Vision Therapy For Children

Vision therapy is possibly among the most controversial topics in vision care. Some optometrist are strong advocates for vision therapy and affirm to its benefits – especially for particular vision problems of children. However other optometrist are not encouraged of vision therapy’s effectiveness and do not recommend it.

This article will help you learn more about vision therapy so you can make an informed decision regarding its potential benefits for your child.

What Is Vision Therapy for Kids?

Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, non-surgical and customized program of visual activities developed to remedy particular vision problems and/or enhance visual skills.

Unlike spectacles and contact lenses, which merely make up for vision issues, or eye surgery that modifies the anatomy of the eye or surrounding muscles, vision therapy aims to “teach” the visual system to fix itself.

Vision therapy for your child resembles physical therapy for the visual system, consisting of the eyes and the parts of the brain that control vision.

Vision therapy can include the use of lenses, prisms, filters and computer-assisted visual activities. Other devices, such as balance boards, metronomes and non-computerized visual instruments also can play a crucial role in a customized vision therapy program which might applied in doctor’s office or during special home vision therapy for children.

It is important to keep in mind that vision therapy is not defined by an easy list of tools and techniques. Successful vision therapy outcomes are accomplished through a restorative process that depends on the active engagement of the prescribing doctor, the vision therapist, the patient and (in the case of children) the child’s parents.

Vision therapy resembles physical therapy for the visual system

Overall, the objective of vision therapy is to treat vision problems that can not be dealt with effectively with eyeglasses, contact lenses and/or surgery alone, and assist people achieve clear, comfy binocular vision.

Numerous research studies have actually revealed that vision therapy can remedy vision issues that disrupt efficient reading amongst schoolchildren. It likewise can help in reducing eye strain and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome experienced by many children and adults. See listed below for more on conditions treated with vision therapy.

Orthoptics And Vision Therapy for Children

Vision therapy is often called visual therapy, vision training, visual training or just “VT.”

Another name often associated with vision therapy is “orthoptics.” This term, which actually indicates “correcting the eyes,” dates back to the 1850s and is restricted to methods for training eye muscles for the function of cosmetically correcting eyes that are misaligned due to strabismus.

Orthoptics can be extremely successful and is one type of vision training, but the term “orthoptics” is not associated with “vision therapy,” which explains a broader variety of methods used to treat a broader variety of vision issues.

Likewise, whereas the focus in orthoptics is on eye muscles and eye positioning (at least cosmetically), the objective of vision therapy is to optimize the entire visual system, consisting of the eyes and areas of the brain that manage vision, visual perception and other vision-related functions. By treating the entire visual system, vision therapy intends to alter reflexive (automated) behaviors to produce a lasting remedy.

In most cases of strabismus, vision therapy can be a much better treatment option than surgery. In other cases, it can be an useful accessory therapy prior to and after surgery to increase the possibility of a successful outcome.

Optometric Vision Therapy

Most vision therapy performed in the United States is prescribed and kept an eye on by an eye doctor. For this reason, it is also called optometric vision therapy.

Optometrists who specialize in vision therapy– specifically those who also concentrate on children’s vision and vision development– might call themselves pediatric optometrists, behavioral eye doctors or developmental eye doctors.

The Science Behind Vision Therapy

You’ve most likely heard the old saying, “You cannot teach an old dog brand-new tricks.” However recent research in the field of neurology suggests that when it comes to the human brain, that’s not true. It just may take a little bit more time and effort.

Studies reveal that the human brain has a significant quantity of neuroplasticity– the capability to change its structure and function in response to external stimuli. And these neurological changes in the brain, when thought to occur just during early childhood, have actually been shown to occur in adults as well.

In one study, for instance, experienced adult typists who went through long-term training to improve their keyboarding abilities showed boosts in gray matter volume in their brains, recommending that learning affects not only function, however also brain structure.

Current findings about neuroplasticity appear to validate what lots of vision therapy professionals have actually been saying for several years: effectively created and administered programs of VT can cause neurological changes that can correct vision issues and improve visual efficiency.

Some experts say certain anomalies associated with vision advancement, visual perception or vision function may be impacted by neuroplasticity. If this is true, it’s likely these very same vision issues may be successfully treated with vision therapy.

Issues Vision Therapy Can Correct

Vision issues being treated with vision therapy consist of:

  • Amblyopia. Also called “lazy eye,” amblyopia is a vision advancement problem where an eye fails to achieve normal visual acuity, generally due to strabismus or other problems of eye teaming.
  • Strabismus. The success of vision therapy for strabismus depends on the direction, magnitude and frequency of the eye turn. VT has actually been proven reliable for dealing with a periodic kind of strabismus called convergence deficiency, which is a failure to keep the eyes appropriately aligned when checking out in spite of good eye alignment when taking a look at far-off things.
  • Other binocular vision issues. Subtle eye alignment problems called phorias that may not produce a noticeable eye turn however still can cause eye strain and eye tiredness when reading likewise can be lessened or remedied with vision therapy.
  • Eye motion conditions. Research studies have actually shown vision therapy can improve the precision of eye movements used during reading and other close-up work.
  • Accommodative (focusing) conditions. Other research shows near-far focusing skills can be improved with vision training.
  • Other problems. Other vision issues for which vision therapy might work include visual-perceptual conditions, vision problems associated with developmental impairments and vision problems associated with acquired brain injury (such as from a stroke).

