Vision is a learned skill and can be improved through therapy. Vision therapy can treat or prevent ocular movement problems and visual processing problems that otherwise cannot be addressed with spectacles.
Learning to use our vision is a step by step process starting from infancy. One must learn the basic visual skills before one can learn more advanced skills. Some children may miss a skill or not spend enough time developing the skill leading to poor development of vision
Visual therapy is conducted in a controlled environment with the vision therapist. The Behavioural Optometrist writes up the program and determines the length, frequency and where and how the vision therapy is delivered depending upon the type and severity of the problems. Severe problems are expected to take longer and generally delivered in-office (at the practice) on a weekly basis. On the other hand, less involved cases can be done at home with monthly review appointments.
Generally, activities start with simpler activities, graduating to harder and more advanced activities as their skills improve.
Some of the key skills that may be taught during vision therapy include:
- Ocular motility skills: ability to accurately move and maintain the eye on a target and to change focus. This needs to be done smoothly and effortlessly so as not to hinder reading ability and also plays an important part in sports too.
- Binocular vision skills: the ability to work the two eyes together as a team to maximise the efficiency of vision without seeing double or becoming fatigued.
- Laterality and directionality: the awareness of left and right on self and on others. Forms the basis of good visual spatial awareness and organisation (i.e. knowing where things are in space).
- Visual spatial skills: the ability to judge where things and self are in space accurately.
- Visual-motor integration: combined with visual spatial awareness, this skill forms the basis for directing ones action accurately within the environment. This is an important skill for any activity that requires accurate movement, from writing, crafting to playing sport.
- Visual analysis skills: the ability to analyse what is being seen and give it meaning. Examples include the ability to differentiate between letters and words without reversals (e.g. confusing ‘b’ and ‘d’).