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Vision Therapy Edmonton at Vision By Design Optometry

Dr. Sarah Keep is passionate about eye health and improving people’s vision. She is one of a few optometrists in Edmonton who provide Vision Therapy and Neuro-Optometric rehabilitation and has a special interest in developmental vision issues that can affect school performance, or acquired vision issues following a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion. Vision disorders that are commonly treated include eye tracking deficiencies, eye focusing deficiencies, eye teaming disorders, lazy eyes (amblyopia) and cross eyes (strabismus).

What is Vision Therapy?

Neuro-Optometric Vision Therapy or Developmental Optometry, is a doctor supervised program of customized activities. Similar to physiotherapy, these exercises are designed to retrain the patient’s brain and eyes to work together and improve vision functioning. Improving eye-tracking, focusing and eye-teaming ability, in addition to hand-eye coordination is the goal of vision therapy treatment. It is very effective in helping those who struggle with reading, memory, visual focus, balance, hand eye coordination and many other vitally important visual tasks.

Vision therapy is effective in children and adults who want to improve their visual abilities. Contact Vision by Design’s vision therapist or Dr. Sarah Keep to see how you or your child can function better in day-to-day activities.

 

Who is Vision Therapy For?

Vision therapy is beneficial for people of all ages. It is very effective for children with vision insufficiencies, but recent research in ophthalmology and neuroscience have shown both teens and adults can improve visual function because of neuroplasticity. Those with traumatic brain injuries benefit greatly from individualized optometric vision therapy.

 How is a Developmental Optometrist Different From a Routine Optometrist?

Routine care Optometrists in Edmonton and other parts of the world perform eye exams that evaluate a patient’s overall eye health. They can diagnose various eye diseases, prescribe medication for treatment and prescribe contact lenses and eyeglasses to correct vision acuity issues. Developmental Optometrists are optometrists that have taken additional post graduate training in binocular vision. This enables them to treat people with vision issues beyond what can be treated by routine optometric care. Developmental optometrists treat functional vision issues that affect binocular vision, eye movement, depth perception and visual problems affecting those with traumatic brain injuries or developmental visual deficiencies.

How is a Routine Eye Exam Different From a Developmental Vision Assessment?

A developmental vision assessment is different from a routine eye exam. A routine eye exam is approximately 15-20 minutes in length. The examination is spent ensuring the patient can see clearly, and that there are not any diseases that may affect the eyes. A developmental vision assessment is at least 90 minutes in length and is often conducted over more than one appointment. In addition to performing all of the tests that are done during a routine exam, a significant amount of time is spent to test the visual skills required for reading and learning. We use the information collected during our session to determine treatment options, guide our Vision Therapy programs, and to monitor for progress. Some of the testing that may be included in our assessment at Vision By Design Optometry are as follows:

 

Binocular Vision and Accommodative Evaluation
Binocular vision problems occur when we have difficulty pointing both of our eyes at the same target. Accommodative vision problems occur when we cannot accurately adjust or maintain our focus at a certain distance. Patients that have binocular or accommodative issues often have significant symptoms while performing near work such as reading, texting or working on a computer. We perform in-depth binocular vision testing for patients experiencing symptoms such as eye strain, headaches, reduced reading comprehension or attention, double vision or other difficulties performing near work.

 

Visual Motor Testing
Visual motor integration is the coordination of visual and fine motor control. A child with poor visual motor integration may have messy handwriting, have difficulty keeping their writing contained within a line, write with a tight pencil grip, or show poor fine motor control such as difficulty using scissors, rulers or stringing beads.

 

Visual Perceptual Evaluation
Visual information is gathered by the eyes however, the brain has to process this information. This evaluation assesses how the brain interprets visual information. A visual perceptual examination tests for skills such as Visual Discrimination, Visual Memory and Visual Closure among others. A visual perceptual evaluation can be performed with patients starting at age 5.

 

Laterality and Directionality Testing
This testing provides insight to a child’s awareness of left and right. Patients with poor laterality or directionality often reverse letters, and may have difficulty understanding which way to turn, which hand to use or which direction to go.

