Optometric Vision Therapy is like “physical therapy,” but rather than treating the muscles of the body, it works on the eyes and visual system.
The American Optometric Association defines vision therapy as a sequence of neurosensory and neuromuscular activities individually prescribed and monitored by a doctor to develop, rehabilitate, and enhance visual skills and processing.
Video describing Optometric Vision Therapy
The goal of a vision therapy program is to develop, improve, and enhance one's visual efficiency and visual perceptual skills. Once treated, a patient can benefit from a positive lifelong change in overall comfort, performance, and quality of life.
Vision therapy helps patients of all ages and helps a variety of diagnoses. For example, it benefits children that struggle in school or who have emotional and behavioral problems due to functional vision problems. It is a critical treatment modality for patients who have experienced a brain injury or concussion, and are suffering in silence due to their vision. It helps adults who experience anxiety and panic when they drive (who have issues with the motion and depth perception of the other cars around them), and helps those who feel like their work is affected due to their inability to keep good focus while working on a computer.
It is an invaluable tool that has changed not only our patients’ vision, but has improved many related areas of their lives as well.
The short answer is no. Optometric Vision Therapy can only be performed under the supervision of an optometrist, as it is a comprehensive medical treatment modality.
"Eye exercises", "brain training" or programs advertised to quickly improve eyesight, are not Optometric Vision Therapy. Likewise, education therapy and Optometric Vision Therapy are not to be confused. While we are able to help improve a child's performance in school, this is because we remove the visual barriers blocking the child's ability to succeed. We do not treat learning problems. We treat the underlying vision problem which is exacerbating the learning issues.
Optometric vision therapy makes use of the fact that "vision" comprises more than half of the brain's processing. As such, vision therapy includes working on many skills. Here are some of the things that make vision therapy a unique service:
Pursuit and saccade therapy (to improve the speed and accuracy of eye movements)
Visual-vestibular therapy (to integrate eye movements with balance)
Visual perceptual therapy (to enhance visual information processing)
Eye-hand coordination therapy (to develop visually guided movement)
Accommodative therapy (to enhance focusing stability, flexibility, and comfort)
Visual attention therapy
Peripheral awareness therapy (enhances one's side vision and ability to be aware of multiple things simultaneously)
Visual-spatial awareness (including laterality, directionality, and visual imagery)
Orthoptics (mechanics of eye movements)
The number of office visits required depends on the diagnosis and the age of the patient. Vision therapy programs typically involve one to two in-office sessions throughout the week, for a varying number of months depending on need. We usually prescribe home exercises to reinforce office therapy.
One of the more common and better-known binocular vision conditions treated using vision therapy is called convergence insufficiency. This is a condition where the eyes do not properly align during near work tasks such as reading or working on a compyter. When the visual system is fully functional, the eyes should naturally converge (turn inward together and align) while looking at a close object or reading, resulting in a single image.
Those who suffer from convergence insufficiency can experience double/overlapping or shadowy vision, eyestrain, headache, fatigue, and reduced reading comprehension. For children struggling with convergence insufficiency, this may also contribute to difficulty concentrating while reading and doing schoolwork. Adults with convergence insufficiency may notice they are transposing numbers or that their visual stamina is lacking causing a need for frequent visual breaks.
Vision therapy is also prescribed for (but not limited to) the following:
We are one of the only clinics in the whole Houston metroplex that offers this very unique and incredibly beneficial service.
It is worth knowing if your problems are visual in nature, because if they are, there is something that can be done to help.