Many children have vision problems other than simple refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. These “other” vision problems include amblyopia (“lazy eye”), eye alignment or eye teaming problems, focusing problems, and visual perceptual disorders. Left untreated, these non-refractive vision problems can cause eyestrain, fatigue, headaches, and learning problems.
Vision Therapy is an individualized treatment program designed to re-mediate visual and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. Vision Therapy includes procedures designed to retrain the brain’s ability to control, eye alignment, eye tracking, eye focusing, and visual processing skills. Visual skills and endurance are developed through the use of specialized computer and optical devices, including therapeutic lenses, prisms, and filters. During the final stages of therapy, the patient’s newly acquired visual skills are reinforced and made automatic through repetition and by integration with motor and cognitive skills.
COMMON VISUAL DYSFUNCTIONS:
- Binocular Dysfunction – Difficulty using the two eyes together as a team
- Convergence Insufficiency – An eye teaming problem where the eyes tend to drift outwards when doing close work
- – The ability of the eyes to simultaneously and smoothly follow words on a page or follow moving objects in space
- Amblyopia – ‘Lazy Eye’ lowered visual acuity that can not be corrected with glasses or contact lenses
- Strabismus -A visual impairment where the two eyes point in different directions (in, out, up, or down)
- – Visual memory, discrimination, spatial organization, visual-motor integration, directionality, visual capture, and visualization
COMMON SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF VISUAL DEFICIENCIES:
- Blurred or double vision when reading
- Skipping or repeating lines/words while reading
- One eye turning in or out
- Reading below expected grade level
- Difficulty copying from the chalkboard
- Headaches or dizziness after near activities
- Head tilting, closing or blocking one eye
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Difficulty with handwriting
- Poor/inconsistent performance in sports
- Performing below potential in school
The First Steps
If you think your child has a vision problem that may be affecting his or her performance in school or sports, the first step is to schedule a routine eye exam to rule out nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism.
If the basic eye exam suggests that no glasses are needed (or there is no change in your child’s current eyeglasses prescription) and each eye has 20/20 visual acuity, be aware that a vision problem still may exist. The eye chart used in routine eye exams tests only a person’s distance vision and does not test all critical aspects of visual performance.
For a thorough analysis of your child’s vision, including tests that evaluate vision skills needed for efficient reading, consider scheduling a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist who specializes in binocular vision, vision therapy and/or vision development.
Examinations used to diagnose non-refractive vision problems differ from routine eye exams provided by most optometrists and ophthalmologists. Usually they are longer and include a number of tests of eye teaming, depth perception, focusing, eye movements and visual-motor and/or visual-perceptual skills.
At the end of the exam, the doctor should give you a detailed assessment of your child’s vision and visual skills. If vision problems are identified and a program of vision therapy is recommended, be sure to get information about the likely duration of the therapy and success rates for the specific type of vision therapy being recommended. Also, ask what criteria are used to define “successful” treatment.
Finally, request details about the expected cost of the therapy program, and whether any of the costs will be covered by your health insurance or vision insurance policy. In many cases, vision therapy is not a covered benefit in insurance programs.