 

Visual Motion Hypersensitivity Testing
Patients who have suffered a concussion often experience increased symptoms in busy visual environments such as driving, a busy shopping mall, or crowded events. We are able to test for visual hypersensitivities and provide treatment if they are found

Who Benefits From Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy can be helpful for any patient who wants more efficient visual skills. There are many people who have an undiagnosed vision condition that may be affecting their ability to learn and function in their daily lives.

Vision therapy is beneficial for people of all ages. Recent research in ophthalmology and neuroscience have shown that visual functioning can improve at any age due to neuroplasticity. Vision therapy is effective for children with developmental vision issues as well as for patients who lost visual functioning due to a traumatic brain injury. Vision therapy is able to help children and adults with conditions and symptoms related to:

  • Amblyopia
  • Strabismus
  • Convergence Insufficiency
  • Traumatic Brain Injury
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Learning Disability
  • Down Syndrome
  • Autism
  • Developmental Disorders
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Dyslexia
  • Anyone seeking to reach peak performance in sports (Sports Vision Training)

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What Visual Skills Can Be Improved From Vision Therapy?

Eye Tracking

When we read, our eyes must track along a row of text. This involves accurately moving our eyes from left to right across a row of text, followed by a large precise eye movement in order to get to the beginning of the next row.

Eye tracking is the ability to move both eyes together in a coordinated manner in order to do activities such as moving our eyes from one word to the next while reading. If a child has difficulty performing accurate movements they may end up skipping over small words when reading, or skipping to the wrong line at the end of a row of text.

When this happens children will end up reading the words on a page in the wrong order. This can affect reading comprehension since they often have to re-read text multiple times in order to retain the context of the paragraph. Patients will often also have reduced reading speed since they often slow down how quickly they read in order to reduce the frequency of mistakes. Parents may observe their children following with a finger or using head movement while reading.

Visual tracking issues in children present symptoms such as:

  • Using a finger to keep their place on a page
  • Skipping words or whole lines while reading
  • Swapping words
  • Reduced reading speed or comprehension
  • Avoidance of near work
  • Poor coordination with sports
  • Having to re-read text

Eye Teaming

We often forget that we see two separate images from our right and left eye. We have to maintain proper eye alignment in order to allow our brain to easily fuse these two images into one.

Eye teaming is the ability to point both eyes together at the same target in order to see a single image. When we move our eyes from one target to another both eyes have to move in and out in order to point at the same spot in space.

Patients who have difficulty with eye alignment may experience double vision when performing visual tasks such as reading. Words on the page may also appear to be moving as the two images slide in and out of alignment.

This can be distracting resulting in reduced reading comprehension. This can also be uncomfortable to look at, causing children to avoid reading tasks or get frustrated when having to do prolonged periods of reading.

Parents may observe their child covering their eye or turning their head in an attempt to block out the second distracting image.

If a patient has difficulty with Eye Teaming skills they can have multiple symptoms including:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Blurry Vision
  • Double Vision
  • Words moving on a page
  • Skipping words when reading
  • Tilting head/closing an eye when reading
  • Avoiding near work
  • Reduced reading comprehension
  • Poor attention when reading

Eye Focusing

Eye focusing is the ability to change how much your eyes are focused when looking at objects at various distances.

Our eyes have to be able to relax together when looking far away, and they must focus accurately together when looking up close. If this skill is inadequate words may appear blurry or our vision may fluctuate.

Patients may experience eye strain or headaches, or may become tired or fall asleep when reading. It can reduce our reading speed as we have to wait for the images to clear, and can affect our reading comprehension since it can be distracting for the words to go in and out of focus.

Like the issues above children may end up avoiding near work or get frustrated when performing visual tasks such as reading.

If a patient has difficulty with Eye Focusing they will often experience symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Eyestrain
  • Blurry Vision
  • Avoiding near work
  • Reduced reading comprehension
  • Abnormal working distance when reading
  • Reduced attention when reading
  • Avoiding near work
  • Blurry vision at distance after sustained near work

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How is School Performance Affected by Issues That Are Commonly Treated With Vision Therapy?

