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What Vision Therapy Can and Cannot Treat

Vision therapy helps children with vision problems develop or improve visual skills, abilities, and efficiencies. If your child is diagnosed with a functional vision problem or visual processing disorder, an individualized vision therapy treatment program, under the supervision of an optometrist trained in developmental and functional vision care, can significantly improve or correct the visual deficiency.

Some visual conditions cannot be treated adequately with just glasses, contact lenses, patching, or surgery. When appropriate, these conditions are best resolved through a program of vision therapy.

Effective vision therapy is an individualized treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. Sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to control eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, or visual processing.

Click here for 9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem

Here are are just a few examples of conditions that affect vision and interfere with learning, which can be treated successfully with vision therapy:

Accommodative (focusing) dysfunction

A child with an accommodative disorder has trouble using his eye muscles appropriately to bring an object into focus clearly or to maintaining focus for a sustained period of time. The muscles that focus the lenses in our eyes have to adjust quickly (and often) to see various points of visual interest clearly, or sustain that clear focus over a period of time, without vision becoming fuzzy or blurred. Vision therapy can treat accommodative disorders successfully.

Amblyopia (lazy eye)

A child with amblyopia has reduced vision in one eye because normal and healthy connections between the child’s eyes and brain did not form correctly during developmental stages. The deficiency causes the brain to favor one eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye. Vision therapy can treat amblyopia successfully.

Strabismus

Strabismus is a condition in which the eye is either constantly or intermittently turned – usually inward or outward (often the cause of amblyopia). In a child with strabismus or other similar alignment problems the eye that points straighter becomes dominant. In severe cases, surgery may be required, but vision therapy can treat strabismus successfully.

Convergence insufficiency

Convergence is the ability to aim one’s eyes at a near distance, and children with a healthy visual system are able to aim their eyes naturally and easily.Convergence insufficiency is a medical condition in which the brain has trouble accurately, efficiently, and comfortably coordinating the eye muscles to see properly for a prolonged period of time at reading distance. Vision therapy can treat convergence insufficiency successfully.

Visual Processing Deficiencies

Normal visual processing requires a complex system of neurological activity to be developed and functioning properly. Many children lack good visual processing skills. Because of a delay in development or disorder, their vision system has trouble computing visual input, leading to problems with visual-motor integration and speed, visualization, visual memory, and more. Vision therapy can treat visual processing problems successfully.

Unfortunately, a lot of children continue to struggle unnecessarily due to undetected vision problems that can be treated successfully with vision therapy. However, one reason so many vision problems go undiagnosed is that they often resemble similar problems that cannot be treated with vision therapy. As parents discover the remarkable results achieved in vision therapy programs, it’s important to understand that vision therapy is not a miracle cure for untreatable conditions.

Some examples of conditions that vision therapy does not treat include:

Myopia, Hyperopia, Astigmatism

Vision therapy does not treat nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism. Children with these common condition, which blur vision, are prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses to optically correct the problem, by altering the way in which light enters the eyes. Myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism are all caused by an irregularity in the length of the eyeball itself or curvature of the cornea, and therefore cannot be corrected by vision therapy. (Note: Vision therapy is sometimes confused with the Bates Method or the See Clearly Method which do not have the same scientific basis or reputation as vision therapy.)

Dyslexia

Vision therapy does not cure dyslexia. the signs and symptoms of dyslexia and learning-related vision problems practically mimic each other, with subtle differences. Even a professional trained to recognize dyslexia may not suspect a vision deficiency without proper awareness. Dyslexia cannot be cured, though many learn to cope with it well and succeed; however, learning-related vision deficiencies that have symptoms similar to dyslexia can be treated and even eliminated by vision therapy. Click here to learn more.

Unrelated Learning Disabilities or Developmental Delays

Vision therapy does not eliminate developmental delays or learning disabilities unrelated to vision. A child with an undetected vision disorder may be misdiagnosed with a learning disability; but a learning disability such as an auditory or language processing disorder, cannot be treated with vision therapy. Many children diagnosed with learning disabilities and developmental delays also struggle with vision problems. If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and he or she is not making expected progress from working with an occupational therapist or in another type of early learning developmental therapy, it could be due to an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Vision therapy is not an antidote for ADD/ADHD, as it does not directly treat impulsivity, hyperactivity, or inattentiveness. However, some children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder when the symptoms they display are actually related to a vision disorder. Teachers might describe your child as distracted or antsy, report that your child daydreams in class, stares out the window, or looks around the room when he should be focusing on his paper or the board. You may have noticed that your child has a short attention span, difficulty staying on task, or following instructions. If the child has a vision problem, he may be diverting his eyes to avoid strain, “acting out” due to frustration, or coping by avoiding tasks; but if the problem is unrelated to vision, vision therapy will not help.

Test Performance in Children with Healthy Vision

In the competitive environment of an educational system that relies heavily on standardized testing, some parents look for creative methods to give their child an edge. You may have learned that vision therapy has helped a friend’s child improve test scores or grades and wonder if your child’s performance in school could be boosted by vision therapy too. Vision therapy does not improve performance in school or tests for children who do not have vision disorders. However, many children could benefit from following these tips to ease eye strain.

When your child is having trouble in school or difficulty learning, it can be confusing and troubling for you as a parent.

Learn more about how vision affects learning by watching this webinar for parents.

Fortunately, vision therapy addresses and treats learning-related vision problems that might be holding your child back. But the first step is always to determine if your child does indeed have a vision problem.

So check for these 9 signs; and if you suspect a problem, schedule a comprehensive vision exam by an optometrist who specializes in functional and developmental vision care right away.

If you are located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us for an appointment.

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