What Are Visual Skills?

Our eyes need to work together as a team efficiently and effectively to provide optimal conditions for learning through vision. However in some cases, the ability of both eyes to work well together fails. This manifests as a visual skill problem that can have drastic impacts on a child’s learning even if their eyesight is “20/20”. These visual skills mainly involve:

Signs And Symptoms To Look Out For

  • Complains of eyestrain and/or headaches
  • Double vision and/or blurry vision when reading
  • Covers or closes one eye when reading
  • Short attention span and difficulty concentration when reading
  • Words moving on the page
  • Skipping words/lines when reading
  • Loss of place on page or when copying from the board

If your child experiences these signs and symptoms, we recommend seeing our behavioural optometrist to assess whether they may benefit from vision therapy.

Visual Skills Vision Therapy

Vision therapy trains and teaches the brain how to improve the control eye teaming, tracking, and focussing skills through a variety of vision activities. This consists of the use of various vision therapy tools such as lenses, prisms, eye patches along with other prescribed visual activities and exercises.

Improving these visual skills can help avoid problems such as double vision, frontal headaches, eye strain, and short attention when reading.

Many of these symptoms can affect a child’s ability to read and learn. Furthermore, because it often takes more effort for your child to “see”, the brain has limited resources remaining to comprehend what he/she is reading or learning. Once these visual skills are mastered efficiently and become automatic, learning often becomes easier.

What is the scientific research supporting vision therapy?

  • Up to 97% of vision therapy resulted in significant improvements in eye teaming and symptoms in people with poor eye teaming skills.
  • A study that using vision therapy to improve eye movement control in dyslexic children, showed significant improvement in only 3 to 8 weeks.
  • Research has shown improved eye teaming following vision therapy lead to improved academic behaviour, reading and school work.

Vision Therapy: Not Just Eye Exercises

Contrary to common belief, vision therapy is not used to strengthen eye muscles, but to improve the coordination and efficient functioning and processing of the visual system. It is a highly effective, non-surgical treatment for many visual problems such as strabismus, amblyopia, convergence, focusing, tracking, and learning difficulties.

Our visual system uses our eyesight, visual pathway, and brain all together to direct our actions; such as reading and writing. Therefore lacking necessary visual skills or information processing will compromise our ability to perform these actions.

Vision therapy provides the necessary experience to develop these visual skills and process the visual information the brain receives from eye eyes correctly. As a result, a person becomes able to use their visual system efficiently; not just in vision therapy activities, but in their everyday lives. This is achieved by a customised vision therapy program.

Vision therapy is for every age! Many individuals that have been told “it’s too late” to treat their visual problem. But patients regardless of age can experience a dramatic improvement following vision therapy. Susan Barry  a neuroscientist and author of the book “Fixing my Gaze” is the perfect example. She experienced 3D vision for the first time following vision therapy at the age of 48.

What Is Involved In Vision Therapy?

Following a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist may identify a visual problem and prescribe vision therapy as a treatment. Each program of vision therapy is designed and tailored to suit the specific needs of the individual, both in terms of their visual profile and their goals. Diagnostic testing, training procedures and the use of lenses and prisms may be integral components of the successful treatment of a vision problem.

The duration of a course of vision therapy will vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem being treated and the specific needs of the individual.  Most programs last 6-12 months but more complex issues can take longer to treat.

The patient will meet with the vision therapist once a week for 45 min for the duration of the program and will be prescribed activities to be practised at home for 20 min per day.

Success of the therapy program depends not only on the motivation of the individual and parents involved, but also their compliance with prescribed home activities.

Outcomes of Vision Therapy

When your visual system is able to align, track, focus, and process what it sees the right way, a whole new experience is discovered. You can expect to emerge from the vision therapy program which a much improved vision from that you started with. You may find (but not limited to):

Improved reading level and speed

Improved learning ability

Elimination of symptoms such as sore eyes and headaches

Ability to control an eye turn

Improved focussing and ability to change focus from near to far

Improved distance judgement and 3D vision

You may be interested in checking out some case studies and success stories.