Children may fail to recognize that they’re having difficulty reading, or that their eyes are struggling to focus, so it’s up to parents and teachers to be aware of the many visual problems that are common in children of all ages.
About one in four school-aged children has a visual problem, but school vision screenings aren’t equipped to diagnose the majority of visual deficits.
This is concerning, given that visual dysfunction is strongly linked to behavioral problems and poor academic performance. Only a comprehensive eye exam can examine your child’s eyesight, determine whether they have visual deficits and assess whether they can be treated with vision therapy.
What Is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is an evidence-based treatment program developed over decades that has undergone extensive research and clinical trials to prove its effectiveness.
Vision therapy works by strengthening the communication between the visual system and the brain through a customized program of eye [exercises] prescribed by an eye doctor. Just as physical therapy trains your muscles to function normally, vision therapy applies the same principle to strengthen eye-brain communication. Even children with 20/20 vision can have visual problems, such as eye-tracking, focusing, and eye teaming.
Can Children Undergo Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is ideal for children as it can correct problems early on, while their brains are still developing. Furthermore, vision therapy doesn’t involve invasive procedures or medications, so it's an appropriate treatment method—even for young children. It's also engaging for children, as many of the activities and exercises use objects such as prisms, special lenses and computerized exercises.
VT Works Wonders for the Following Vision Conditions:
Vision Therapy for Strabismus (Crossed Eyes)
Strabismus, also known as crossed eye or eye turn, is a condition where the eyes are turned in different directions from each other. One eye might be looking straight while the other is turned in or out. The eye turn might be constant or intermittent.
Vision Therapy for Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)
Amblyopia is more commonly known as lazy eye and occurs when one eye doesn’t develop the same level of visual acuity as the other eye. Lazy eye results when the brain develops a stronger connection with the clearer eye and fails to process the images sent from the weaker eye. This can eventually lead to permanent vision loss in the weaker eye. Vision therapy works by strengthening the weaker eye to “balance” vision.
Vision Therapy for Accommodative (Focusing) Disorders
Many children struggle to maintain focus for hours on end, impacting their school performance. These eye disorders affect a child’s ability to maintain focus or switch focus between various objects or distances, causing blurred vision and attention difficulties.
Vision Therapy for Eye Movement Disorders
Vision therapy can treat many eye movement disorders, such as eye-tracking problems and more complex eye movement problems characterized by involuntary eye movements, such as nystagmus. Eye movement problems can hamper reading fluency and cause double or blurred vision.
Vision therapy is commonly used to treat a form of eye movement disorder called convergence insufficiency, characterized by the inability to maintain focus on close objects or while reading. This can result in eye strain and reduced concentration, significantly affecting a child’s reading grades and even sports performance.
How Can I Tell Whether My Child Has Vision Problems?
To determine whether your child has a vision problem and can benefit from vision therapy, our Niagara-on-the-Lake eye doctor will carry out a comprehensive eye exam, including an assessment of their functional visual skills, lazy eye and more. This test, known as a functional eye exam, goes beyond the standard “20/20” sight test and is performed by eye doctors with experience and years of training in vision therapy.
Once your optometrist determines that vision therapy is the suitable treatment, he or she will create a personalized plan of exercises and eye activities based on the patient’s condition, age and other factors. The therapy typically includes any of the following:
- Balance boards
- Computer-based activities
Sessions last between 45 to 60 minutes and take place once or twice a week, or for less serious conditions, every two weeks. Vision therapy typically lasts a few months.
To find out whether your child has any vision problems or to learn more about vision therapy, schedule an appointment with Dr. Marianne Hopkins at The St. Catharines Vision Therapy Centre at Dr. Hopkins & Associates Optometry today!
- A: No. Vision therapy performed under the guidance of an optometrist should not be confused with [unauthorized] programs that promise patients they will no longer need glasses or contacts. Vision therapy doesn’t treat refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism that eyewear is often prescribed to correct.
- A: Some children experience results from vision therapy in the first week, but it typically takes about six to eight weeks to notice a dramatic change. This, of course, hinges on how consistent the child is with performing exercises during the week.
Our practice serves patients from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Falls, Welland , and St. Catharines, Ontario and surrounding communities.