surgical intervention that can be used to treat a wide variety of visual problems.
Vision exercises prescribed by the Optometrist are designed to improve many functions of the visual system in patients with visual deficits such as convergence insufficiency, amblyopia, or focusing muscle strain. The exercises are tailored for each patient’s unique visual needs. Therapists use a combination of lenses, prisms, filters, 3D activities, specially designed computer programs and many other tools to provide the appropriate sequence of visual experiences to encourage visual learning and development.
Vision therapy programs are usually executed with one or two in-office appointments per week, each lasting 30 to 60 minutes. In addition, new skills are supported by at-home exercises, which are practiced a few times each week. A course of vision therapy may range from 10 weeks to over 1 year in duration. There is a great deal of variation between programs due to individual variability in diagnoses, severity of the visual dysfunction and patient age.
WHO NEEDS VISION THERAPY?
Vision therapy has many different applications. It can be used to improve reading efficiency in children who are struggling with learning, or to enhance an athlete’s performance by improving depth perception, peripheral awareness and reaction time. Vision training can also be used to treat conditions such as “eye turns” (strabismus) and “lazy eye” (amblyopia).
Research studies have found that children with learning difficulties, such as ADD, dyslexia and non-specific reading disabilities, have a high incidence of vision problems that can be treated with vision training. Similar vision conditions also occur in individuals with acquired brain injuries, including those resulting from whiplash, concussions and strokes.
Signs and Symptoms Associated with a Vision Problem
The following is a list of symptoms that are commonly associated with a Binocular Vision, Visual Efficiency or Visual Perceptual deficit.
This symptom list is inclusive of problems with hand-eye coordination, uncorrected refractive error (such as near-sightedness or far-sightedness), reduced focussing muscle skills, poor eye movement or eye tracking abilities, visual perceptual difficulties, problems with eye teaming or eye alignment and visual problems following a traumatic brain injury.
- Blurry vision when looking at any distance
- Double vision (seeing two of things)
- Words appear to overlap or run together on the page when reading
- Headaches triggered during or after sustained visual tasks
- Red or watering eyes during or after a sustained visual task
- Difficulty copying from the board at school
- Yawning, fatigue or falling asleep while reading
- Homework takes a long time to complete
- Mistakes words with similar beginnings
- Orients drawings poorly on a page
- Repeats letters within words when writing or copying
- Excessive blinking during sustained visual tasks such as reading and writing
- Frequent left-right letter reversals
- Often confuses left and right in real space or on self
- Difficulty learning new words, fails to recognize the same word in the next sentence
- Mistakes words with the same or similar beginnings
- Clarity of vision fluctuates throughout the day
- Skips or repeats lines when reading
- Misaligns digits in number columns
- Tilts or turns head to one side when reading and writing
- Avoidance of near visual tasks such as computer, reading and writing
- Fidgeting or other excessive movement during reading and writing
- Consistently shows significant postural problems at all desk activities
- Blur or visual discomfort with night driving
- Dizziness or nausea when doing near work such as computer, reading and writing
- Closes or covers one eye when reading or writing
- Visual work is worse at the end of the day
- Writing appears slanted as if writing up-hill or down-hill
- Poor hand-writing due to unusual word or letter spacing or size, poor legibility
- Lack of confidence walking or running, missing steps or stumbling
- Omits (leaves out) small words when reading
- Clumsiness, accident prone
- Poor depth perception
- Poor or inconsistent performance in sports
- First response to a visual task is “I can’t”, says “I can’t” before trying
- Short attention span for reading and writing
- Easily distracted when reading and writing
- Frequent eye rubbing, especially after prolonged visual tasks
- Avoids social interaction
- Avoids sports or games with quickly moving objects
- Poor depth perception, does not judge distances accurately
- Car sickness or motion sickness
- Reading comprehension is generally low or declines quickly
- Holds books very close, leans close to screens
- Prefers being read to than to read himself/herself
- Frequently loses belongings, forgetful
- Poor spelling
- Confuses likeness or minor differences
- Whispers or speaks to self for reinforcement during silent reading periods
- Discomfort in crowded visual environments
- Objects straight ahead do not always appear straight ahead
- Leans to one side when standing or walking
- Explores more with hands (kinesthetic learner) than with their eyes
- Sensitive to patterns, screens or fluorescent lighting
- Side vision appears distorted, objects change or move place
- Difficulty integrating multiple sensory stimuli such as background noise
- Difficulty multi-tasking
- Soreness or pulling sensation around or behind the eyes
- Frequently falling to one side or bumping into things on one side of the body
- Unable to attend to information on one side of body