by Dr. Katy Wilson
Vision therapy (VT) is a phrase that you might have heard lately surrounding Associates in Eye Care. You might wonder, what is vision therapy? How can it help ourselves or our kids? How does VT work? What are signs that VT might be necessary? I will try to answer these questions in order to shed some light on the amazing possibilities that are available through VT.
Broadly speaking, vision therapy is a customized program of both visual and physical activities that is designed to correct vision problems and improve visual skills. One way to look at Vision Therapy is as Physical Therapy for your eyes. If you or your child has a weak visual system we can do therapy on that system to make it stronger and more functional. In other words, Vision Therapy helps you use your eyes more easily.
VT starts with assessing each patient as an individual, and then specific activities are put into place to help strengthen the skills that person needs to use their eyes as a strong team. These abilities include overall coordination, body awareness, visual awareness, how well the two eyes work as a team, and how well the eyes send signals to the brain. We then put all of those skills together so that the individual can successfully, easily, and quickly process the information they see.
How well your eyes communicate with your brain is so important for learning and for comfortable vision. For example, when you are first learning to drive there is a lot to pay attention to. You have to pay attention to your arms to steer, your legs to hit the correct pedal at the correct pressure, other cars, road signs, the speed limit, the mirrors, the gas gauge etc…. It feels overwhelming at first. Once you master the wheel, the pedals, the roads, the mirrors, the AC, and the wipers you find yourself hardly even thinking about it anymore. You just do it without a thought.
When someone is unable to use their eyes effortlessly it is like they’re just learning to drive for the first time every single time they sit down to learn. It’s frustrating for them! There is so much they are trying to concentrate on at once. Focusing their eyes, avoiding seeing double, what word they are on, what line they are on, even what letter are they on… To most, this comes naturally. To some, it is a constant struggle. When someone has to really work to use their eyes as a team they often don’t have enough energy left to focus on the material they are reading. They are so focused on just making their vision functional that their ability to learn becomes severely compromised. Kids might get fidgety or lose focus. They might become irritable or disruptive in class. Both adults and kids might feel tired or have poor memory. These are all things that are completely understandable for someone who is struggling to use their eyes efficiently.
Alternatively, when the eyes can easily and effortlessly see they are then able to easily process what the brain is trying to learn. It is in this environment that a child’s performance skyrockets both in school and sports. The ultimate goal of Vision Therapy, and the ultimate goal of Associates in Eye Care, is to help our patients learn and live with comfortable and effortless vision.