Up to 25% of all school age children have vision problems significant enough to impair academic performance.
Just like a computer has hardware (CPU, memory, ram) and software (windows, chrome), so too our vision relies on our eyes as the hardware collecting visual information and our brain as the software to decode the visual signals. A comprehensive eye exam focuses on the health of the eye, while a developmental eye exam focuses on both the eye and the brain's role in visual function.
Neuroplasticity means that the brain has the incredible ability to develop, adapt and learn new things over time. Much like when you teach a child to ride a bike, our neuro-visual system can be trained and kept for life.
Vision therapy uses visual activities and exercises that work on training the entire visual system to improve its function, much like physical therapy does with the body to fix a physical issue.
This treatment is non-invasive and it does not involve medications. It consists of supervised, in-office treatment as well as at-home reinforcement exercises, under the guidance of a developmental optometrist and a vision therapist.
While corrective lenses can effectively treat many visual issues, there are conditions that glasses alone will not fix. Many of these potential issues can be ones that if left untreated, can cause a child to have a much more difficult time in school, with sports performance and various other activities that require visual skills. One example is convergence insufficiency which occurs when the eyes are not working in sync together to focus on an object up close, such as when one is trying to read. This is a common condition which is prevalent in approximately 13% of school aged children. Vision therapy is the most effective method of removing this obstacle and treating convergence insufficiency.
Vision therapy has been used to treat many eye conditions including those that relate to:
Improving quality of vision is a leap forward in improvement of quality of life.
It is essential to understand that good vision extends far beyond scoring 20/20 when reading an eye chart. Daily life requires so many more visual skills, most of which we don’t necessarily pay attention to but without these abilities, performing day to day tasks becomes very challenging. For example, the ability for the eyes to be able to focus properly at different distances and to quickly adjust from one distance to another is essential. This becomes crucial in a classroom when a student at their desk is required to read what is written on the board at a distance and then to take notes in his or her notebook which is at a close distance on the desk. If a student does not have the proper flexibility of the visual system to adjust at various distances, the student can struggle with note taking and fall behind, causing so much frustration and low self esteem. This same ability is also important for driving as we are required to look at the road signs at a distance and then to glance at the GPS on the dashboard which is at a much closer distance.
The examples are endless and these visual skills could be hard to identify, but a developmental optometrist is trained to assess a person’s visual system in order to diagnose these possible visual challenges and to help treat them.
There are some key symptoms to look out for in order to know if vision therapy is relevant to you. If you experience any of these symptoms or have been diagnosed with any of the following conditions, it is recommended to schedule an appointment for an evaluation with a developmental or behavioral optometrist:
The developmental optometrist will do a special eye exam that evaluates all of the visual abilities and you will receive their professional opinion regarding if you can benefit from vision therapy and in what way. If you decide to proceed, a personal treatment plan will be created to suit your needs. Vision therapy can be helpful at various stages of life, including after childhood so please don’t hesitate to consult with a developmental optometrist, regardless of the age of the patient.