What is Vision Therapy?

Vision is a learned skill and is therefore trainable.

Therapeutic and developmental vision care is an expanded area of optometric practice focused on the visual system.  Vision therapy is like physical therapy for the eyes. It improves visual function by training the brain to better control the eyes. It can also improve higher level brain skills such as visual processing.  It is a highly effective non-surgical treatment for many common visual problems such as lazy eye, crossed eyes, double vision, convergence insufficiency and some reading and learning disabilities.

Unlike eyeglasses and contact lenses, which simply compensate for vision problems, or eye surgery that alters the anatomy of the eye or surrounding muscles, vision therapy aims to “teach” the visual system to correct itself; Thereby strengthening the visual system as a whole.

Vision therapy can be thought of as physical therapy for the eyes however, vision therapy is not about strengthening eye muscles alone.  It also focuses on improving how the eyes and the brain communicate to each other.  Studies show that the human brain has a significant amount of neuroplasticity — the ability to change its structure and function in response to external stimuli.  These neurological changes in the brain, once thought to occur only during early childhood, have been demonstrated to occur in adults as well.  Recent findings about neuroplasticity confirm what many vision therapy experts have been saying for years: properly devised and administered programs of VT can cause neurological changes that can correct vision problems and improve visual performance.

Visual skills are like other coordination (or motor) skills – once they are learned, the brain retains that ability.  Hitting a ball, riding a bike, tying your shoes, and writing are examples of motor skills that once learned, are retained for long periods of time. Vision therapy is eye-brain therapy that strengthens existing visual skills and enables new visual skills to be used easily and efficiently thus… enhancing learning and life.

As an example, studies have shown that vision therapy can alleviate the impact of vision problems on reading and learning in children and adults. For some, glasses alone are not sufficient enough to correct vision issues such as blurry or double vision. When a person’s vision is blurry or “doubled”, they need to exert a great deal of energy just to focus on each word on a page.  Therefor, little energy remains for actually comprehending what is being read.  Vision therapy can make it easier to focus on letters and words, thus improving reading comprehension.  Vision therapy may also be able to increase reading speed without sacrificing reading comprehension.

In addition to academic improvements, vision therapy may also be able to improve athletic performance. For example, vision therapy can help athletes improve hand-eye coordination, peripheral awareness, depth perception, visual processing speed, and the ability to focus on fast-moving objects.

The American Optometric Association affirms its long-standing position that optometric Vision Therapy is effective in the treatment of physiological neuromuscular and perceptual dysfunctions of the vision system.

The ability to learn in school, achieve on the job, and enjoy sports and recreation depends upon efficient vision. Optometric Vision Therapy assists individuals in developing visual abilities and efficiency most suited to their needs and enables those individuals to achieve maximal levels of visual performance. Optometric Vision Therapy can help individuals achieve and maintain good vision throughout life.

Position Statement on Optometric Vision Therapy by
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It is important to note that vision therapy is not defined by a simple list of tools and techniques.  Successful vision therapy outcomes are achieved through a therapeutic process that depends on the active engagement of the prescribing doctor, the vision therapist, the patient and (in the case of children) their parents.

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