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  • Writer's pictureChristine Kalicki

Who can benefit from Visual Therapy?

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

Many individuals can benefit from a program of Visual Therapy, including those with:

  • Learning related visual problems:

Keep in mind that 80% of what children learn in school is done using their visual system, and 5-10% of children have an undiagnosed vision problem. Children who are struggling should have their visual function, not just their visual acuity (can they see 20/20?) assessed. That includes checking visual skills such as eye movement, focusing, and eye teaming. Difficulties in reading, writing or learning can be the result of a vision problem. Many children diagnosed with learning disorders have a visual deficit, which can be helped with Visual Therapy.

  • Accommodative (Focusing) Dysfunction

When you look from far away to a near object, the lenses inside your eyes should automatically change focus (accommodate) to clear the object you are looking at. Anytime you shift your attention to another distance, your focusing system needs to shift to adjust to the new location. If there is difficulty in how easily, quickly, and accurately your eyes focus, or you are unable to maintain focus at a certain distance, there is an accommodative dysfunction.

Once you turn 40, the lens in the eye starts to become less flexible, causing focusing difficulty. This is not a dysfunction, it is a normal change that occurs to the lens, and requires different prescription lenses (bifocal or progressive) to compensate for the change.

Normally, children are able to focus quickly, and have the ability to focus a great amount. However, some children are unable to maintain focus for a long time while reading, or they may be unable to quickly change the focus of their eyes from near to distance, or distance to near.

Common symptoms of Accommodative Dysfunction include:

  • Blurred vision, or difficulty maintaining clear vision

  • Difficulty shifting focus from one distance to another

  • Print appears to move on page

  • Visual discomfort, eye strain and headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Reduced accuracy and inconsistent work, especially with prolonged time at task

  • Difficulty with concentration and attention

  • Avoidance of reading, writing and near work

  • Convergence Insufficiency

The coordinated movement of your eyes either closer inward (to look near) or farther apart (to look far) so that both of them point at the same object is called vergence. Your eyes moving in to look at close objects, such as a computer or book, is called

Convergence Insufficiency is the most common vergence dysfunction. It occurs when there is difficulty aligning the eyes accurately at an object that is near. This causes difficulty for students, who spend the majority of their school day working on near tasks, as well as adults who spend their time working on computers.

Common symptoms of Convergence Insufficiency include:

  • Double vision, or difficulty maintaining clear vision

  • Print appears to move on page

  • Visual discomfort, eye strain and headaches

  • Fatigue

  • Reduced accuracy and inconsistent work, especially with prolonged time at task

  • Difficulty with concentration and attention

  • Poor reading comprehension

  • Avoidance of reading and writing

  • Dizziness and motion sickness

  • Clumsiness, such as a tendency to bump into doorways and knock things over

  • Poor sports performance

A study done in 2008, the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT), which was published in numerous optometric as well as ophthalmologic journals, clearly supports the efficacy of office based vision therapy for treating Convergence Insufficiency. The results of the CITT can be found here.

  • Oculomotor (Eye Movement) Dysfunction

Six muscles connected to the eye work together to accurately control eye movement. Oculomotor Dysfunction occurs when there is difficulty coordinating the eyes to fixate, follow an object, and move from object to object with accuracy.

Oculomotor Skills include:

  • Fixation – the ability to maintain eyes on a target

  • Pursuits – the ability to follow a moving target smoothly and accurately

  • Saccades – the ability to look from one target to another target accurately

Common symptoms of Oculomotor Dysfunction include:

  • Moving head excessively when reading

  • Difficulty paying attention

  • Using a finger or marker to keep place while reading

  • Losing place or skipping lines when reading

  • Poor reading comprehension

  • Reading slowly

  • Print appears to move on page

  • Visual discomfort

  • Reduced accuracy and inconsistent work, especially with prolonged time at task

  • Difficulty with concentration and attention

  • Avoidance of reading and writing

  • Inconsistently sports performance

  • Motion sickness

  • Strabismus (Eye Turn)

Strabismus is a misalignment of the eyes, so that they do not fixate as a pair. One eye (or the eyes may alternate) can deviate inward, outward, up or down. If it is only one eye, it can lead to Amblyopia or “lazy eye.” Strabismus is usually caused by a defective signal from the brain to the eye muscles. It is not due to weak eye muscles.

Although surgery is sometimes recommended to help align the eyes, it usually only offers only a cosmetic solution. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies report success rates for strabismus surgery ranging from 30% to 80%. Success is defined as cosmetic improvement only, which means that following the surgery, the patient's eyes maintained a straight appearance, but depth perception was not necessarily present. Most cases of strabismus can be treated with Visual Therapy instead of surgery. The brain controls eye alignment. If the brain does not pay attention to and fuse the images from the two eyes into one to create a 3D image, Visual Therapy can be used to reinforce those brain connections. More information on strabismus is available from the AOA. Click Here.

  • Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

Amblyopia is a condition where one eye doesn’t see clearly, even with corrective lenses, despite the eye being healthy. It is caused by an interruption in the development of vision, with the dysfunction occurring in the brain. This condition can sometimes occur as a result of strabismus.

Amblyopia can be treated at any age. It is more effective to use active therapy as opposed to passive patching. Prolonged patching can lead to difficulties with binocular vision (using both eyes together). If the visual system does not have input from both eyes to the brain, the brain connections for binocular vision are not being developed.

  • Diplopia (Double Vision)

Diplopia is the result of each eye looking at a different object, instead of both eyes aiming at the same object. Each eye sends a different image to the brain, which is unable to fuse these images into a single picture.

  • Post Concussion Vision Syndrome

Connections from the eyes run through many areas of the brain. Even a “mild” concussion can cause significant vision problems. If symptoms persist beyond three months, Visual Therapy can help.

Common symptoms caused by brain injuries can include:

  • Blurred vision, either at distance or near

  • Double vision

  • Headaches with reading or computer work

  • Poor reading comprehension

  • Loss of place when reading

  • Loss of peripheral vision

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