Does My Child Need Vision Therapy?
Frequently Asked Questions & Important Answers
Over the past 10 years, the Arizona Vision Therapy Center has been asked a lot of questions about vision therapy by parents that have come through the office. Here are just some of the questions that you, too, may be asking regarding your child’s performance in school, sports or at home—and how these concerns could be quelled with vision therapy.
Why would my child need vision therapy?
There are many common reasons that people have come into the office for treatment. They involved struggling with: reading; handwriting; paying attention in class; performing sports to their best potential; taking tests (especially timed tests); homework wars (avoiding or throwing fits when forced to do homework); and headaches, strain or fatigue with near work (within arm’s reach).
What is vision therapy?
Just as there is therapy for the back, legs, hands and almost every other body part you can imagine, there is a therapy for the eyes and brain. This therapy is needed when a person has not learned how to control their eyes to allow them to see objects clearly, singly, comfortably and with little effort. This therapy is also needed for people who originally learned these skills but had a brain injury that caused them to “forget” how to control their eyes.
Now for the technical explanation: Vision therapy is a progressive program of vision activities performed under doctor supervision, individualized to fit the visual needs of each patient, generally conducted in-office, in once-weekly sessions of one hour and supplemented by home therapy, about 10-15 minutes each day when not in therapy.
Why have I not heard about vision therapy before now?
Vision therapy seems to be a hidden gem. One theory that I have is that when most people consider vision, they only think of 20/20. If their child has 20/20 vision, then they must have perfect vision, right? Not always true; in fact, most people that I treat in my office have 20/20 visual acuity but struggle to bring the images of both of their eyes together to form a clear, stable image that their brain can process. There are at least 18 other visual skills besides 20/20 visual acuity that must come together, almost like an orchestra, to have the best possible vision.
My eye doctor said that my child’s vision was perfect, so why would I need to see a developmental optometrist?
Most visual processing or developmental vision problems cannot be detected unless your eye doctor specifically tests for them. In the absence of these symptoms, these tests are typically not incorporated into the exam. In the presence of these symptoms, eye doctors may conduct more extensive tests and/or refer patients to a developmental optometrist. You can find a downloadable “report card” about your child’s vision at AZVisionTherapy.com that you can take to the eye doctor to ensure that the visual skills needed to read, write and learn are covered in their exam. If not all those skills are being tested, consider a second opinion with a developmental optometrist.
How can vision therapy help my child?
Since visual functions take up about 80 percent of the brain, the improvements from vision therapy can affect most areas of a person’s life. Some comments that we have heard from past patients include: “My son can catch and throw balls so much better now”; “My daughter does not have her typical meltdowns when we need to change our plans”; “My child seems so much calmer now”; “My son, who used to hate to read, is now reading chapter books without being told to”; “My child is now finishing his homework without a battle, and his grades are improving drastically.”
I have been told that vision therapy is extremely expensive. Why is that?
The cost of vision therapy is comparable to getting braces. Because vision therapy must be tailored to each person specifically, the doctors that provide this service must be trained extensively to understand the underlying problems that are causing the visual symptoms and how to treat them. In the past, parents have tried treatments that were not provided by fully-trained doctors and have also tried do-it-yourself home remedies. Both of these tended to have poor results because the main cause of the problem—the brain—was not taught the skills necessary to perform the tasks in real-world situations.
When is it too late to do vision therapy?
It is never too late to do vision therapy as long as the person is motivated to get better and put the work into it. We have worked with many 80-year-olds that were originally considered senile but came to find out that it was just their vision that was getting in their way. Their improvements were life-changing.
Connect with Arizona Vision Therapy Center at 520-886-8800 or VisionTherapy@live.com. For the full version of this article, with more information for parents looking to help their children, visit AZVisionTherapy.com. See ad, page 14.