When a child struggles with the visual skills necessary for learning it can affect their school performance. Visual tasks such as reading are often uncomfortable for children with vision issues so children will often avoid tasks rather than suffering discomfort.

Because of this children tend to fall behind in their work and do not perform well in reading and writing assignments. Children may be able to use non-visual skills to mask some of their poor performance. For instance a child may be able to memorize their spelling list to perform well on spelling tests but cannot recognize when they regularly spell the same words incorrectly when they use them in a paragraph.

Children often have slower reading speeds and take longer to finish homework and assignments. Visual issues make it extremely challenging to read accurately. Children may confuse similar words, read words out of order, or skip lines of text altogether. Parents often complain that their child is smart in everything but school. The frustration that this causes in a child can often result in secondary behavioral issues.

If your child displays any of the following school performance issues they may have a learning issue from poorly developed visual skills:

  • slow reading speed
  • having to follow with a finger to not lose their place when reading
  • scores well on spelling tests but cannot spell well when writing sentences
  • taking a long time to complete homework/assignments
  • having to re-read material more than once to understand content
  • appears distracted when doing visual tasks such as reading
  • gets frustrated when doing near tasks such as reading/homework
  • prefers to be read to vs reading themselves
  • prefers graphic novels
  • gets tired/falls asleep when reading
  • complains of headaches or eye strain when reading

What Symptoms Do We Look For in Patients Who May Benefit From Vision Therapy?

It is important to understand that children will not always complain of symptoms if they have learning related vision problems since they don’t know what normal vision should look like. For example, we often see children who deny having double vision until we show them examples of what double vision looks like. For many parents it can be more helpful to look for typical school performance issues or behaviors as listed above.

If symptoms are present, they will often include the following:

  • Headaches
  • Eye strain with near work
  • Double vision
  • Words moving on a page
  • Fluctuating vision or blurry vision when reading
  • Difficulty adjusting focus from distance to near
  • Loss of place when reading
  • Skipping words or lines when reading
  • Difficulty with rights and lefts
  • Letter reversals
  • Poor handwriting

My Child Performs Well in School, Does This Mean Their Eyes Are Fine?

Not all children with learning related vision problems have poor grades. Some children have a personality that allows them to persevere through visual tasks that can cause discomfort.

They may put in the extra effort that is required in order to achieve good grades but that doesn’t mean they are working as efficiently as they could. After treating the vision issues, children who are already performing at grade level will likely be able to do so faster and with less effort.

They will also often be able to excel beyond their previous achievements. Younger children may also not perform poorly in school because the reading demand is lower. They are still learning to read and not yet reading to learn.

Text size in younger grades is larger which makes it easier on our eyes. Pictures often accompany text to be able to provide us with context without having to rely on reading skills alone to gather information about the story. Often these children will start to have reduced school performance as the reading demand increases in higher grade levels.

Optometric Vision Therapy For Children With ADD/ADHD

Visual issues can often cause behavioral issues. When a child has difficulty using basic visual skills they tire more easily and end up giving up on their assignments and may seem to be easily distracted.

This can lead to an incorrect diagnosis of ADHD because children with functional vision problems often present similar symptoms to those found in ADHD.

Studies have shown that children with vision problems are twice as likely than their peers to be diagnosed with ADHD or ADD. It is common for children with visual issues to fidget, squirm or regularly adjust their posture.

They often rush through assignments to avoid discomfort resulting in careless mistakes. Children may get up from their desks or may have to be regularly reminded to do reading activities.

To a parent or a teacher these children often appear to have ADHD.

If your child is having difficulty paying attention in school, do not automatically assume its ADD or ADHD, they may have a vision problem.

When a child’s visual skills are not operating properly, they may display these symptoms and behaviors:

Difficulty Paying Attention in Class
Children with vision problems can find even regular classroom tasks challenging.

Attempting to gather the visual information necessary to learn can be physically uncomfortable. This discomfort often leads to frustration, or the child may seem distracted or fidgety.

Others may give up altogether and avoid reading in an attempt to avoid discomfort.

