Optometric Vision Therapy is a safe, drug-free series of lessons conducted under the supervision of a Developmental/Neuro-Optometrist by an experienced Vision Therapist to teach a person how to use their eyes in the most quick, efficient, comfortable, and automatic way possible.
The goal of Optometric Vision Therapy is not to strengthen eye muscles because your eye muscles are already incredibly strong. Instead, vision therapy aims to retrain incorrectly learned skills of vision through the recently understood concept of neuroplasticity. While visual acuity, (the "20/20" part of vision), requires glasses to improve, visual skills such as tracking together along a line of text must be learned during development. These skills can also be improved later in life at any age.
Who Would Benefit from Optometric Vision Therapy?
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people have a vision problem severe enough to affect their learning in school, but school vision screenings can miss up to half of these problems. A comprehensive vision exam with a Developmental Optometrist checks all aspects of eye health, vision and visual skills which ensures you or your child are not struggling unnecessarily with an undiagnosed vision problem.
Common symptoms that can be helped with vision therapy are:
Headaches with near work
Words run together when reading
Burning, itching or watery eyes
Skipping/repeating lines when reading
Tilting head or closing one eye when reading
Difficulty copying from the board
Avoiding near work or reading
Omitting small words when reading
Writing uphill or downhill
Misaligning digits/columns of numbers
Poor reading comprehension
Holding books or near work very close to eyes
Short attention span with near work
Difficulty completing assignments on time
Saying “I Can’t” before trying something
Clumsiness and knocking things over
Poor understanding of time
Poor understanding of space
Loses belongings or misplaces things
Forgets things easily
What Types of Active Optometric Vision Therapies are There?
VT1: Basic Visual Skills
VT2: Vision and Learning
VT3: Amblyopia or Strabismus
VT4: Special Needs
ABI: Acquired Brain Injury
SVT: Sports Vision Therapy
Therapy RIT: Reflex Integration
SYN: Syntonic Phototherapy
Vision Therapy Programs
What is VT1: Basic Visual Skills?
In a majority of cases, a person will struggle with basic visual skills of eye aiming, focusing,
gazing, tracking and coordinating with hands and body. VT1 is designed to help this person
resolve these problems to allow them to decrease effort, increase efficiency and improve
comfort so this person does not need to work so hard and use so much of their attention to
perform visual activities like reading, writing, and navigating their world.
A typical VT1 Program is 28-32 weeks long with sessions once a week for 1 hour along with 15
minutes of home support on the days between sessions. Progress checks are every 10-12
sessions, 1-month post-therapy, 3 months post-therapy, and 6 months post-therapy to
ensure that the information is being learned as planned.
What is VT2: Vision and Learning?
In other cases, in addition to struggling with basic vision skills, a person may have difficulty processing the information that enters their brain. Some common symptoms of an undiagnosed vision-related learning problem can include difficulty paying attention in school, problems understanding instructions, works hard in school but is not getting good grades, strain, headaches, fatigue with near tasks and is very intelligent but not able to live up to their potential. This program teaches the basic skills and how to understand the patterns and details that make it to the brain through the eyes.
A typical VT2 Program is 32-36 weeks long, which include 1-2 one-hour sessions per week along with 15 minutes of home support on the days between the sessions. Progress checks are every 10-12 sessions, 1-month post-therapy, 3 months post-therapy and 6 months post-therapy to ensure that the information is being learned as planned.
School Vision Screenings Don’t Catch Learning-Related Vision Problems
70 - 80% of vision problems in school children go undetected, even by school vision
screenings. Even if your child has passed a school vision screening, they could still have a functional vision problem. That’s because most school screenings only measure how clearly a child sees objects in the distance. However, in a school setting, most learning occurs within arm’s reach.
Some people, who have experienced significant visual stress at an early age, adapt by
shutting off one eye to avoid visual discomfort, confusion, and/or inaccuracies. This
adaptation is detrimental to the person in that they lose the ability to share vision from each
eye, cross their brain easily and perceive true depth perception. Common treatments for
these conditions involve patching or atropine drops. This does not help the person to fully
learn how to use their eyes as a team and can sometimes cause double vision that is even
more stressful to the person. Active Vision Therapy teaches the eyes and brain to work well
together to allow for better accuracy, endurance and comfort along with better eye function
Since vision is learned during the early milestones, anyone who has not developed as
expected has a higher risk of having vision problems. For instance, people with
developmental delays tend to have difficulty processing and responding to information from
their senses, communicating their thoughts accurately and interacting with others. These
difficulties are often masked by behaviors to help them cope with sensory overload in the
world around them like stimming, avoidance, and fidgeting. Vision is frequently at the
forefront of their difficulties and can be improved drastically with well-timed treatments.
These improvements can include improving eye contact, decreasing stimming (such as
staring at spinning objects or light), having the ability to make more stable fixations and
tracking and improving the attention on visual targets. Achieving these goals can help the
person to feel less overwhelmed by visual stimuli and to interact with their world more
A typical VT4 Program is 32-40 weeks long, which include 1-2 one-hour sessions per week
along with 15 minutes of home support on the days between the sessions. Progress checks
are every 10-12 sessions, 1-month post-therapy, 3 months post-therapy and 6 months post-
therapy to ensure that the information is being learned as planned.
A person who has suffered a brain injury or trauma that has affected the visual system can
no longer think, move, and see as before. Vision should be automatic, but with acquired brain
injury, it isn’t. Every function of the eyes - moving together, focusing, etc. - requires great
concentration and effort by the person affected by brain injury. What used to be automatic,
like focusing on an object, becomes an arduous task.
Sports Vision Therapy gives athletes the competitive edge by using sensory-motor integration techniques to enhance the neurological connections between the brain and the body.
Developmental Reflex Patterns are the foundation to develop motor, sensory and cognitive skills. They are a set of involuntary movements that are in place to protect the fetus, help in the birthing process and guide the baby through developmental milestones so they can efficiently learn the lessons of movement. The milestones covered in this program include learning to fight gravity (balance), belly crawling, creeping on all fours and eventually walking without support. Without these Reflex Patterns, more advanced skills such as skipping, riding a bike, handwriting and even reading are difficult or slow to develop. Eventually these Reflex Patterns should become integrated into more mature motor patterns.
Syntonics or Syntonic phototherapy involves prescribing certain light wavelengths through the eyes to balance the brain and body and to improve treatment and healing times in a large variety of conditions.