Many children in Northern Colorado have vision problems other than the common refractive issues of nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. These “other” eyesight issues 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.
What Is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, non-surgical and customized program of visual activities designed to correct certain vision problems and/or improve visual skills.
Vision therapy aims to “teach” the visual system to correct itself this differs from eyeglasses and contact lenses, the goal of which is to simply correct vision problems, or eye surgery that alters the anatomy of the eye or surrounding muscles, vision therapy aims to “teach” the visual system to correct itself.
Vision therapy very similar to physical therapy for a person’s entire visual system. Included in this are the eyes and the parts of the brain that are involved with vision.
In vision therapy we use many different tools to aid in teaching. Some of these tools can include the use of lenses, prisms, filters, computerized visual activities and non-computerized viewing instruments. Non-medical tools like balance boards, metronomes and other devices may also be used and have an important role in a personalized vision therapy treatment.
Vision therapy is not just a list of tools and techniques it is a therapeutic process which relies on the active engagement of the prescribing doctor, the vision therapist, the patient and (in the case of children) their parents.
Overall, the goal of vision therapy here in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley is to treat (and hopefully cure) eyesight issues that can’t be treated completely with glasses, contact lenses and/or surgery alone to aid in accomplishing clear, comfortable binocular eyesight.
There have been many studies which have proven that vision therapy is able to correct vision problems that interfere with efficient reading in schoolchildren. It is also able to reduce eye strain and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome experienced by some children and many adults. Below we have additional information on conditions treated with vision therapy.
Problems Vision Therapy Can Correct
Here are the vision issues that are currently able to being treated with vision therapy:
- Amblyopia. Also called “lazy eye”. Amblyopia is a type of vision development problem where one eye is not able to attain normal visual acuity, usually due to strabismus or other issues of eye teaming.
- Strabismus. The overall success of vision therapy for the treatment of strabismus depends on the direction, magnitude and frequency of the eye turn. TV has been proven to be an effective tool for treating an intermittent form of strabismus called convergence insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency is when the eyes are not able to stay properly aligned when reading despite good eye alignment when looking at distant objects.
- Other binocular vision problems. There are some more subtle eye alignment issues called phorias that may not produce a visible eye turn but still can cause eye strain and eye fatigue when reading. These can also diminish or be completely corrected with vision therapy treatment.
- Eye movement disorders. There are studies that have displayed how vision therapy has the ability to increase the accuracy of eye movements that are used most during reading and other near-focus work.
- Accommodative (focusing) disorders. There is other research which displays how near-far focusing skills may be improved with vision training.
- Other problems. There are other vision issues that vision therapy might be effective treatment for. These include:
- visual-perceptual disorders,
- vision problems associated with developmental disabilities,
- vision problems associated with acquired brain injury (such as from a stroke).
Vision Therapy and Learning Disabilities
Here in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley there are differing opinions about visions problems and their relation to learning disabilities and how the two work together. Optometrists and ophthalmologists often have different opinions about what works and what doesn’t in regards to vision therapy.
Many optometrists in Northern Colorado and across the country support the use of vision therapy as a strategic piece of a multidisciplinary approach in the treatment of specific types of learning disabilities. Optometrists general opinion is that, in many cases, children with learning disabilities also have underlying vision problems that could very well be contributing in part to their learning issues. It is possible, they argue, that these learning-related vision problems could be successfully treated with optometric vision therapy. This would then in turn improve the child’s overall ability for learning.
Many ophthalmologists, argue that they see vision therapy as ineffective in treating any type of learning problem. They say that there is no scientific evidence to substantiate the claim that the correction of vision problems could reduce the severity of learning disabilities.
The First Steps
If you suspect that your child has a vision issue that could be having an affect on his or her performance in school or sports, the first step is to schedule a routine eye exam so that we can see if nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism is the problem or if there is more to it.
If the routine 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, there may still be a vision issue. The simple eye chart used in a routine eye exam is only able to test a person’s distance vision and is not up to the task of testing all critical aspects of visual performance.
For a complete analysis of your child’s visual capabilities, 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.
Here in Fort Collins, Loveland and Greeley these examinations are used to diagnose non-refractive vision issues and differ from routine eye exams provided by most optometrists and ophthalmologists. These exams are usually 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 will most likely give you a detailed assessment of your child’s vision and visual skills. If there are vision problems that are identified and there is a program of vision therapy which is recommended, be sure to get information about the likely duration of the therapy and the success rates for the specific type of vision therapy that is being recommended. Also, inquire as to what the criteria are for a “successful” treatment.
Finally, be sure to request details about the expected cost of the therapy program. Find out whether if some or any of the costs will be covered by your health insurance or vision insurance policy. In most scenarios, vision therapy is not a covered benefit of insurance policies.
For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please call 970-204-4020 or click on the link on the side of the page.