What Vision Therapy Isn’t

It is very important not to mistake vision therapy for self-help vision improvement programs advertised online and on tv that guarantee you can “throw away your glasses” after performing a series of eye exercises.

Such programs are not endorsed by the American Optometric Association or other professional eye care organizations, and there is no clinical research that supports the claim that self-help programs of eye exercises can reverse nearsightedness or other refractive errors.

It’s likewise crucial to know that a home-based regimen of “pencil push-ups,” even when advised by an optometrist, ought to not be thought about a complete program of vision therapy.

Pencil push-ups– an orthoptic activity in which a person looks at fine print on a pencil held at arm’s length, and then gradually moves the pencil better to his/her eyes while keeping focus on the letters– is a job often suggested for people to perform at home to decrease eye strain and other symptoms triggered by merging deficiency (CI).

However a study published in Archives of Ophthalmology discovered that a home-based routine of pencil push-ups was inadequate for CI amongst children with the condition. The same research study found that a 12-week program of monitored, in-office vision therapy plus orthoptics produced a practical remedy of merging deficiency in over half the age-matched children with CI who got this treatment.

A follow-up study exposed that among 221 children ages 9 to 17 years with symptomatic merging insufficiency, 73 percent receiving office-based vision therapy integrated with home exercises had successful or improved outcomes, compared with 43 percent of those who performed pencil push-up exercises at home.

While a well-intentioned optometrist may recommend pencil push-ups at home (with or without follow-up check outs to monitor progress) as a low-cost treatment for convergence deficiency, these studies suggest a monitored in-office program of vision therapy plus support orthoptic exercises carried out at home is the most effective non-surgical treatment for this vision problem.

Sports Vision Training

Sports vision training is not vision therapy, however it shares some of the attributes of VT. Eye doctors and eye doctors who focus on sports vision deal personalized vision training programs for anybody interested in enhancing their visual abilities for particular sports.

Because sports vision training programs typically are created to enhance a person’s visual skills for a particular sport instead of to remedy a vision problem, the term “vision training” is chosen over “vision therapy.” However, some of the strategies used in sports vision training are similar to those used in vision therapy.

Vision Therapy And Learning Disabilities

The relationship between vision problems and finding out specials needs is a fiercely debated topic and one about which optometrists and ophthalmologists often have various viewpoints.

Numerous eye doctors support making use of vision therapy as part of a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of particular types of finding out specials needs. They contend that, in many cases, children with finding out disabilities likewise have underlying vision issues that may be contributing in some degree to their knowing problems. It’s possible, they state, that these learning-related vision problems may be successfully treated with optometric vision therapy, which might improve the child’s total capacity for learning.

Numerous ophthalmologists, on the other hand, feel vision therapy is inefficient in treating any type of learning problem and state there is no clinical proof to support the claim that the correction of vision issues lowers the seriousness of finding out disabilities.

The First Steps

If you believe your child has a vision issue that may be affecting his or her efficiency in school or sports, the first step is to arrange a routine eye examination to rule out nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism.

If the fundamental eye exam suggests that no glasses are needed (or there is no change in your child’s present glasses prescription) and each eye has 20/20 visual skill, know that a vision issue still may exist. The eye chart used in routine eye examinations checks just an individual’s range vision and does not test all crucial aspects of visual efficiency.

For an extensive analysis of your child’s vision, including tests that evaluate vision skills required for effective reading, think about scheduling a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist who concentrates on binocular vision, vision therapy and/or vision development.

Evaluations used to diagnose non-refractive vision issues differ from routine eye tests provided by most eye doctors and ophthalmologists. Generally they are longer and consist of a variety of tests of eye teaming, depth perception, focusing, eye motions and visual-motor and/or visual-perceptual skills.

At the end of the test, the doctor ought to give you an in-depth evaluation of your child’s vision and visual abilities. If vision problems are identified and a program of vision therapy is recommended, make sure to obtain info about the most likely duration of the therapy and success rates for the particular type of vision therapy being recommended. Likewise, ask what criteria are used to specify “successful” treatment.

Finally, demand details about the anticipated cost of the therapy program.

Reyus Mammadli (Eyexan Team Leader) / author of the article
Bachelor in biomedical and electrical apparatus and systems. For more than 20 years he has been studying methods to improve health using affordable and safe methods. Collaborates with eye care charity organization of the CCP. Specialization is a vision correction by laser surgery, including LASIK.
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