Vision Therapy (medically prescribed):
Vision therapy is a non-invasive therapy for children and adults that works to improve visual skills related to eyes moving together to track objects or written information. Vision therapy utilizes a progressive program of vision-based procedures that are performed under doctor supervision to: improve visual skills and abilities, improve visual comfort and efficiency of eye movements and visual skills, and enhance how visual information is processed. Vision therapy is typically provided or supervised by developmental optometrists and can include the use of tolls such as filters, prisms, patches, therapeutic lenses, timed activities, electronic light boards to enhance visual reception (obtaining visual information) and perception (processing visual information). Vision therapy involves visual skills beyond visual acuity (20/20 vision), which is related only to how sharp the images are that you are looking at.
For which disability is this relevant?
Any child who has eye teaming issues, convergence issues, lazy eye, crossed eyes, eye movement disorders, difficulty with changing focus from near to far or far to near (ex: losing place going from blackboard to paper), difficulty with binocular vision. Relevant diagnoses may include: cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, brain injury, or prematurity.
How does the vision therapy help the person with a disability or family support system?
Some disabilities have unique visual symptoms that are treated through vision therapy. Vision therapy can also promote improved visual function for school performance. There is also research to support the use of patching for lazy eye (amblyopia). Developmental optometrists who provide vision therapy can also support families and patients through home program recommendations, prescription glasses, and strategies for success in school.
How may a parent/caregiver gain access to vision therapy?
Being evaluated by a developmental optometrist who offers vision therapy does not require a referral. One simple way to find providers is by searching through covd.org for associates and fellowship trained optometrists (fellows have the distinction of completing the certification process that includes clinic practice and educational requirements). The optometrist may evaluate an individual's visual efficiency skills to determine if there is trouble receiving information through the eyes (refractive error, tracking issues, binocular dysfunctions, amblyopia, strabismus) and/or visual processing skills (how does the brain interpret what is being seen by the visual system – visual memory, laterality/directionality, etc.). At this juncture, they may recommend passive therapies that include glasses and eye patching as well as making recommendations for modifications in the individual’s daily environment. They may also recommend vision therapy, which can be broken up into home based therapy (often relies on computer programs) and in-office therapy.
Recommended websites, YouTube videos, books on vision therapy:
What is vision therapy?
Questions or observations recommended for parents to investigate before selecting a provider?
It is recommended to look for a provider that is fellowship certified (FCOVD). Additionally, consider what type of therapy the provider offers. Vision therapy can be separated into in-office based therapy and home based therapy. By far, in-office therapy is much more effective than home-based therapy. In-office based therapy will often require home reinforcement in the form of a few activities that should be practiced at home for a period of 15-20 mins per day during the week.
College of optometrists in vision development.
Written by: Nicole Quint, Dr.OT, OTR/L and Michael Au, PD. FCOVD