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What is Vision Therapy?
Some visual conditions cannot be treated by glasses or contact lenses alone and requires more hands on specialized treatment. Vision Therapy (or VT for short) is an individualized treatment plan prescribed and monitored by a Doctor of Optometry to develop, rehabilitate and enhance visual skills that have become deficient or defective. Vision Therapy is based on the science of neuroplasticity! Unlike other forms of therapy, the goal of Vision Therapy is not to simply strengthen the muscles of the eyes. Therapy techniques arrange conditions for the patient to learn to use his or her visual system more efficiently and to process visual information more effectively.
Vision Therapy sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to control the following visual skills:
-Eye Alignment -Eye Focusing
-Eye Teaming -Eye Movements
-Eye-Hand Coordination -Visual Processing (discrimination, memory, laterality/directionality, closure, spatial relations
Vision is much more than just seeing 20/20. It is the ability to understand and respond to what is being seen. 80% of learning is visual, so it is imperative that our visual system is working at its highest capacity!
Who Can Benefit From Vision Therapy?
We work with patients who have vision problems that interfere with their ability to learn, to read, to comprehend and even to pay attention.
Any person who experiences visual challenges or wants to improve their visual function in daily life activities. This includes children, teenagers and adults! Common reasons people seek out Vision Therapy include:
-Learning-related vision problems: Does 20 minutes of homework take your child an hour to complete? Vision Therapy can help those patients who lack the necessary visual skills for effective reading, writing and learning
-Poor binocular coordination: VT helps the eyes work together better as a team. This can help with reading eye movements, depth perception, tracking objects and even sports
-Strabismus/Amblyopia: VT can help establish a new brain-to-eye connection to improve vision and eye alignment
-Sports vision enhancement- VT can help athletes enhance their visual function, reaction time and peripheral vision
-Visual rehabilitation after brain injury, concussion or head trauma
What Steps Do I Take?
1. Comprehensive Eye Exam: the first step is to check the eye prescription and eye health. This can be done at out office or at another local office. If visual difficulties are found that may be fixed with Vision Therapy, the Doctor will suggest that the patient receive a binocular vision and/or visual perceptual examination
2. Binocular Vision/ Visual Perceptual Exam: This 1-2 hour appointment takes an in-depth look at how the eyes, brain and body work together. We will look at many areas of vision, such as: eye teaming, eye alignment, eye focusing, eye movements, hand-eye coordination, reading eye movements and asses visual processing during the perceptual portion of the examination. Dr. Wood reviews the information from this evaluation and writes a detailed report. The parents (or patient, if older) return for a separate consultation where they discuss the results of these tests and recommendations.
3. Vision Therapy Sessions: We meet once a week in-office for an individualized 45-minute session with the Doctor or Vision Therapist to work of specific visual skills that the patient has trouble with. Often times in office we will use lenses, prism, filters and charts to work on these skills. Home activities are often prescribed to supplement in-office procedures and help gain improvements.
4. Mid-Therapy Evaluations: Dr. Wood likes to provide evaluations approximately every 12 sessions, to make sure we are making good progress in therapy. Afterwards, she writes a detailed report and discusses the results with the parents/patient at the following VT session.
5. Graduate! Our goal is to provide new brain to eye connections that strengthen our patients’ ability to use their eyes, brain and body together in a more efficient and effective manner. When the patient’s vision is maximized, we are excited to see them graduate!
Conditions We Treat?
-Convergence Insufficiency: the inability to use the eyes comfortably at near; the eyes have trouble pointing properly at something up close. Glasses often do not help this condition, Vision Therapy is the key treatment protocol suggested by the CITT Study.
Symptoms of convergence insufficiency:
-Accommodative Insufficiency/Infacility: the eyes are unable to focus at near; this may be constant or intermittent. This can sometimes be treated with glasses, but vision therapy can aid in teaching the patient how to control their eyes’ focusing system.
-Oculomotor Dysfunction: patients may have trouble following a moving object (pursuits) and/or may have trouble jumping between stationary targets (saccades). This can cause problems with reading, handwriting and even with sports.
The chart below is meant to demonstrate what a reading eye movement dysfunction may feel like. Follow the arrows and attempt to read the text in a vertical fashion. Did you have trouble? Did you remember what you just read?
-Convergence Excess: the inability to use the eyes comfortably at near; the eyes tend to overly converge (or point together) when looking at something up close. This can sometimes be treated with glasses, but vision therapy can aid in teaching the patient where to point their eyes.
-Vision And Learning Cases: Any deficiency in eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, visual motor skills or visual processing can cause difficulties with learning, including reading and sustaining attention.
Symptoms of a vision-related learning problem:
-Amblyopia: often called “lazy eye,” amblyopia is poorer vision in one eye compared to the other eye. Sometimes amblyopia can be due to having a larger prescription in one eye compared to the other or can be due to an eye turn (strabismus). Treatment includes full time glasses/contact lenses and in some cases specialized vision therapy is needed to help the two eyes work together.
Symptoms of Amblyopia:
-Neuro-Rehabilitation of Concussions: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is damage to any area of the brain due to external force/blunt trauma. In the case of concussions, this damage is usually microscopic but can leave the patient with lingering symptoms related to their visual system. Depending on severity, treatment may include several types of physicians, including Optometrists, OTs, PTs, Chiropractors and Medical Doctors. Sometimes Vision Therapy is appropriate for those patients with visual deficits.
Vision Conditions That Commonly Manifest after TBI/Concussion:
-Visual Perception Disorders: visual perception involves how the eyes take in information and what the brain does with this information. There are several key areas of visual perception:
Deficits in Visual Perception can often times cause difficulty with schoolwork and learning. We have specialized testing that covers all of these areas to see if there are any deficits. Vision Therapy can integrate any of the aspects that the patient has difficulty with listed above.