Vision Therapy In Scarborough, Maine
Many individuals have vision problems that extend beyond simple refractive errors such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism. These "other" vision problems include amblyopia ("lazy eye"), eye alignment or eye teaming problems, focusing problems, and visual perceptual disorders. Left untreated, these non-refractive vision problems can cause eyestrain, fatigue, headaches, and learning problems.
Symptoms of these vision problems can often be overlooked
- Do you find yourself skipping and/or rereading lines?
- Do you have poor reading comprehension?
- Does your homework take much longer than it should?
- Do you reverse letters like “b” into “d” when reading?
- Do you have a short attention span while reading or doing schoolwork?
- If you or your child experiences any of these symptoms, you could benefit from vision therapy.
What Is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, non-surgical and drug-free program of visual activities designed to correct certain vision problems and/or improve visual skills, tailored to meet the visual needs of each patient.
Unlike eyeglasses and contact lenses, which simply compensate for refractive 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 through specific training and exercises.
Vision therapy is like physical therapy for the visual system, including the eyes and the parts of the brain that control vision. Unlike other forms of exercise, the goal of optometric vision therapy is not to strengthen the eye muscles. Your eye muscles are already incredibly strong. Instead, vision therapy aims to retrain the already-learned aspects of vision.
Vision therapy can include the use of lenses, prisms, filters, computerized visual activities and non-computerized viewing instruments. Non-medical "tools," such as balance boards, metronomes and other devices can also play an important role in a customized vision therapy program. Occasionally, vision therapy is supplemented with procedures done at home between office visits.
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 our prescribing eye doctor, the vision therapist, the patient and, in the case of children, their parents.
Overall, the goal of vision therapy is to treat vision problems that cannot be treated successfully with eyeglasses, contact lenses and/or surgery alone, and to help patients achieve clear, comfortable, binocular vision.
Many studies have shown that vision therapy can correct vision problems that interfere with efficient reading among schoolchildren. It also can help reduce eye strain and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome experienced by many children and adults. See below for more on conditions treated with vision therapy.
Who benefits from vision therapy?
Because visual skills such as tracking lines of text, coordinating the eyes, and focusing on close objects must be learned during development, these skills can also be improved later in life at any age.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 children have a vision problem severe enough to affect their learning in school, however; typical school vision screenings only catch about 5% of all vision problems. A comprehensive vision exam with our Neuro Optometrist will check all aspects of eye health, vision, and visual skills, and can ensure you or your child is not struggling unnecessarily with an undiagnosed vision problem. We work closely with schools and their nurses to ensure the best outcome of your child’s vision therapy program as it relates to their academic and athletic success.
Problems That Vision Therapy Can Correct
Vision problems that are treated with vision therapy include:
- Amblyopia. Also called "lazy eye," amblyopia is a vision development problem where an eye fails to attain normal visual acuity, usually due to strabismus or other problems of eye teaming.
- Strabismus. The success of vision therapy for strabismus depends on the direction, magnitude and frequency of the eye turn. Vision therapy has been proven effective for treating an intermittent form of strabismus called convergence insufficiency, which is an inability to keep the eyes properly aligned when reading despite good eye alignment when looking at distant objects.
- Other binocular vision problems. Subtle eye alignment problems called phorias that may not produce a visible eye turn but still can cause eye strain and eye fatigue when reading also can be minimized or corrected with vision therapy.
- Eye movement disorders. Studies have shown vision therapy can improve the accuracy of eye movements used during reading and other close-up work.
- Accommodative (focusing) disorders. Other research shows near-far focusing skills can be improved with vision training.
- Other problems. Other vision problems for which vision therapy may be effective include visual-perceptual disorders, vision problems associated with developmental disabilities and vision problems associated with acquired brain injury (such as from a stroke or concussion).
Vision Therapy and Learning Disabilities
Up to 80% of the learning a child does in school is through their eyes, making the relationship between vision problems and learning disabilities is a hotly debated and heavily studied topic.
Many optometrists support the use of vision therapy as part of a multidisciplinary approach to the treatment of certain types of learning disabilities, such as ADHD, ADD, and dyslexia. They contend that, in many cases, children with learning disabilities also have underlying vision problems that may be contributing in some degree to their learning difficulties. It's possible, they say, that these learning-related vision problems may be successfully treated with optometric vision therapy, which may improve the child's overall capacity for learning.
The First Steps For Vision Therapy
If you think you or your child has a vision problem that may be affecting academic or athletic performance, the first step is to schedule a routine eye exam to rule out nearsightedness, farsightedness and/or astigmatism.
If the initial eye exam suggests that no glasses are needed (or there is no change in your current glasses prescription) and each eye has 20/20 visual acuity, be aware that a vision problem still may exist. The eye chart used in routine eye exams tests only an individual’s distance vision and does not test all critical aspects of visual performance.
For a thorough analysis of your or your child's vision, including tests that evaluate vision skills needed for efficient reading, consider scheduling a comprehensive vision therapy evaluation with Dr. Nathan Corbell, Neuro Optometrist.
Examinations used to diagnose non-refractive vision problems differ from routine eye exams provided by most optometrists and ophthalmologists. They are usually longer and include a number of tests to measure eye teaming, depth perception, focusing ability, eye movements and visual-motor and/or visual-perceptual skills.
At the end of the exam, Dr. Corbell will provide a detailed assessment of your vision and visual skills. If vision problems are identified and a program of vision therapy is recommended, we will provide information about the likely duration of the therapy and success rates for the specific type of vision therapy being recommended.