About Vision Therapy
Who Benefits from Vision Therapy?
Children and adults with visual challenges such as:
Eye movement problems are a fairly common eye problem in school children. There are two aspects to eye movement problems. 1) if the person is unable to follow a moving object smoothly (pursuits) or, 2) if they are unable to accurately shift their eyes from one point to another (saccadics).
The medical term for an eye tracking problem is Oculomotor Dysfunction. It is a fairly common eye problem.
In order to understand school work properly, as in reading or copying, the eyes must move smoothly and quickly from word to word. Only a slight error in tracking can cause confusion in reading if words are skipped or reread. If the child only reads 3 out of 4 words correctly, or even 9 out of 10 words correctly, then reading comprehension drops off quickly.
Vision and tracking skills are needed in sports for catching a ball. Eye tracking skills are essential in athletic performance. Eye-hand coordination depends first on good tracking skills. “Keep your eye on the ball.”
Most children have normal or nearly normal tracking skills early in life. This can deteriorate as the child grows older. Tracking problems occur when these muscles are not properly coordinated. It is more common now than ever before for children to have trouble with tracking skills. Once the eyes start making errors in tracking and focusing, the problem seems to worsen during the school year and may ease off (but not cure itself) during holidays and summer break.
Treatment is straightforward. The underlying cause is addressed with eye exercises (vision therapy) and most patients can make rapid progress. After a program is done in the office, other eye exercises should be done at home to maintain this important ability.
Amblyopia is commonly known as lazy eye, amblyopia is a common eye condition found in about 1 out of 30 people. It is usually caused by an undetected need for glasses in an infant or toddler. Vision Therapy programs offer the highest cure rates for lazy eye compared to eye surgery, glasses alone or patching without therapy. The earlier the patient receives Vision Therapy the better; however, our office successfully treats patients well into adulthood.
Amblyopia or lazy eye is a common eye condition found in about 1 out of 30 people. It is usually caused by an undetected need for glasses in an infant or toddler. Because one eye has normal vision and the other eye has poor vision, the child prefers to see out of the eye with good vision. The vision in the weaker eye does not grow and develop as the child grows older. Therefore, it is a lazy eye. Some children seem to be unaffected by this when they are young, but when they are older they may struggle with school performance.
If not caught at its earliest stages, amblyopia results in a lack of depth perception. Many of these children also lag behind in other eye abilities such as focusing and tracking which can result in them struggling in school. Lack of depth perception causes uncertainty in daily activities and sports. Later in life an adult with amblyopia would be restricted in careers they choose.
The first step is to get a good pair of glasses that the child will wear comfortably. This corrects the original problem of one eye being strong and one eye being weak. Now we must develop the ability for the two eyes to work together as a team. At this point, a program of eye exercises or vision therapy can be started. The child may still require glasses after a vision therapy program is completed. Our goal is for them to have normal vision while still wearing glasses.
The earlier the condition is found and treated the better the outcome. Vision therapy should be started with any child who does not have 20/20 vision in each eye and good depth perception.
For more information on amblyopia please visit www.lazyeye.org
Convergence insufficiency is a common eye coordination disorder in which the eyes do not adjust to near vision easily. It is an eye teaming problem where the eyes cannot converge (cross) enough to see something up close without seeing double or closing one eye. Vision Therapy helps individuals restore normal coordination and teamwork of the two eyes (binocular vision). When the two eyes fail to work together as an effective team, performance in many areas can suffer (reading, sports, depth perception, eye contact, etc.).
Convergence insufficiency is a common eye coordination disorder in which the eyes do not adjust to near vision easily. It is an eye teaming problem where the eyes cannot converge (cross) enough to see something up close without seeing double or closing one eye. The condition may go unnoticed by the person or parents because they often make compensations for the condition so it will no longer bother them.
To prevent double vision, the individual exerts extra effort to make the eyes converge (point up close). This extra effort can lead to a number of frustrating symptoms that interfere with the ability to read smoothly and can cause schoolwork to suffer or become erratic.
The initial diagnosis of convergence insufficiency is relatively easy. The evaluation for the treatment and cure of the condition requires further testing to determine the underlying cause and how the condition will be treated. The most important diagnostic tools are convergence tests, notthe 20/20 letter charts typically used by schools, pediatricians and eye doctors. A person can pass the 20/20 eye chart test and still have convergence insufficiency.
Important research completed in 2008 by the National Institute of Health (NIH) deemed this a medical problem. The results showed the most effective treatment was in-office vision therapy combined with home-based exercises. To simply “wait and see” could be a dangerous course. This condition usually worsens over time and treatment should be started early.
