What is Vision Therapy?
Vision is More than 20/20
Vision therapy, or vision rehabilitation, is a program of therapeutic activities that works on the eye-brain connections involved in visual coordination and visual processing. Vision therapy, is not eye exercises, nor is it designed to strengthen your eye muscles since they are generally very strong on their own. By influencing how the eyes and brain work together, vision therapy develops, rehabilitates, and enhances deficient visual skills to improve visual comfort, ease, and efficiency, and change how a person processes and interprets visual information.
Before understanding what vision therapy is and how vision plays a role in a person’s life, it’s necessary to know the difference between eyesight and vision. Eyesight is the ability to see a set of letters clearly on a chart at a distance of 20 feet. A common misconception is that 20/20 eyesight means you have perfect vision. Vision is more than seeing clearly; it is a complex combination of learned skills, including eye movement coordination, binocular fusion (eye teaming), accommodation (eye focus) and visual perception. It’s been stated that nearly 80% of what we are required to learn and process in school comes in through the visual system. When visual skills are well developed, a person can sustain attention, read and write without careless errors, give meaning to what they see and rely less on movement to stay alert. These visual skills & visual perceptual abilities require specialty vision testing to determine if they are interfering with abilities in learning.
Functional Vision Issues & ADHD, Dyslexia
Vision therapy treats the vision problems that interfere and prevent a person from functioning at the highest level which can impact learning, attention, and behavior. Children may have functional vision problems that mimic learning disabilities such as ADHD and may be misdiagnosed. This is where in-depth vision testing is important and necessary before any diagnosis is made or medication prescribed. Other patients may have co-existing vision problems and learning disabilities where the visual issues still need to be addressed.
Does Vision Therapy Work?
In a word, yes. Vision therapy is a well established field within the optometric profession with research studies that parallel other therapies such as occupational and physical therapy. There are, however, some websites or professions that attempt to misrepresent Vision therapy and it is important to look to organizations that provide objective information on the topic. The list of scientific research on the support of vision therapy is well known.
Be Cautious of Surgical Recommendations or Outdate Treatments
Too often, unnecessary eye surgical interventions, or outdated eye treatments such as patching or drops to penalize the “better eye” may be recommended when the issue is not the eyes, but rather how the brain controls the eyes. The brain must be taught how to use the eyes.
Where Can I Find More Information About Vision Therapy?
There are a number of great organizations that support and advocate for the scientific efficacy of Vision Therapy.
- COVD College of Optometrists in Vision Development
- OEP Optometric Extension Program
- NORA Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation Association
- AOA American Optometry Association
An optometrist with the credentials, FCOVD, after their name indicates they have advanced speciality certification as a board-certified Fellow in vision development & rehabilitative optometry. Because these visual issues are often not detected on routine eye exams or vision screens, they can easily be missed and go undiagnosed. Appropriate near-point and functional vision testing by an optometrist specializing in Vision therapy is necessary.