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Vision is all about the way our brains and eyes interact. Whether it’s reading words on the board, catching a ball, or tying our shoelaces, we depend on our visual system to work properly in order to succeed at any of these tasks.
This is because vision isn’t just what we see, it’s how we interpret and interact with that information. In fact, you can have perfect visual acuity―able to rattle off all the symbols on the reading chart―but still struggle with dyslexia, poor focus, hand-eye coordination, or vision conditions like strabismus, amblyopia, or convergence insufficiency.
What Is Vision Therapy?
Vision Therapy helps patients improve their foundation for reading, learning and playing sports. It’s a series of custom and individualized activities and exercises which function as a form of neuro-optometric rehabilitation.
In other works, Vision Therapy retrains the brain to more effectively interact with the eyes and therefore improve vision functioning. The goal is to enhance eye tracking, focusing and eye teaming abilities as well as eye-hand coordination and visual processing speed.
The program is not only for children. Vision Therapy is effective for adults, especially if they are motivated to improve their visual abilities.
Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities & ADD/ADHD
What Is Dyslexia?
There is no consensus on the official definition of dyslexia. Often referred to as a “learning disorder”, dyslexia is typified with difficulty reading or interpreting symbols in the correct order or syntax despite the sufferer having at least average intelligence. "Dys" means "not". "Lex" means "read". Dyslexia therefore literally means not being able to read.
A substantial number of individuals with dyslexia actually have other visual problems that make the problem greater. All too often, an undiagnosed vision problem is the reason the individual was diagnosed as having Dyslexia to begin with. If a vision problem affects learning, it can sometimes be misidentified as dyslexia because there are similarities between the two.
Vision Therapy Treatment for Dyslexia
Behavioral and Developmental Optometrists in [Location] have the knowledge and experience to diagnose and treat vision disorders that masquerade as Dyslexia or contribute to the unique challenges presented by Dyslexia. However Vision Therapy does not treat Dyslexia itself.
Most people are familiar with vision problems that eyeglasses address; nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. These are called refractive conditions.
A learning-related visual problem directly affects how we learn, read, or sustain close work. Because difficulties with reading and learning affect the child's ability to focus, vision related learning problems are often misdiagnosed as ADHD or other behavioural issues.
Visual problems in any of the following areas can have a significant impact on learning:
- eye tracking skills - eyes following a line of print
- eye teaming skills - two eyes working together as a synchronized team
- binocular vision - simultaneously blending the images from both eyes into one image
- accommodation - eye focusing
- visual-motor integration - eye-hand coordination
- visual perception - visual memory, visual form perception, and visualization
Vision and learning are intimately connected. Someone may have a learning problem that is caused by an underlying vision problem. A child with a vision problem can be misdiagnosed as having Learning Disabilities, ADHD, or Dyslexia. There are various reasons for this misdiagnosis. For example, children who have learning-related visual problems cannot sustain their close work at school or home, showing signs of Inattention or Hyperactivity. A child may be misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD because children with ADHD also can't sustain attention on their work, and inattention and hyperactivity are the two of the three main symptoms for the diagnosis. Same behaviors, different diagnosis.
It is common for children who have Learning Disabilities to have vision problems that contribute to these learning problems. Vision Therapy does not correct learning disabilities, but correcting the underlying vision problems through Vision Therapy often solves many of the obstacles that make learning more difficult than it need be.
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a widespread problem. If a child has a short attention span, the common assumption is that the child has ADD and should be on medication. If a child has behavior problems, then the assumption is that they have ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
At times, an underlying vision problem further complicates matters. Addressing the vision problems reduces the symptoms of ADD and sometimes eliminates them entirely.
If a child has difficulty pointing their eyes in to read material (convergence), if they can’t physically focus (as you would focus a camera), or if they can’t sustain those activities, that then makes it difficult for the individual to maintain attention. More energy is needed for the visual system and there is then less energy to concentrate on reading. This then leads to a short attention span. If someone can’t physically maintain concentrating for whatever reason, they may be then labeled ADD.
A child who cannot focus because of a vision problem will not be able to sit still and do as instructed. Furthermore, child with these kinds of vision problems is not able to point their eyes and focus within the amount of time needed to complete assigned tasks and homework. In this case, medication will not be effective. As the child develops the visual ability to correctly physically focus their eyes, they are then better able to attend and concentrate, maintaining their mental focus for llonger periods. They are then able to complete their work.
Before a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD is made, (or even once it has been made) and medications prescribed, parents and teachers should first consider a comprehensive eye examination with our developmental optometrists for their children. Much is at stake in the event of a misdiagnosis.
For more information on ADD and the connection with Convergence Insufficiency please see https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16361187
Vision Therapy For The Special Needs Community
Vision problems are very common in individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism. These problems or stims include:
- lack of eye contact
- staring at spinning objects or light
- fleeting peripheral glances
- side viewing
- difficulty at maintaining visual attention
People with autism and other developmental disabilities often have trouble efficiently and accurately processing visual information, often combined with difficulty coordinating between peripheral and central vision. Following an object (eye-tracking) is also a typical problem. There is usually a preference to scan or glance at objects from the side instead of looking at it straight on. Eye movement disorders and crossed eyes are common in the autistic spectrum.
Vision Therapy is effective at in stimulating and improving proper visual responses, eye movements, and the central visual system. Vision Therapy is also effective in helping patients to to better organize visual space and gain peripheral stability so that he or she can better attend to and appreciate central vision and gain more efficient eye coordination and visual information processing. Dr. [name of doctor] is certified as a Fellow of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) and is experienced in examining and treating individuals with developmental disabilities and autism, even those who are non-verbal.
Patients with Down Syndrome overwhelmingly require eye care, with 70% requiring glasses and 45% of people with down syndrome have strabismus, which is usually best treated with vision Therapy. Furthermore, there are a variety of ocular diseases associated with Down Syndrome patients such as tear duct abnormalities that can lead to severe discomfort, keratoconus (misshapen cornea) and congenital cataracts. A patient with down syndrome will also require specialized glasses made for their unique facial features.
Patients with Cerebral Palsy will most likely have visual conditions that require correction with glasses and in many cases Vision Therapy. Recent research on Vision Therapy for Cerebral Palsy is showing that it is extremely effective. Many patients with Cerebral Palsy will have Strabismus, or, “crossed eyes”, which is most effectively treated with a Vision Therapy program that is personalized to the patient.
Links to further research