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Vision Therapy

Vision therapy for children: how your child can benefit

Preschool Children Vision Therapy

Did you know that our visual perceptual skills can be strengthened? We can improve them, making them more efficient and accurate.

Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised program. What’s perhaps most exciting is that it works for children too.

Children can experience a number of issues with their sight, many of which can be successfully treated through vision therapy. For parents, the possibility of improving and strengthening a child’s vision is promising news indeed.

Often, visual and perceptual problems can be missed by a simple eye exam. Many are surprised to learn that even if a child has 20/20 vision, they can still have underlying vision problems.

Some of these are functional vision problems. It could be the eyes themselves, how they move individually and together, as well as the ability to focus.

Children who are having difficulty often suffer physical symptoms. They may experience headaches or eye fatigue, or have short attention spans. Tasks like reading and writing are extremely difficult for them, if not exhausting, which can lead to frustration and behavioural problems.

Functional vision problems can affect a child’s success in school, sports and daily life. We all need our eyes to be able to team, track and focus well and to have good hand-eye co-ordination. Therapy can help improve non-refractive vision problems such as eye tracking, eye alignment and lazy eye through the use of individualized programs.

Dr. Marianne Hopkins, OD, PhD, recently joined Dr. Robertson-Woods & Associates in Niagara-on-the-Lake and St. Catharines as the new practice owner. She has a special interest in vision therapy for children and is a certified Vision Therapy Optometrist.

The therapy is a non-invasive and non-surgical treatment that is also very effective; it’s based on our ability to learn and adapt. Because the human brain can change its structure and function to accommodate new information and abilities, it allows us to learn new skills quickly and easily. This concept – neuroplasticity – is the basis of vision therapy’s success.

While eyeglasses and contact lenses can treat refractive errors, corrective lenses can’t fix other vision conditions. The vision therapy program consists of several special eye exercises that are aimed at correcting specific vision issues and eye disorders. Basically, it trains the visual system to correct itself. The program of progressive eye exercises is individualized for each patient.

Vision therapy can be used to treat conditions like strabismus (eye turns) and amblyopia (lazy eye), as well as eye movement, focus and co-ordination problems. Typically, sessions take place in the optometrist’s office weekly and use tools such as therapeutic lenses or prisms.

Often the child will be asked to practise certain exercises or activities at home as well, in order to reinforce the skills that are being developed. The program usually lasts six to nine months and patient timelines are crafted as part of a personalized program.

Vision therapy is approved by the Canadian Association of Optometrists and has been scientifically proven to improve functional vision skills.

To find out if your child is a good candidate for vision therapy, contact the eye care professionals at Dr. Hopkins, Dr. Robertson-Woods & Associates St. Catharines office.


How Vision Therapy Impacts Confidence & Success

Mom Daughter Child Eye HealthBuilding confidence in children is critical to their success. However, children with poorly developed visual skills tend to lack confidence in their abilities. They may struggle to keep up in school, finding it difficult to concentrate in the classroom, or be unable to catch a ball when playing on the sports field.

Fortunately, vision therapy can help children (and adults) develop the specific visual skills they lack, offering them the best opportunities to enhance their comprehension, increase their reading level and attention span, and improve their sports performance.

This, in turn, directly impacts their confidence levels.

How Does Vision Therapy Work?

The primary goal of vision therapy is to improve the child’s visual skills. A child can have 20/20 vision and yet have underdeveloped visual skills. Poor visual skills impede the ability of the eyes, brain, and body to work as a team. Vision therapy develops and enhances this communication, allowing people with visual dysfunction to process and react to visual information faster and more efficiently.

Vision Therapy Process

A vision therapy program consists of visual exercises specifically tailored to the patient’s individual visual needs. Depending on the type and level of visual dysfunction, the eye doctor will prescribe a personalized program of exercises to develop the communication between the brain and the visual system. Eye doctors also use tools such as specialized optical lenses, eye patches, prisms, balance boards, and digital simulations to train the brain-eye connection.

Visual Skills

There are several visual skills that vision therapy helps to improve. These include:

  • Saccades – the eyes’ ability to move quickly or “jump” between two or more focus points. This skill is crucial for reading, as children need to be able to move their eyes along a straight line without straying to other lines.
  • Pursuits or Tracking – the eyes’ ability to smoothly track a moving target. This skill allows a child’s eyes to glide along with a page and also to catch, hit, or kick a moving ball.
  • Convergence – the eyes’ ability to work together as a team in order to focus on a nearby object like a book or computer screen..
  • Accommodation Flexibility – the eyes’ ability to continuously change focus between near and distant objects. This is the skill required when a child looks at the blackboard and then copies the writing into a notebook.
  • Accommodation – The eyes’ ability to maintain focus on close-up activities. This skill is needed for homework and for using a computer for many hours.
  • Visual Memory – The ability to remember words and information. Good visual memory is essential for spelling.
  • Color Perception – The ability to distinguish between various colors. This skill is essential for the accurate interpretation of color-coded materials, such as graphs and charts.
  • Fine Visual-Motor – The ability to engage in close-up activities with accuracy and comfort. This skill is needed for reading, writing, cutting with scissors, and assembling a puzzle.
  • Visual Integration – The ability to combine your vision with your other senses to perform complex tasks. This skill is required to process various forms of visual information accurately and quickly. Visual integration is crucial for a student copying from the board and analyzing the information.

Confidence And Success Building

Developing visual skills can help children meet the demands of school, improve their grades, and allow them to gain confidence in the classroom. Vision therapy can also lead to improved hand-eye coordination and allow them to have more fun on the sports field. In fact, vision therapy can be a key component in preparing children for higher education. As they master new skills, they feel more confident in their abilities.

Keep in mind that school eye screenings and most regular eye exams evaluate eyesight, but do not assess the essential visual skills required for sports, reading, and learning. Only a comprehensive vision exam can determine whether a child has poor visual skills. Contact The Vision Therapy Center at Dr Hopkins, Dr Robertson-Woods & Associates to book a vision exam to assess your child’s visual skills. We can create a tailor-made vision therapy program to help your child succeed and reach their full potential.

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