Difficulty Reading
Eye teaming issues can make the task of reading very difficult and uncomfortable on the eyes. Some children may push past the discomfort and read more slowly, others will rush through the material and make careless mistakes, and some will simply stop trying to read altogether.

Ignoring The Teacher
A child struggling with a vision issue has to work much harder than a typical student while attempting to focus on regular classroom activities. This results in the child having to focus their energy so intently, they may not be aware they are being spoken to as they have no energy left to process any other information. This may cause further frustration and cause them to act out inappropriately.

Lack of Attention to Details
Children with vision issues tend to feel rushed as they struggle with near work before experiencing blurred or double vision, eye strain, or headaches. This results in the student skipping important details or making careless mistakes on their work.

Below Average Performance in Sports or Other Physical Activities
Vision issues can make it difficult for children or adults to see a ball fly through the air or properly estimate their physical distance between themselves and others on a playing field. This can affect one’s confidence as they are assumed to be uncoordinated or clumsy.

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Vision Therapy For Amblyopia

Amblyopia, or a lazy eye, causes reduced vision in one or both eyes despite the eyes being perfectly healthy.

Misalignment of the eyes, or a large difference between the prescriptions in each eye can result in one eye not receiving a good quality image.

The brain will actively suppress the visual information from the weaker eye because it has a hard time processing information from both eyes at the same time.

This results in an underdevelopment of the area of the brain that corresponds with the weaker eye.

Vision therapy is very successful in helping people with amblyopia in breaking the brain’s suppression of the weak eye and training the brain to use both eyes as a team. This results in improved vision in the lazy eye without the need for patching.

A child with amblyopia will often not show any symptoms.

We strongly suggest that your child undergo a comprehensive eye exam to identify if your child is at risk of developing amblyopia. The earlier amblyopia is diagnosed and treated, the more successful the outcome.

Optometric Vision Therapy For Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

It was once thought that patching the stronger eye was the only way to treat amblyopia.

Unfortunately this approach is often met with significant resistance by the patient as wearing an eye patch can be very uncomfortable.

Vision therapy is another method to improve the vision in the “lazy eye” through a variety of doctor specified and personalized exercises.

A patient with amblyopia often has underdeveloped visual skills in the weaker eye. This makes it harder for the brain to use both eyes together, when it is much easier to just use the information from the stronger eye.

Our treatment starts with the use of specially designed lenses. The purpose of these glasses or contact lenses is different from what is found during a routine eye exam.

Rather than prescribing lenses that give both eyes the best possible vision, lenses are prescribed to make the weaker eye see as good as possible, while making the stronger eye a little bit worse.

This balances the ability for the brain to take information from both eyes equally and can often dramatically improve vision without the use of patching.

Our treatment continues with vision therapy. In this program exercises are designed to help improve eye teaming, coordination, depth perception and reduce blur caused by the brain suppressing visual information from the weaker eye.

As the weaker eye improves these visual skills there is no longer a need for the brain to ignore the information from the weaker eye, and the vision improves.

How is Vision Therapy More Effective Than Eye Patching?

Eye patching is very uncomfortable and many children will resist wearing an eye patch. This reduced compliance will often reduce the effectiveness of patching.

Patching also only improves the vision in the weak eye while the better eye is not working.

This can improve vision in the amblyopic eye while it is patched but it does not teach the brain to use both eyes together.

The active suppression that occurs in amblyopia often continues, therefore the brain will still prefer taking in information from the stronger eye when the eyes are un-patched.

This can result in reduced binocular vision and depth perception, even if patching was effective in improving the ability to see clearly.

Vision therapy can be much more effective in the treatment of amblyopia by combining a series of personalized exercises to improve eye coordination, depth perception and to reduce the brain’s suppression of visual information from the affected eye.

It not only improves the vision in the weaker eye, but also teaches the amblyopic eye the visual skills that are needed in order to use both eyes together as a team.

Is There An Age Limit Where Amblyopia Cannot be Treated Using Vision Therapy?

It was previously thought that there was a critical age at which amblyopia had to be treated. If a child was beyond that specific age many parents were told that there was no longer anything that could be done to treat their child’s lazy eye. Fortunately more current research has shown that because of neuroplasticity in our brain, amblyopia can be successfully treated at any age.

