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Vision Therapy, Vision Rehabilitation, Eye Exercises, Brain Training: What are the differences? PART 1: VISION THERAPY

The eyes are a complex organ that can take an impulse of light and turn it into vision; a truly remarkable feat. Even more remarkable and complex is vision itself. 66% of the connections within the brain are involved in the process of vision; sight, binocular vision (eye teaming), visual perception (making sense of visual information), and visual integration. As you can imagine, when an aspect of the visual system is not working properly it takes specialized care to correct the visual deficit. In the area of binocular vision and visual perception there are several terms, which are misleading and confusing for patients when used interchangeably. In this four part blog we will discuss each of these terms; vision therapy, vision rehabilitation, eye exercises and brain training as they relate to the visual system. In today's blog we will discuss vision therapy.

Eye teaming, tracking and focusing deficits are common among children and adults; although they often go undiagnosed. These various forms of binocular vision dysfunction along with visual perceptual and processing difficulties limit academic and athletic success. Whether these vision difficulties have been present throughout a person's life or are present due to a traumatic brain injury, stroke, or other neurological event it is important to know that treatment is often possible. When it comes to the treatment of binocular vision dysfunction and visual perceptual and processing deficits there are substantial differences in treatment approaches, which is why some are far more effective than others. Today we will discuss vision therapy, by far the most effective treatment for these vision conditions.

 

VISION THERAPY

Vision therapy is a non-surgical treatment for binocular vision dysfunction, visual perceptual deficits and poor visual processing speed that is conducted under the direction of an optometrist who diagnoses the vision conditions during a Binocular Vision Assessment. Vision therapy involves one-on-one in-office treatment sessions designed for specific, diagnosed vision conditions. During the therapy program the patient will progress through a series of vision activities specifically designed for their clinical case. Through this program one is able to modify the neural pathway of the visual system to gain new visual skills; similar to training neuro-muscular feedback. As the visual system needs to be coordinated (rather than stregthening eye muscles) the results of the vision therapy program last well beyond the completion of the program without need for maintenance activities or repeat therapies.

 

It is important to remember that these conditions are VISION conditions and should be managed by a doctor specifically trained in the eyes and vision. Vision therapy is best performed under the direction of an optometrist who is residency-trained in binocular vision, neuro-optometry and vision therapy. An optometric residency is a one-year post graduate training program that provides specific and advanced training in a particular area of optometry, or eye care. An optometrist with residency training in the areas of binocular vision, neuro-optometry, and vision therapy will be able to accurately diagnose and appropriately manage binocular vision dysfunction, visual perceptual deficits, and poor visual processing speed.

 

As vision therapy programs are run by optometrist with residency training and those who do not possess this advanced training, you can imagine that there are substantial differences between vision therapy programs. So how do you choose the right vision therapy program for you? Ask the following questions:

 

Where did the optometrist complete their vision therapy residency?

A residency is formal, advanced training completed after graduation from optometry school. Every residency program is accredited through a school of optometry and must meet strict guidelines. Residency-training is a great way to ensure that the optometrist has both the knowledge and advanced training to care for you or your child.

 

What are the qualifications of the vision therapist working with you or your child?

It is important to know that EVERY vision therapy session is performed with a qualified therapist in a one-on-one setting. Ask if the therapist is state-licensed. You may even ask for the state license number of the therapist working with you or your child.

 

Is the vision therapy individualized, or does it involve group sessions or computer-based sessions?

Every session conducted in a group setting or with the use of computer programs is a session that risks embedding poor visual habits or lengthening treatment time. Vision therapy is a treatment that requires the patient to be closely monitored by trained professionals. Poorly monitored vision therapy can result in embedding of poor visual habits or the development of new visual symptoms (such as double vision).

 

In summary, vision therapy is a one-on-one, in-office, individualized treatment protocol prescribed by an optometrist to modify the visual system. Vision therapy should be performed under the direction of a residency-trained optometrist to achieve the best results. When performed properly it is by far the most effective treatment modality for binocular vision dysfunction.

 

Join us for Part 2 when we discuss vision rehabilitation.

Posted by Ryan Johnson at 2/9/2015 6:41:00 PM
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