For more information on strabismus please visit www.convergenceinsufficiency.org
Struggles in School
Vision therapy can help those individuals who lack the necessary visual skills for reading, writing, and learning such as eye movement and focusing skills or the ability to coordinate the eyes together as a team. Eye-hand coordination and visual perceptual abilities are included in these essential skills.
Eighty percent (80%) of what a child will learn in school comes through vision. This is much more than just having 20/20 eyesight, the child must have many visual skills to excel in school. With only one important part of vision deficient, the child could drop one or two letter grades below their true potential.
Reading requires: clear vision, smooth eye movements, the ability to keep the eyes focused on the words, visual discrimination to tell the differences in words and punctuation, the visualization skills to see the story or math problem in the mind and the eye-hand coordination to write down the correct answers.
Copying from the board requires: clear far eyesight, clear near eyesight, the ability to switch between far and near vision, awareness to keep track of their place, vision memory and eye-hand coordination.
Adults with normal vision take for granted how easy it is for them to read and copy. There are many visual skills involved. It has been estimated that one in four children will have a significant eye problem at some point of their education process. Vision problems will be one of the most common things that can go wrong and cause a child to struggle in school.
Strabismus is the medical term for an eye that crosses in or drifts out. The condition can occur at birth or develop later on in childhood. It is simply the misalignment of the eyes working together as a team. Vision Therapy programs offer the highest cure rates for strabismus compared to eye surgery, glasses alone or patching without therapy. The earlier the patient receives Vision Therapy the better; however, our office successfully treats patients well into adulthood.
Strabismus is the medical term for an eye that crosses in or drifts out. The condition can occur at birth or develop later on in childhood. It is simply the misalignment of the eyes working together as a team. When the eye crosses or drifts the child no longer has depth perception. At this point the child will either experience double vision or shut off the weaker eye.
There are many causes of strabismus and a thorough evaluation by a pediatric optometrist should be done as soon as it is noticed. We will not take the chance that the child will outgrow the problem. Delaying the full diagnosis and not starting treatment will be detrimental to the child. The myth that children will grow out of this is false.
Generally the cause of strabismus is the inability of the child to use the child right eye and the left eye together. Rarely is it caused by a short or weak muscle. Many times it is accompanied with amblyopia or farsightedness and therefore the first step is a glasses prescription. Modern technology has given us many eye exercises called vision therapy that can correct strabismus by safe and natural means.
Vision therapy is highly recommended before other drastic measures such as patching or eye muscle surgery is considered. Always try vision therapy first. For the record it should be clear that eye muscle surgery does not cure strabismus but makes the eyes look straighter. Depth perception and eye coordination are only restored by doing vision therapy, not eye muscle surgery. Patching and eye muscle surgery do not teach the child depth perception and eye coordination. This can only be accomplished by an active vision therapy program. The goal of any treatment should be to restore the eyes to normal not just a cosmetic fix. The first rule of medicine is to do no harm.
Depth perception is the ability to use both eyes together to judge distances. This is important in a young child’s safety and later on in physical activities and sports. Signs of depth perception problems are clumsiness, tripping and falling, and difficulty catching an object. They will have more fear when riding a bike or climbing simple heights. Many jobs in law enforcement, military service and transportation require depth perception tests.
Amblyopia, strabismus and failed eye muscle surgeries are the most common causes of poor depth perception. Restoring depth perception is high priority in any vision therapy program. You will be pleased with the long term results.
For more information on strabismus please visit www.strabismus.org
Accommodative dysfunction is the medical wording for an eye focusing problem. This is an inability to adjust the focus of the eyes to see objects at distances. This inability to adjust focus can cause pain or discomfort from using the eyes. It occurs mostly while reading or on the computer, but can occasionally happen while driving and watching movies.
Accommodative dysfunction is the medical wording for an eye focusing problem. This is an inability to adjust the focus of the eyes to see objects at different distances. It includes problems such as looking from the board to a book or looking up from the paper to the teacher. Another aspect of this is the ability to focus and keep seeing the words clearly. This is particularly important when reading for an extended period of time or taking standardized tests.
Accommodation problems are not the same as needing glasses. You may still have the focusing problem even if you have glasses.
Focusing problems generally are not muscle problems. The focusing muscles in a child are definitely strong enough to adjust focus, yet the ability still breaks down. The reason for this lost ability is a breakdown in the control of focusing. The focus gets “stuck” at one distance and can’t adjust to the next. This becomes evident during reading and computer work. Note that as the focusing system breaks down, other vision problems begin to appear. Then school performance suffers.