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Vision Therapy For Strabismus (Eye Turns/Cross Eyes)

Many people believe that an eye turn occurs from a weak muscle. However in most cases the muscle is completely normal and often has a full range of motion.

The underlying problem is due to the brain having difficulty processing information from both eyes. If the brain is able to ignore the information from one eye, it makes it easier for the brain to process visual information.

One strategy the brain can use to help to ignore this information is to create an eye turn. When the eyes are no longer pointed in the same direction it makes it easier for the brain to only use information from one eye.

The underlying cause of an eye turn can often be because the brain has difficulty processing information from both eyes at the same time.

This is often because patients have poorly developed visual skills such as eye tracking and focusing.

Vision therapy helps a patient to develop these deficient visual skills in order to make it easier for the brain to use both eyes at the same time.

Once these skills are developed the patients can be taught how to keep their eyes lined up. This can result in improved alignment in a patient with an eye turn without the need for surgery.

Will Vision Therapy Prevent My Child From Needing Surgery?

In many cases children are able to avoid surgery as they improve their ability to align their eyes on their own.

In some cases surgery may still be required at the completion of the vision therapy program.

Despite this it can still be important to complete a vision therapy program prior to considering surgery.

The underlying cause of an eye turn is due to the brain having trouble using information from both eyes at the same time.

When a patient has surgery for an eye turn the eyes now physically point in the same direction, however the brain still has difficulty using both eyes together.

Because of this the eye turn may return after surgery and multiple surgeries are often required.

Vision therapy will help to develop the visual skills that are deficient in a patient who has an eye turn.

In the event that surgery is still required at the completion of a child’s vision therapy program, the surgery will often be more successful since the brain now knows how to process the information from both eyes at the same time.

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What is a Traumatic Brain Injury?

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) such as a concussion occurs when there is sudden damage to the brain, caused by an external force such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, and sports injuries.

Injuries range from mild to severe permanent brain damage. Most concussions fall within the mild category which are often very responsive to vision therapy rehabilitation if visual issues occur.

Vision Issues Following a Concussion

Patients who have experienced concussions, stroke or have been in motor vehicle accidents often experience a variety of symptoms including light sensitivity, balance issues, headaches, dizziness, double vision and/or visual memory problems.

These symptoms are often worse following visual tasks such as reading, using a computer or cell phone and driving. In most patients these symptoms resolve, however approximately 10% of patients will have symptoms that persist beyond three months of their initial injury.

Most patients with persistent symptoms will require treatment in order for them to resolve.

Treatment Options

Glasses can often be an effective first step in the treatment of concussions. These lenses are different from what is prescribed during a routine eye exam.

They will often contain tints, prisms, occlusion or special lenses and can often offer some immediate relief to symptoms. In cases where glasses alone are not enough, an individualized vision therapy program is often prescribed.

A special series of activities supervised by a Doctor of Optometry is effective in reducing or eliminating symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, blur and balance issues.

The changes from a vision therapy program can provide lifelong change in overall comfort and quality of life. This treatment is also effective for patients who have chronic symptoms.

Traumatic brain injuries often have multiple trajectories. Rehabilitation often has the best outcome with a multi-disciplinary approach.

The best approach can vary and is dependent upon each patient’s particular problem, their symptoms and their diagnoses.

Disciplines participating in the rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury should include optometrists, physiotherapists, physicians, occupational therapists, psychologists, speech pathologists, and chiropractors.

Other professions may be required depending on the patient’s specific symptoms.

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What Are The Symptoms of TBI?

Our vision is highly dependent on our brain. In fact, half of our brain pathways relate to visual function.

As a result, patients suffering with TBI can experience:

Eye Focusing

Our eyes have to be able to change focus from one distance to another in order to create a clear image.

Patients who have sustained a traumatic brain injury often lose the ability and endurance to switch focus between objects at various distances.

The resulting symptoms include blurry or fluctuating vision, headaches, eye strain, and difficulty performing near work for extended periods of time.

Patients who have suffered a traumatic brain injury will often have difficulty with visual perceptual processing.

Visual perceptual skills allow us to make sense of the visual information received by the brain.

Difficulty with visual perceptual processing can result in a TBI patient experiencing a cognitive “fog”.

This “fog” affects several aspects of vision including:

  • Visual attention span
  • Visual processing speed
  • Visuo-spatial memory
  • Visual memory

Light & Visual Sensitivity

It is quite common for patients with TBI to develop a hypersensitive visual system. Sensitivity to light and other changes to the visual environment can be especially challenging.

The ability to filter out visual noise is impaired, which can make large crowds and visual motion especially overwhelming for TBI patients because they are unable to ignore irrelevant visual input.

Additionally, patients can experience balance issues as they are unable to rely on the visual input that allows us to recognize our body’s position in space.

Visual Hallucination

TBI sufferers can experience visual hallucinations that appear as stars, flashes or spots as well as perceived motion of objects. These hallucinations may occur when the brain misunderstands visual information due to damage of the brain tissue. This results in disruptions to how the brain processes information.

Eye Teaming

The ability for the eyes to coordinate are commonly affected by a traumatic brain injury.

Effective eye-teaming occurs when both of our eyes have to move in a coordinated manner to ensure they are pointing at the same target.

Accurate eye teaming is often lost following a traumatic brain injury such as a concussion.

Patients with reduced eye teaming may experience double vision, eye strain, words moving on a page and/or reduced depth perception.

Visual Field Loss

It is possible for a patient with a traumatic brain injury to have a hemianopsia, or a visual field defect.

When this occurs, a patient will either have the vertical half, or horizontal half of their vision missing. Patients who have visual field loss often have difficulty with certain daily activities, or may be at risk for a fall or injury.

Certain accommodations can be taught to patients to help them better perform activities with a field defect.

It can also be possible to see some improvement to the visual field by performing certain scanning activities.

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What is The Prognosis For Recovery?

The prognosis for most mild traumatic brain injuries such as a concussion depends on how long symptoms are present.

If symptoms persist greater than three months past the initial injury the prognosis tends to be worse, or may require additional rehabilitation to improve symptoms.

Other individual factors can also affect prognosis, such as the number of previous head injuries, a history of anxiety or depression, the severity of injury, prior neurological disease, persistent physical illness, or advanced age.

How Does Neuro-Optometric Vision Therapy Work?

When a patient suffers a traumatic brain injury there can be damage to various pathways in the brain.

This prevents our brain from being able to use these damaged connections to pass information. When we do neuro-optometric rehabilitation we are able to train the brain to rewire the connections and use other areas of the brain to compensate for areas of damage.

This results in better communication throughout the brain, which results in improvement of symptoms.

How Long Should One Expect to See Results?

Each case presents with varying degrees of symptoms however, studies show that one can anticipate at least 6-10 weeks of visual rehabilitation before improvements can be seen.

It is common to require additional weeks in order to embed the new skills so that regression does not occur once rehabilitation is complete.

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What Vision Therapy is NOT

Neuro-optometric Vision Therapy is a service conducted or supervised by a doctor of optometry following significant post graduate training. It involves one-on-one training performed by a certified vision therapist in order for it to be properly customized to meet each patient’s specific visual needs.

Vision therapy is not a set of do-it-yourself eye exercises that you may have seen advertised online or on info-mercials that promise you can ‘throw away your glasses’. There is no scientific research behind such programs to corroborate such claims that self-help eye exercises can reverse nearsightedness or other refractive errors.

It is also important to note that a home-based regimen of “pencil push-ups”, computer software or other programs that are not frequently supervised by a doctor should not be considered a vision therapy program, even if recommended by an eye doctor, as they are not as comprehensive or successful as an in-office supervised vision therapy program.

Pencil push-ups is an orthoptic exercise where the patient reads fine print with a pencil held at arm’s length. The patient gradually moves the pencil closer to their eyes while maintaining focus. This activity is recommended to help decrease eye strain and other symptoms caused by Convergence Insufficiency. This activity has not been found to be an effective treatment of Convergence Insufficiency and is not the same as In-Office Therapy.

