Please, first and foremost, do not confuse Vision Therapy with eye exercise programs you have seen in infomercials on all-night cable stations. Do not confuse in-office, professionally administered Vision Therapy with self-help, self-directed exercise programs you see on lurid internet banners.
Vision care professionals supervise every aspect of Vision Therapy, including scientifically proven training techniques and use of prescription optical appliances.
Assessment, Diagnosis, Consultation, and Prescription
Vision Therapy begins with a comprehensive examination—not just the usual “read the letters on the chart” exam, but a series of sophisticated diagnostic tests designed to assess and evaluate every ocular function. Reviewing test results with patients, vision care professionals discuss Vision Therapy and other treatment options. In these consultations, optometrists may recommend or prescribe therapeutic, corrective, or prism lenses; optical filters, occluders, or eye patches. If an optometrist and patient agree Vision Therapy represents the most appropriate treatment, the optometrist may advise vestibular or balance equipment, timed electronic targeting mechanisms, visual-sensory-motor integration aids, or specialized therapeutic computer programs.
Physical Therapy for Common Visual Complaints
Vision Therapy provides patients with a non-surgical alternative, enabling them to overcome crossed-eyes, double vision, so-called “lazy eye,” and convergence insufficiency.
Many pediatric ophthalmologists and child psychologists recommend Vision Therapy as part of comprehensive treatment for learning disabilities. Although Vision Therapy alone cannot remediate a learning disability, it effectively supplements cognitive and behavioral therapies and courses of medication.
Vision Therapy, always performed under a doctor’s supervision, includes a progressive series of “exercises” individualized to meet each patient’s needs. This attention to development and management of a personalized treatment program also distinguishes legitimate Vision Therapy from commercial imitations. Vision Therapy does not come nicely packaged in “small, medium, and large.” The series of exercises, more often called “procedures,” typically helps patients develop their visual efficiency and ease, strengthen their essential visual abilities and skills, and alter how patients process, comprehend, and interpret visual data. In most Vision Therapy programs, the patient works with her optometrist in the office for 30 minutes to an hour once or twice each week. Most Vision Therapists also assign follow-up care or “homework” for their patients.
Vision-Care Professionals: Optometrist? Ophthalmologist? Does It Matter?
Both vision care practices involve diagnosis and treatment of eye disease. Both kinds of eye doctors earn advanced degrees from the world’s best colleges and universities, and neither specialty demands more intelligence, better grades and test scores, or more scientific proficiency than the other.
The two eye care professions differ according to how they treat eye disease: optometrists follow a functional, behavioral protocol, and ophthalmologists learn eye surgery, a more “organic” approach. Experienced, enlightened professionals prefer you think of the two disciplines as complementary rather than mutually exclusive; and, under ideal circumstances, the two specialties often collaborate in inter-disciplinary eye care teams.
Because Vision Therapy emphasizes function and behavior, the preponderance of exceptionally well-qualified Vision Therapists come from the ranks of optometrists. The distinction becomes especially important in treatment of learning disorders and developmental delays, because psychologists and eye care professionals collaborate to help patients overcome impediments to learning and social interaction. Parent groups very strongly recommend optometric care for children and adolescents coping with these problems.
Strong Scientific Support for Vision Therapy
An average, ordinary, everyday patient should know a little bit about biases, prejudices, and misinformation among some eye care professionals. Several recent studies clearly have demonstrated that rank-and-file ophthalmologists know very little about Vision Therapy. Often motivated by their own professional self-interest, ophthalmologists frequently discourage patients from Visual Therapy; they often do not know about or decline to mention several carefully controlled investigations that conclude eye muscle and refractive surgery have little or no effect on visual disorders Vision Therapy corrects.
The Mayo Clinic, working in concert with the National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute, recently released results of a long-term study in which researchers concluded supervised Vision Therapy stands-out as by far the best treatment for pediatric Convergence Insufficiency. Just as significantly, hundreds of professionally and peer-reviewed studies have proven Vision Therapy’s efficacy in treating and correcting the most common eye problems.
Patients must understand the limits of Vision Therapy as well as its considerable advantages. Vision impairments that develop as complications of disease will not respond to Vision Therapy, and many vision problems resulting from serious trauma require surgical rather than behavioral correction. Even with those caveats, patients ought to consult both a knowledgeable, trustworthy ophthalmologist and an experienced optometrist before choosing and beginning a course of treatment.
Vision Therapy Exercises
Skilled, experienced Vision Therapists choose among more than 200 eye procedures, administering some with eye patches, beaded strings, or targets. Several of the simplest, most common therapeutic exercises benefit people who suffer eye-strain from close work. Especially “Palming” relieves, soothes, and restores clear sight to tired eyes. Run your hands together for fifteen seconds, getting them warm; then, cup them over your eyes, curving them enough that they do not touch your lids. Hold them over your eyes, breathing deeply and completely exhaling until your palms cool. The technique refreshes better than eye drops and helps maintain your visual health.