If your child is having problems with his/her eyesight that involves more than refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, they may benefit from vision therapy. Left untreated, non-refractive vision problems can cause eyestrain, fatigue, headaches and learning problems.
Let’s look at what these vision problems are and how vision therapy can help.
Non-Refractive Vision Problems
Non-refractive vision problems in children include the following:
- Lazy eye
- Eye alignment or eye teaming problems
- Focusing problems
- Visual perception disorders
About Vision Therapy
Vision therapy is also called orthoptics or vision training. It’s a personalized program of eye exercises and other methods to treat non-refractive vision problems. The therapy is usually done in an optometrist’s office, but most treatment plans include daily visual tasks and eye exercises to be done at home, too.
Some optometrists specialize in vision therapy and the treatment of learning-related vision problems. These eye doctors are sometimes called behavioural or developmental optometrists.
The Effectiveness of Vision Therapy
There are many studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of vision therapy but the degree to which it is effective depends on a number of factors, including:
- the type and severity of the vision problem
- the patient’s age and motivation
- whether the patient completes all eye exercises and visual tasks as directed
It’s important to note that not every vision problem can be resolved with vision therapy.
Vision Therapy Individualized and Specific
Activities and eye exercises are tailored to the specific vision problem or problems of each child. For instance, if a child has lazy eye, the vision therapy usually includes patching the strong eye, along with visual tasks or other stimulation methods to help develop better visual sensitivity in the weak eye.
When visual acuity improves in the lazy eye, the treatment plan may then include eye teaming exercises to cultivate the increase of clear binocular vision (using two eyes with overlapping fields of view) to improve depth perception and reading comfort.
Vision Therapy and Learning Disabilities
Children with learning disabilities often haven vision problems, too. While vision therapy doesn’t correct learning disabilities, it can correct underlying vision problems that could be adding to a child’s learning problems.
Be sure to tell your optometrist if your child has been diagnosed with a learning disability. If it is found that vision problems may be contributing to the learning problems, your optometrist can communicate with your child’s teachers and other specialists to explain their findings.
Vision therapy can often be helpful as part of a multidisciplinary approach to help solve learning difficulties.
Schedule a Comprehensive Eye Exam
If you believe your child has a vision problem that may be affecting their school performance, the first thing to do is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam so it can be determined if such a problem exists. If problems are revealed, your eye doctor will discuss with you whether or not a vision therapy program would be helpful.