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Vision Therapy

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Vision therapy, also referred to as visual training, is the art and science of developing visual abilities to achieve optimal visual performance and comfort. In essence, it is a program of arranged conditions to permit a patient the opportunity to:

  1. Help prevent the development of some vision problems
  2. Aid in the proper development of visual functions
  3. Enhance the efficiency and comfort of visual functioning
  4. Help remediate (and/or correct) existing vision problems.

Eye exercise is a lay term often applied to visual training. However, it is a misnomer in that the eyes do not need exercise in the same sense that we exercise for general muscle development in the body. Visual training is not used to strengthen eye muscles but rather to improve the coordination, efficiency and functioning of the visual system.

Orthoptics is another term often used in reference to visual training. Actually, orthoptics is one part of a specific visual functioning in individuals who have crossed eyes. In some instances this may also include treatment for lazy eye (amblyopia). In addition, optometric visual training should not be confused with educational visual-perceptual-motor training programs provided by some school systems or with “Bates type” eye exercise programs. Optometric visual training is based on comprehensive analysis and diagnosis of the functioning of the vision system. The use of lenses, prisms, and specialized testing and training procedures can only be provided by licensed optometric vision care professionals. They are an integral part of the successful treatment of any vision problem. As a result, optometric visual training is an individualized regimen geared toward the remediation or enhancement of specifically diagnosed vision conditions.

Many vision problems cannot be adequately remediated by the use of glasses or contact lenses alone. Glasses or contact lenses generally compensate for existing vision problems such as nearsightedness. Visual training is directed at remediating or correcting the underlying cause of the vision problem, rather than just compensating for an adaptation that may have developed as a result of the vision dysfunction.

Visual training brings about improvement in the speed, efficiency, comfort and accuracy of visual functioning through feedback provided by the trainee, the trainer and/or the task itself. In the controlled visual environment utilized in a visual training program, the use of lenses, prisms, 3-dimensional tasks and other optometric training techniques provide the doctor with a means to break down vision into its “parts” and re-educate or reinforce specific visual abilities and combine them into a more effectively functioning vision system.

To understand how and why visual training works, it is necessary to understand vision and how it develops. Good vision is learned. It is not something we are born with. Although most of us are born with healthy eyes, it is through experience and learning that we develop the visual abilities that we will need throughout life. Not everyone develops the same level of visual efficiency.

Some individuals may skip steps in their visual development or don’t receive the necessary visual experiences or learning opportunities to adequately develop good visual abilities. Even those who do may find that some of their abilities may break down under the stress of school work, or job or sport activities. Those important visual abilities include visual acuity (clearness of sight), fixation ability (eye movement), accommodation (eye focusing), convergence (eye aiming), binocular fusion (eye teaming), eye-hand coordination and visual form perception.

Visual training is not a program just for children. Many adults can and do benefit from it. While a child may have a visual problem that interferes with his ability to learn in school, an adult may have a visual problem that interferes with his ability to earn a living. Individuals who experience blurred vision, headaches, eye fatigue or reduced efficiency after a day at the office, or after reading at home may benefit from visual training, as may the amateur or professional athlete whose game just doesn’t seem to be improving in spite of continual practice.

The length of time required for completion of a visual training program varies depending on the type of vision problem present, how long the condition has lasted, the motivation of the patient and the level of improvement desired. Visual training is not something done to people, but rather something they do to themselves under the guidance of an optometrist. Hence, the success is dependent upon the motivation of the patient. Frequently a visual training program for an uncomplicated case will consist of up to six months of in-office sessions, one to three sessions per week supplemented by out-of-office sessions (home) training. Cases with multiple diagnosis or severe dysfunction may require a longer term of therapy.

Visual training as described above is provided by our office. Most of the research relating to vision development, binocular dysfunctions and learning related visual problems has occurred through the efforts of individual practicing optometrists or through studies at schools and colleges of optometry.

Frequently, optometrists who specialize in this area of vision care, in addition to being members of the American Optometric Association, are also members of the (Fellow or Associate) College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) and/or the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF). COVD provides doctors with continuing postgraduate education in the areas of developmental optometry and vision therapy and conducts a certification program for optometrists skilled in this specialty area.

  • Learning is accomplished through complex and interrelated processes, one of which is vision.
  • The use of light in healing both the mind and body has many traditions with sources of knowledge from all the major advanced cultures.

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