vision therapy for childrenVision therapy for children has long been looked to as a possible solution to learning disabilities.? However, there are various types of vision training for children, some of which are more traditional and others which are cutting new ground in their development.? