A large body of scientific and clinical evidence has demonstrated vision therapy to be an effective treatment for a broad range of functional vision issues.
Vision Therapy may be new to some but it has been around for well over a century. It was designed years ago as a non-surgical alternative to various ophthalmological treatments, and has developed into an effective way to address cognitive, motor, and neurological deficits as well. As vision therapy has developed over the years, it has gifted the young and old alike, the ability to interact in more positive, efficient, and meaningful ways within their environment.
Vision therapy is an intervention used by optometrists that addresses the ways in which visual processing and the ability to interpret information through the eyes is developed and improved. Vision therapy is used for people who lack visual efficiency, ease, comfort, and skills. The belief that vision therapy is just a fancy way to describe eye exercises is rather antiquated and belies the ways in which it can strengthen weak eye muscles and more. Vision therapy helps patients re- learn and understand how they see. More accurately, it relates to interactions along the brain’s neural networks, affects changes that occur along neuronal pathways that allow new connections to develop, and enables environmental remapping to occur. The concept that makes vision therapy possible is known as neuroplasticity.
The brain’s ability to create new pathways as well as change existing ones, is known as neuroplasticity, and is what makes vision therapy such a powerful intervention. By training the brain to make adjustments to its cortical organization, the physiological changes needed to make lasting changes is made possible. A properly designed vision therapy program can establish neurological changes that improve persistent visual difficulties and enhance overall visual performance.
There are two primary certification bodies in the US for vision therapy, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF). Optometrists that achieve the highest level of certification in the field are fellows of the COVD or FCOVD, which is achieved by thorough testing and case reports that demonstrate mastery of both the science and practical application. In addition therapists are able to achieve advanced certification such as COVT or Certified Optometric Vision Therapist, which requires 2,000 hours of clinical experience under the supervision of an FCOVD Optometrist, and advanced testing.
It goes without saying that good research exists because of the extraordinary work of great scientists and researchers. Here’s a brief sampling of just some of the studies that have been conducted.
In December 2002, Dr. Kenneth J. Ciuffreda of the SUNY College of Optometry in New York, studied the efficacy and scientific basis for vision therapy in the treatment of vergence and non- strabismic disorders. He assessed changes in oculomotor responsiveness in children and adults that supported general motor learning as well as vision therapy.
In 2010, Dr. Mitchell Scheiman of Salus University in Pennsylvania, Dr. Susan Cotter of the Southern California College of Optometry (SCCO) at Marshall B. Ketchum University, Dr. John Lawrenson of the City University of London, Dr. Li W. Wang of Austin, and Dr. T. Li of Bakersfield, reviewed the studies of nearly 1,300 individuals with convergence insufficiency. Amongst those tested for six weeks to six months, were children and adults from the ages of 7 to 18, 15 to 40, and 40 and older. Study results supported the benefits of vision therapy conducted in-office and reinforced improved convergence ability in children who participated in continued vision therapy at home. Research from 2019 further indicated the therapeutic benefits of accommodative therapy.
In 2020, Dr.s Kristian Borg and Berthold-Lindstedt, of the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine and Dr. J Johansson of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience, of the Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm Sweden determined that targeted vision therapy can effectively treat, improve, and reduce oculomotor deficits resulting from acquired brain injuries.
Vision therapy has been both arduously tested and vilified since its emergence in the late 1800s. Between the 1930s and 1960s vision therapy gained more respect and acceptance as a valid part of optometric care, but the field still lacked substantial proof that it was indeed effective. In the absence of sufficient research and data, vision therapy appeared to be a good idea but not necessarily good practice.
In the early 1990s, due to the intense efforts to prove just how much vision therapy could help people of all ages experiencing any number of visual dysfunctions, the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial Investigator group (CITT) was born. Through the efforts of several dedicated and determined optometrists who had seen how life changing vision therapy could be, the CITT received grants through the National Eye Institute and opportunities to conduct a variety of clinical trials were created. Ultimately, vision therapy was proven to be an effective option for treating patients both in office and at home.
Vision therapy has been around for over 100 years and continues to develop at a rapid pace. As more and more research is conducted the benefits of vision therapy, both quantitative and qualitative, are becoming more apparent. And with greater funding from agencies like the NEI and the unwavering support and research of doctors like Mitchell Scheiman, OD, PhD, FAAO, vision therapy is sure to win a well deserved and coveted role in the world of vision care. To schedule a functional vision exam, you can reach out to your nearest Amplify EyeCare practice either via a call or in-person visit. Our team of eye care professionals is ready and equipped to provide you with the care you need.