Functions and types of vision therapy
Vision therapy, which is also called visual therapy, vision training, visual training or ”VT”, is a vision program without surgery and is held for certain customers under the doctor’s supervision. The objective is to correct vision problems and/or improve visual skills. Like other physical therapies, vision therapy trains the visual system including the eyes, the surrounding muscles of eyes and parts of the brain which control the vision. More exactly, the goal of taking vision therapy is to treat vision problems which can’t be cured by eyeglasses, contact lenses and/or visual surgeries alone.
The difference between orthoptics and vision therapy
Orthoptics, which was used to train eye muscles with the original purpose of cosmetology, is one of the vision trainings now. In addition, the goal of orthoptics is training eye muscles and eye alignment, while the vision therapy aims to optimize entire vision system and then change reflexive behaviors to produce lasting cure. Sometimes vision therapy may create better outcomes than surgery. And in some cases, vision therapy can also provide assistant treatment before or after a visual refractive surgery in order to improve the success rate of the surgery itself or postoperative outcome.
Vision therapy may bring vision-beneficial neurological changes
Some experts believe that visual perception and vision function may be influenced by neuroplasticity. Actually, some researches show that the human brain has significant neuroplasticity, which has the ability to change its structure and function properly under the change of external circumstance. And these changes not only occur during childhood, but also in adults. The result of a recent study has certified that properly devised and administered programs of visual therapy can lead to neurological changes, which can correct vision problems.
What vision problems are candidates for vision therapy?
According to the principle behind vision therapy described above, eye care professionals have listed some vision problems that can be corrected by vision therapy, e.g. amblyopia, strabismus, eye movement disorders, accommodative (focusing) disorders and other eye problems that are associated with developmental disabilities. In addition, vision therapy can correct eye teaming problems.
Preparatory devices of vision therapy
Vision therapy needs to use lenses, prisms, filters, computerized visual activities and other instruments. Also, some non-medical “tools” including balls, balance boards, metronomes and other device are indispensable. Certainly, the key factor is an active engagement by the doctor, the vision therapist, the patient and their parents.
Vision therapy and children’s vision-related learning ability
There is an intense debate over the relationship between vision problems and learning disabilities. Some experts consider that vision problems may contribute to learning disabilities in certain degrees, because in some cases children who have learning problems also have vision problems. Furthermore, they think that the ability of learning may be enhanced by curing the learning-related vision problems. However, other experts believe that vision therapy has no effect in improving learning ability.
Taking a comprehensive eye exam may answer the above question
People may also have vision problems even if their basic eye exams show a 20/20 visual acuity, because basic eye exams only test a person’s distance vision ability, rather than all vision aspects. Taking a comprehensive eye exam from an optometrist who specializes in vision correction is necessary to comprehensively understand children’s vision condition.
Special eye exams can give advices on vision therapy
Unlike routine eye exams, examinations used to diagnose non-refractive vision problems contain a lot of tests about vision skills, such as eye teaming, depth perception, focusing capability and so on. At the end of such an exam, the doctor will provide a detailed assessment of the patient and give some advices on vision therapy.
Self-help vision improvement programs are not vision therapy
The self-help vision improvement programs, which are not endorsed by American Optometric Association or other professional eye care organizations, are not considered as vision therapy. There is no research certifying that the self-help improvement programs can reverse eye problems as they claimed.
Home-based regimen and sports vision training programs
Another program which can’t be considered as vision therapy is the home-based regimen of “pencil push-ups”, even if it is recommended by some eye doctors. A 2004 study showed that this kind of regimen was not effective. Besides that, sports vision training is not vision therapy, though it has some characteristics of visual therapy. Sports vision training programs are designed for enhancing vision skills during sports, rather than correcting vision problems.