The first step is to get the correct glasses or contacts for sharp vision without strain. This is not a cure, but does help many people. Further testing should be done by an optometrist to diagnose the condition. Vision Therapy would be required when the symptoms are severe enough. These eye exercises retrain the person to adjust their vision in a relaxed way and to see comfortably again. School work and reading can become easy. The child often becomes interested in reading on their own.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
ADD/ADHD: The most important thing to know about ADD/ ADHD is that it is a label for a condition that could be present in a child who is struggling in school. The condition is not diagnosed by blood work or an MRI. It is diagnosed by a checklist. In many ways it is the same checklist that a teacher would use to find deficits in study strategies. It is almost the same checklist used by an optometrist to detect eye coordination conditions. So let’s say that ADD/ADHD is a broad category of symptoms with many possible causes. In the individual child there will typically be only one or two true causes.
Please understand that the child really is struggling. They have a real problem. But a general diagnosis of ADD/ADHD is like telling someone they have a diagnosis of a skin rash or a diagnosis of a headache. It is just telling them they have the symptom they already know they have. True medical diagnosis and treatment would find the underlying causes of the symptoms and treat and cure the problem so that it no longer exists or that it is easily manageable. We have gotten quite lazy in diagnosing and treating ADD/ADHD in the last decade because the medical treatment was so simple to administer. Yet, medication doesn’t teach the child a reading strategy or how to organize their thoughts on paper. Drugs don’t teach the child how correct their vision focusing or not see words double. Medications make the child hold still in hopes that something good will then happen.
Before starting a child on any type of drug therapy, one thing for sure is to do a thorough evaluation of the child’s vision, visual skills, perceptual skills and eye health. Educational evaluations and nutritional evaluations, though more complicated, should be pursued if all the visual components check out normal.
It is important to remember that with the new National Health Records System all medical diagnoses will follow the person for the rest of their life. The medical treatment for ADD/ADHD is prescription psychiatric (alters the mind, mood or thought) drugs and therefore the child must now be considered to be a psychiatric patient since they are being treated with psychiatric medications. This permanent health information will restrict the child from participating in many professions when they are older – aviation, military, law enforcement or even obtaining a commercial driver’s license. Let’s look for the underlying causes. Please get a Vision Therapy evaluation FIRST. For more information see www.add-adhd.org
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
A Developmental Approach
by Patricia S. Lemer, M.Ed.
“Over the past several years, ADD has received a tremendous amount of attention from parents, professionals and policymakers across the country — so much so, in fact, that nearly everyone has now heard about ADD or ADHD.
While helpful to those challenged by this disability, such widespread recognition creates the possibility of improper diagnosis and inappropriate treatment. Now, more than ever, parents who suspect their child might have ADD or ADHD and parents of children who have already been diagnosed with the disorder need to evaluate information, products, and practitioners carefully.”National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
Vision can be compromised as a result of neurological disorders or trauma to the nervous system. Vision Therapy can effectively treat the visual consequences of brain trauma (including double vision).
Eye coordination is dependent on 12 eyes muscles working together perfectly. These muscles receive signals from nerves located throughout the brain. The optic nerve that caries vision signals travels the full length of the brain. This gives opportunities for eye problems with almost every head injury and stroke incident. These problems could be permanent or temporary, but the recovery in all cases can be speeded up with vision therapy. Early vision therapy treatment will assist their physical therapies progress faster. Here at the Vision Therapy Institute we have helped hundreds of stroke and head injury patients cover faster from their accident.
The secret to treating eye conditions for patient who have suffered brain injuries is to treat the things that show up as early as possible and help the patient follow the road to recovery over time. We will coordinate our activities with the person’s physician, physical, occupational and speech therapists. We would hope that these patient s could return to driving, working and living independently. We are proud be part of the team. For more information see www.nora.cc
Sports Vision Improvement
Strong visual skills are critical to sports success. Not much happens in sports until your eyes instruct your hands and body as to what to do! Accurate vision and athletic visual skills can be measured, developed, and enhanced through Vision Therapy. We can measure and successfully improve eye-hand coordination, visual reaction time, peripheral awareness, eye teaming, focusing, tracking, and visualization skills (to mention just a few).
Keep your eye on the ball – if you can. Vision has everything to do with sports performance. All of the major league baseball teams do vision therapy. Hockey teams, tennis players, lacrosse players and basketball players all need good depth perception and eye-hand coordination.
Any sport, including golf, requires good visualization skills as well. The United States men’s volleyball had a vision therapy specialist helping the team for years. Many professional athletes owe part of their success to vision therapy; the others had naturally perfect eyes. It requires a unique set of visual skills to succeed in any sport. For more information see www.aoa.org/sports-vision.xml