Vision therapy (also referred to as visual training) is a program aimed at remedying and enhancing an individual’s visual abilities. Its function is to:
Each program of vision therapy must be designed to suit the specific needs of the individual, both in terms of their visual profile and their goals. Diagnostic testing, training procedures and the use of lenses and prisms may be integral components of the successful treatment of a vision problem. The frequency of consultation, the amount of home training and the duration of a course of vision therapy will vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem being treated and the specific needs of the patient.
Vision therapy is not used to strengthen eye muscles, but to improve the coordination and efficient functioning and processing of the visual system.
Orthoptics is another term often used in conjunction with vision therapy. Orthoptics is one part of a specific vision therapy program directed at improving binocular alignment and visual acuity in individuals with strabismus and amblyopia.
Reprinted in part from the Journal of Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists
i) Vision Therapy for computer users
Now! Look away now!As it has probably taken a few minutes to get to this page, it is now theoretically time for a 'visual break'.
Most eye clinicians agree that extended periods of concentrated close work can contribute to eyestrain. Eyestrain can cause short-term visual difficulties such as transient blur or may contribute to long-term deterioration specifically some types of myopia (short sightedness).
Symptoms of eyestrain can include obvious symptoms such as blurred vision, headaches and also loss of concentration. If you find yourself drifting off or staring into space, it may be that your visual system is not efficient.
Many computer users report eyestrain symptoms but they consider the ergonomic factors of glare, posture and their monitor size etc before they consider their vision. In some cases spectacle lenses may be appropriate to assist computer users and in some cases vision training is indicated to allow the eyes to work at their peak efficiency.
Improvements in how the eyes aim and focus together can lead to greater concentration and increased efficiency for near work.
ii) Vision Therapy for Children and for Learning Difficulties
We all know that a child's development can vary immensely from child to child; it is perhaps not as well known that vision also develops! This also means that vision can be trained or learned through appropriate structured vision therapy.
Unfortunately, like all skills and for various reasons, there is sometimes a delay in a child’s course of development of their visual skills. These delays can cause problems with a child's learning ability. In fact in some cases children are not visually ready to read until well after 5 or 6 years of age.
Your child's vision may be clear enough but they may not have developed the appropriate visual skills for reading. When reading, it is necessary for a child to keep their place along a line of text (tracking skills) as well as keeping the page in focus at the same time (focussing skills). A child with tracking or focussing difficulties is therefore more likely to have difficulty with reading.
To read left to right partly requires tracking skills but also involves visual-spatial skills. It is important to understand that reading from left to right is actually a culturally and educationally imposed requirement. In many cultures, reading is vertically arranged or in some cases, is arranged from right to left. A child who has not understood or adequately organised the necessary aspects of visual spatial will most likely have difficulty with learning to read.
The level of demands on visual skills required for reading increases throughout a child's learning years. Primary visual skills required for early readers are listed below:
Tracking and Saccades:
Scanning from letter to letter, word to word, looking ahead and predicting text, moving from one line to the next.
Visual Memory:Skills required for word recognition and copying tasks, for example in writing, spelling and reading.
Short Term Visual Memory:
Recalling information presented quickly.
Recognising the order of number or letters in words. Left to right progression when reading and writing.
Recognising subtle visual differences, ie between letters (b/d) and words (was/saw or big/dig), reducing reversals and confusion and thus improving overall recognition. Reversals are common in younger children. However, if a child has persisting reversal issues a Behavioural Optometric assessment should be considered to see if Vision Therapy can assist.
Focussing Skills:The ability to maintain clear focus at a particular point (a word on a page) and the ability to rapidly change focus from one point to another (copying from the board to the book).
Vision Therapy can assist, overcome or minimise some learning difficulties by reducing visual inefficiencies.
iii) Vision Therapy for sports
Have you ever heard someone say 'that player has great vision'?Sports commentators often describe a player's ability to accurately judge where other players or the goals are without looking, as 'great vision'.
This ability has nothing to do with the player's 'clarity of vision'; it is about peripheral awareness and efficient visual function. Some sports people have these skills naturally, others need to learn to develop them!
Vision training activities are a structured series of exercises designed to maximise the efficiency of specific visual skills required for all different types of sports.
Examples of how vision therapy can assist your game:
So if your sport involves vision (and let’s face it - most do) then consider a vision examination and talk to your nearest Behavioural Optometrist about your specific sport and its visual requirements.
If you want to improve your sporting abilities, first try to improve your visual abilities!
iv) Vision Therapy for turned eye (strabismus)
Eye coordination difficulties may manifest as strabismus (turned eyes).
There are many types of strabismus. Some forms are best treated by Vision Therapy used in conjunction with spectacle aids and prisms. Others are best treated by surgical intervention. Strabismus is one of the most complicated visual adaptations that can occur in the human binocular system. It is not always simple to treat and treatment may be lengthy and require a number of different approaches.
Typically, vision therapy for such patients will progress through a series of activities such as monocular (using one eye) and bi-ocular (using both eyes) skills and then fusion (putting the images from both eyes together) and binocular (using both eyes together in all directions of gaze) skills.
(See also Section 5)
v) Vision Therapy for Rehabilitation
One of the most common complications secondary to a head injury can be visual difficulties. These problems may be related to blurred or double vision but often headaches and eye coordination problems occur.
Fortunately, some visual functions recover within a few weeks or months of the injury but often residual problems including a loss in side vision can occur. Vision therapy is an effective tool in regaining control of eye position and eye co-ordination. This combined with the appropriate spectacle prescription can minimise the effect of a field loss.
Vision is responsible for providing much of the information we receive. If the quality of visual input has changed due to an injury, vision therapy can be employed with some patients to teach them how to optimise their visual skills.
This may enable the individual to be able to access communication devices or to move around more confidently without walking into objects like door frames etc.
Depending on the nature and severity of the injury, improving visual skills can lead to improved recovery and quality of
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