What is Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy is a type of physical therapy for the eyes and brain. 

If you are not an eye doctor you may not realize that we actually see with our brain, not with our eyes.  Vision therapy is a highly effective non-surgical treatment for many common eye, vision and vision processing problems such as lazy eye, crossed eyes, double vision, convergence insufficiency and vision problems that impact learning and reading.. 

In fact, a recent American study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute concluded that in-office vision therapy is the best available treatment for convergence insufficiency.  Many patients who have been told, "it's too late," or "you'll have to learn to live with it" have benefited from vision therapy.

In the case of learning disabilities, vision therapy is specifically directed toward resolving visual problems which interfere with reading, learning and educational instruction. Optometrists do not claim that vision therapy is a direct treatment for learning disabilities.  However, many children have been mistakenly diagnosed with learning disabilities when the problem is actually a visual one.

Most people don’t realize that you need 17 visual skills to succeed in reading, learning, sports, and in life. Seeing ‘20/20’ is just one of those visual skills. Here is the complete list:

  1. Eye Movement Control
  2. Simultaneous Focus at Far
  3. Sustaining Focus at Far
  4. Simultaneous Focus at Near
  5. Sustaining Focus at Near
  6. Simultaneous Alignment at Far
  7. Sustaining Alignment at Far
  8. Simultaneous Alignment at Near
  9. Sustaining Alignment at Near
  10. Central Vision (Visual Acuity)
  11. Peripheral Vision
  12. Depth Awareness
  13. Color Perception
  14. Gross Visual-Motor
  15. Fine Visual-Motor
  16. Visual Perception
  17. Visual Integration
It is easy to see how deficiencies in one or more of these areas can negatively impact school, sports, self esteem and life in general.

Vision therapy works on the principle of neuroplasticity. In that regard, it has the same scientific basis as occupational therapy and speech therapy. It seeks to rewire the neural connections between the eye and the brain to correct developmental issues that have resulted in deficits in the visual system or to rehabilitate the visual system when disorders are caused by brain injuries or other trauma..

Vision Therapy is an individualized, doctor supervised and doctor designed treatment program for the correction of visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. In-office Vision Therapy sessions supplemented by home reinforcement (homework) include procedures designed to improve visual comfort, ease, and efficiency and to enhance the brain’s ability to control:

  • Eye alignment
  • Eye tracking and eye teaming
  • Eye focusing abilities
  • Eye movements
  • Interpret and process visual information

In-office Vision Therapy is supervised by doctors of optometry and various types of treatment devices are used (some of which are regulated medical devices), such as:

  • corrective lenses (regulated medical devices);
  • therapeutic lenses (regulated medical devices);
  • prism lenses (regulated medical devices);
  • optical filters;
  • eye patches or occluders
  • electronic targets with timing mechanisms;
  • computer software;
  • vestibular (balance) equipment; and
  • visual-motor-sensory integration training devices.

 

Research summaries

It all starts with evidence based care

College of Optometrists in Vision Development Research Summary 1 Completed in July, 2009, this paper presents over 350 abstracts from 77 journals
College of Optometrists in Vision Development Research Summary 2
Completed in October, 2010, this paper presents 35 additional abstracts.
College of Optometrists in Vision Development Research Summary 3
Completed in October, 2011, this paper presents 65 additional abstracts.
College of Optometrists in Vision Development Research Summary on
vision, reading and vision therapy: A listing of some of the research reports and clinical studies on the relationship of vision to reading and learning ability and the effectiveness of vision therapy in the treatment of learning-related vision problems.

 

TED Talk By Dr. Susan Barry on Vision Therapy:

Binocular vision problems and vision therapy on "The Doctors":