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Doctor Supervised Vision Therapy Helps People With:

Crossed Eye (Strabismus) or Lazy Eye (Amblyopia)

Poor eye-sight, double vision and/or reduce depth perception is common among these patients. Misalignment of the eyes or a large variance in lens prescription results in one eye not receiving a quality image. Many people believe that an eye turn occurs from a weak muscle. However in most cases the muscle is completely normal and often has a full range of motion. The underlying problem is due to the brain having difficulty processing information from both eyes. The brain suppresses visual information from the weaker eye to avoid double vision and/or confusion. Vision therapy is very successful in helping people with strabismus or amblyopia by breaking the brain’s active suppression of the poorer eye, training the brain to use both eyes as a team. This can result in improved vision in a lazy eye and better alignment in a patient with an eye turn without the need for patching or surgery.

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Patients who have experienced concussions, stroke or have been in motor vehicle accidents often experience a variety of symptoms including light sensitivity, balance issues, dizziness, double vision and/or visual memory problems. Glasses containing tints, prisms or special lenses, or an individualized vision therapy program can reduce or eliminate symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, blur and balance issues. The changes from a vision therapy program can provide lifelong change in overall comfort and quality of life.

Interest in Improving Athletic Abilities

Vision is extremely important for the success of many athletes. Sports vision therapy helps with hand-eye coordination, tracking, visual reaction time and dynamic visual acuity. Many professional athletes from a wide variety of sports have used vision therapy to take their game to the next level.

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How Does The Vision Therapy Program Work?

Vision therapy is like physiotherapy for your eyes. It consists of activities and exercises that are customized to each patient’s specific visual needs in order to develop or rehabilitate deficient visual skills.

The activities incorporate specialized equipment with the use of lenses, prisms, filters and occluders to successfully improve visual functioning.

Typically, a vision therapy program consists of weekly in-office sessions 40 minutes in length and daily at-home exercises.

Depending on the severity of diagnosis, eye health and the patient’s compliance to daily exercises the vision therapy program can range from a few weeks to several months.

The eye doctor closely monitors the patient to ensure noticeable improvements and positive changes to the patient’s visual functions and to determines the length of the program.

What Does Vision Therapy Look Like?

In order for any therapy to be effective it must be ongoing. Vision therapy typically involves weekly in-office sessions that are typically 40 minutes in duration. Patients are given therapeutic exercises to be done at home on a daily basis. Effective vision therapy programs vary in length depending on the complexity of the patient’s diagnosis.

How Long Does it Take to Start Seeing Results?

The time when one will begin seeing noticeable results varies greatly. Some patients can begin seeing changes early on and others it may take up to several weeks or months to see significant results.

Results are dependent upon the severity of the condition, therapy regimen and adherence to daily exercises.

In most cases patients will see a gradual improvement to their symptoms over the course of their treatment.

Because visual skills are able to be developed, once these skills are learned most patients will retain them for life.

Is There an Age Limit to Vision Therapy?

The good news is that due to the brain’s neuroplasticity, there is no age limit to vision therapy.

The more one practices, the more our visual function becomes better. Compliance is very important to the success of any visual therapy program.

Is Vision Therapy Covered by Insurance or WCB?

Vision therapy is not covered by your vision benefits through your insurance. Patients are able to use health spending accounts or submit for a tax deduction.

Some claims are eligible through various insurance programs if the visual issue is secondary to an injury.

Schedule a comprehensive vision therapy exam with Dr. Sarah Keep to see if you or your child can benefit from vision therapy to help with work, school and sports performance.

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References
Neuro-ophthalmologist at the Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Eric Singman, writes on Vision Rehab and Brain Injury.

Dr Singman authored a three part article on Vision and Rehabilitation after Brain Trauma that you can access online via brainline.org

Brasure, M., Lamberty, G., Sayer, N. and et al, (2012). Multidisciplinary postacute rehabilitation for moderate to severe traumatic brain injury in adults. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Ciuffreda KJ,et al.: Vision therapy for oculomotor dysfunctions in acquired brain injury: a retrospective analysis; Optometry. 2008 Jan;79(1):18-22.