As children grow, it is not uncommon for a number of eye problems to develop. Beyond blurred vision, caused by refractive error such as nearsightedness (myopia) and farsightedness (hyperopia), children can develop a number of other visual and perceptual problems that are often not detected through a simple vision exam. Even a child with 20/20 vision can have underlying vision problems.
Some of these issues are functional vision problems having to do with the actual eyes, how they move individually and as a pair, as well as their ability to focus. Functions such as eye teaming, tracking, focusing, and hand-eye coordination, all affect a child’s success at school, in sports or in general daily life. Children with these difficulties tend to experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, eye fatigue or short attention spans. With these critical visual skills lacking, basic tasks, such as reading and writing, can be extremely difficult and exhausting - which can at times lead to frustration and behavioral problems.
Just as we are able to train our bodies to build strength, speed and agility, our vision skills can also be strengthened. Vision therapy offers a doctor-supervised program to help children develop these skills.
What is Vision Therapy?
Vision Therapy is a program consisting of progressive eye exercises individualized for each patient, designed to retrain, help develop or improve upon particular visual skills or to improve processing and the interpretation of visual information. It is used to treat certain conditions, such as strabismus (crossed eyes) and amblyopia (lazy eye) as well as eye movement, focus and coordination problems.
Typically, the sessions take place in the optometrist’s office on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and utilize a variety of tools such as therapeutic lenses or prisms. In addition to the in-office trainings, the patient will be asked to practice certain exercises or activities at home in order to reinforce the skills. By repeating these tasks, the patient can strengthen his or her focusing skills and improve eye movement and alignment until the eyes are working properly and comfortably. The therapeutic program lasts about 6-9 months.
Vision therapy has been scientifically proven to improve functional vision skills and is approved by the major optometric bodies such as the American Optometric Association and the Canadian Association of Optometrists. It does not improve refractive error and should not be confused with alternative self-conducted eye exercises that claim to improve your vision.
Vision therapy has also been shown to be effective in adults. If you think that vision therapy could be right for your child or yourself, it is worth getting your eyes evaluated by a trained vision therapist to determine whether VT could help resolve your current vision problems.