Vision therapy encompasses a range of treatments and exercises used to help patients recover from vision problems and neurological issues. When conducted by certified optometrists in vision development, vision therapy exercises can effectively treat a variety of vision problems that prevent the eyes from properly focusing and teaming together, as well as problems related to traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), strokes, and various learning disabilities.
Using specialized tools like prisms and filters, vision therapists help patients resolve visual processing and oculomotor problems that interfere with their ability to learn, perform everyday activities, and live life comfortably. Simply put, vision therapy can be life-changing for adults and children. Learn how different vision therapy techniques help patients of all ages regain their visual strength.
What Happens in a Vision Therapy Program?
Vision therapy programs consist of a series of exercises and procedures performed under the supervision of board-certified doctors in vision therapy rehabilitation and certified optometric vision therapists. In order to address the needs of every patient, vision therapists create customized programs tailored to each individual. Most sessions are conducted in the vision therapist’s office once or twice a week for 30 minutes to an hour. Patients may also receive an exercise regimen to perform at home to maintain progress between sessions.
A Typical Vision Therapy Program
If you’re considering vision therapy or about to begin a new program, here’s what you can expect.
Your developmental optometrist will conduct a thorough evaluation to identify all of the possible causes of your vision problems. Once the causes are established, your vision therapist will design a series of exercises that address your specific visual deficiencies, helping you improve your overall visual function.
A typical program consists of a weekly in-office therapy session with provided instruction and materials for at-home exercises to practice for 10-20 minutes a few days per week.
The course of the program can range from a few months to a year, with progress evaluations throughout.
Your vision therapist will use a variety of specialized tools to perform specific exercises, including:
- Therapeutic Lenses, Prisms, and Filters: These tools help the brain control eye alignment, eye tracking and teaming, eye focusing, eye movement, and visual processing.
- Occluders or Patches: Occluders and patches are placed over the unaffected eye to reteach the brain to receive information from the affected eye.
- Balance Boards: Patients balance on the board by moving their hips while practicing other visual exercises, like reading a Snellen chart. This exercise strengthens the eyes as they move independently from the rest of the body.
- Specialized computer programs and applications: These simulations and interactive activities aid depth perception and visual processing development.
Qualified vision therapists have extensive experience in leading exercises for their patients, so they’ll make sure you’re comfortable throughout the entire session. Who knows, you might even have fun!
Who Is Vision Therapy For?
Vision therapy is safe, drug-free, and effective for both children and adults. It tests for many aspects of overall vision (in addition to visual acuity), including peripheral vision, depth perception, tracking, and more. If you’re struggling to meet your potential in work, school, sports, or overall function, vision therapy may be for you.
Vision therapy is especially important for children, who rely on strong visual skills to learn and grow both inside and outside of the classroom. It’s estimated that one in ten children has a vision problem severe enough to affect their learning in school. Don’t let your child’s academics suffer because of an undiagnosed vision condition—take them to a developmental optometrist instead!
Thankfully, visual skills can be improved upon later in life too. Adults find vision therapy methods to be just as effective for reteaching the brain and eyes to work together harmoniously.
Problems Vision Therapy Can Correct
Vision therapy can effectively treat the following visual disorders:
- Amblyopia (Lazy Eye): Amblyopia occurs when the affected eye doesn’t receive the information it needs from the brain to behave normally, causing the brain to favor the healthy eye while neglecting the other.
- Strabismus (Eye Turns): This condition describes improper alignment of the eyes, usually due to poor coordination between the brain and eye muscles.
- Accommodative Dysfunction: This condition occurs when the eyes’ focusing system fails to adjust the lenses to sharply perceive objects at any distance. Patients may have problems sustaining prolonged up-close focus if they have accommodative dysfunction.
- Eye Tracking Problems: Issues with eye movement may cause an individual to skip lines while reading, reread lines, confuse small words, and have poor eye-hand coordination.
- Binocular Vision Problems: Subtle eye misalignment causes eye strain and eye fatigue.
- Other Problems: Other vision problems include visual perceptual disorders and vision problems associated with developmental disabilities and brain injury.
How Do You Know if You Need Vision Therapy?
If you struggle to keep your place while reading, experience eye strain or fatigue while reading, reread lines, or see words and letters jump around on the page, it might be time to schedule a trip to the developmental optometrist. It’s especially important to watch for these symptoms in children to ensure their academic success and emotional well-being.
In addition to reading-related symptoms, headaches, fluctuating vision, and blurry vision after prolonged up-close work may also signal a vision problem.
Vision Therapy FAQs
How many children are affected by learning-related vision disorders?
Twenty percent of school-aged children may be affected by learning-related disorders, so it’s important to schedule a comprehensive vision exam for your kids before and after they begin school. Up to 70% of kids in special education or learning disabled and remedial reading populations have a learning-related vision disorder.
How long does it take for vision therapy to correct learning-related vision disorders?
Vision therapy programs typically range from a few months to a year. A program’s duration varies by person and depends on the severity of the visual condition.
What other problems can vision therapy help with?
Vision therapy can also treat lazy eye, eye turns, and visual problems connected to brain injury. Vision therapy is just as effective for adults as it is for children.
Is vision therapy covered by medical insurance?
Vision therapy may be covered by major medical insurance plans, but some insurance companies and managed care plans may deny coverage. Call one of our offices today for answers to your insurance-related questions.
Can you do vision therapy at home?
We recommend that patients attend an in-office vision therapy session before performing any exercises at home. This ensures that they do the exercises correctly, without unintentionally damaging their vision.
If you believe that you or your child would benefit from vision therapy, contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.
The content of this blog has been reviewed for accuracy by
Briana Larson, OD, FCOVD, FAAO, FNORA-Executive Director
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