Clear, comfortable, binocular vision is the goal of vision therapy. Patients enter our program for a variety of symptoms ranging from blurred vision, trouble focusing, difficulty reading, and even double vision. The optometrist is the first stop for many parents after being told there is some area of struggle in the classroom. Vision is much more than just seeing 20/20 on an eye chart. Clear, comfortable, binocular vision is the result of complicated processes occurring between the eye and brain. When any step in the process is incorrect, seeing and focusing can become difficult in the classroom as well as on the field of competition. Optometric Vision Therapy is a guided process of re-learning to focus and see clearly. Neuroplasticity is the underlying condition that allows for successful treatment with Optometric Vision Therapy. A comprehensive evaluation of vision and function identifies deficiencies in the visual system and directs the treatment plan. Targeted treatment for re-learning to see under stress helps improve the efficiency of the eyes and visual system. Instead of simply making the eye muscles stronger, Optometric Vision Therapy helps create eye movements that are more accurate. Typical programs last from 12-24 weeks with optimal results achieved using in-office therapy supplemented with at-home therapy.
The 2008 CITT study confirms the effectiveness of vision therapy when it consists of office-based therapy supplemented with home-based therapy. The American Optometric Association’s Clinical Practice Guideline (CPG) on Care of the Patient with Accommodative and Vergence Dysfunction also confirms the effectiveness of combining home-based and office-based therapy.
Office-based therapy is accomplished through activities designed to stimulate eye teaming. Engaging the eyes and brain as well as the whole body accelerates the process. Vision skills are taught and practiced along with visualization and vocalization to ensure new skills become “second nature.” Catching, throwing, and balancing are used to promote whole body interaction as the connections are formed through repetition.
Home-based therapy is appropriate for the visual skill level of the patient. Activities done at home will reinforce the new visual skills being acquired during office-based therapy. Home-based therapy takes just a few minutes a day but is necessary to the overall success of a vision therapy program.
It’s important for patients and parents to understand the disorder causing symptoms and the proposed treatment options. Patients and parents will be educated regarding their eyes and vision and be given an opportunity to have all their questions answered. In many cases, the patient may have several contributing causes of their symptoms. We will communicate to other health care professionals treating the patient how medications affect the health and function of the eyes and vision.
Annmarie is a bright 9-year-old girl who began struggling with focus in school. We diagnosed Annmarie with a deficiency in how her eyes work together up close, called convergence insufficiency. This condition causes children to struggle with many near-vision tasks. It was difficult for Annmarie to read stories, instructions, and her math homework. After two months, she and her parents had seen improvement, and after five months, she “graduated” from her vision therapy program doing well in both reading and math. Vision therapy was a bridge for Annmarie to perform at her potential with fewer symptoms when working up close.