Vision Therapy

What is Vision Therapy?

Approximately 1 in 10 children have a vision problem severe enough to affect their learning in school, but school vision screenings can miss up to half of these problems. A school vision screening is typically limited to reading letters on an eye chart, and not intended to replace a comprehensive vision evaluation that can detect vision-based learning problems. Children who have problems with eye focusing, eye tracking, and eye teaming will struggle with reading or homework, even if they see the 20/20 line. Without efficient visual skills, reading can be very frustrating. These frustrations can spill over into behaviors that can present themselves in a fashion similar to attention deficit disorders such as ADD/ADHD, or reading problems such as dyslexia.

Optometric vision therapy is a program of care used to develop, restore, or enhance function and performance of the eyes, much like physical therapy is used to improve the body’s function. The procedures are conducted under the supervision of an optometrist and are individualized to meet the needs of each patient. Depending on the case, vision therapy is prescribed to develop or improve visual skills and abilities; improve visual comfort, ease and efficiency; or improve how the individual processes visual information.

Young girl in school listening

Eye Tracking

This is the ability of the eyes to track a moving target or switch fixation from one target to another. Having good eye tracking skills allows for smooth, easy movements of the eyes along a line of print on a page, and switch eyes between different objects in a room. Poor eye tracking control can cause the individual to lose their place while reading, have difficulty copying from the board, and skip or omit small words when reading.

Accommodation: “Eye focusing”

The accommodation skill allows rapid and accurate shifts with instant clarity from one distance to another, such as switching focus from your desk to the board at the front of the room. Good focusing ability also allows the individual to maintain clear focus at a normal reading distance without fatiguing rapidly. Difficulty with accommodation causes the individual to have fatigue or headaches while reading, “in and out of focus” vision while reading, and blurred distance vision after prolonged reading.

Binocular Vision: “Eye Coordination”

Both eyes must work together in a coordinated way to allow comfortable, clear vision. If the eyes do not work together properly, the person may experience double vision, frequently losing their place or skipping lines while reading, headaches and eyestrain, as well as low reading stamina (rapid fatiguability).

Mechanics aren’t everything though. If the brain is unable to make sense of what the eyes are seeing, or is unable to process the information quickly, the person will struggle to make sense of what they read or see. Here are some examples of visual processing skills.

  • Visual Memory the ability to store visual information in short term memory to recall visual information. This skill is necessary for handwriting tasks when copying information from a source, such as lists of words, homework lists, and copying sentences. It is also important in spelling words correctly and recognizing that words are not spelled correctly.
  • Visual Discrimination– This visual perception skill enables us to distinguish small differences and similarities between objects. When writing and reading, visual discrimination allows us to perceive the difference between “p” and “d”, and other similar letters.
  • Visual Figure-Ground– this skill enables us to locate items in a busy background, like in the Where’s Waldo search books. For school, this skill is important for copying written work from a model and locating the place left off when shifting vision.
Girl covering up one eye

Vision is a very complex skill. Not only do the eyes need to look from one location to another accurately, both eyes must work together in a coordinated fashion to gather the necessary visual information to be sent to the brain where the visual information is processed. Any problems with this finely tuned system will cause visual symptoms.

young boy reading looking closely at book

Common Symptoms of a Visual Function Problem:

  • Blurred vision with reading or near work
  • Vision is worse at the end of the day
  • Avoids reading or doing homework
  • Words run together, move, jump or swim
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • Holds reading material unusually close or far away from the eyes
  • Skips words or lines on the page
  • Close or cover one eye when reading
  • Eyes feel tired, sore or uncomfortable after reading
  • Things far away look blurry after reading
  • Feel sleepy or lose concentration when reading
  • Difficulty remembering what you read
  • Homework takes a long time to complete
  • Understand and remember things better when they are verbally explained vs when they are read.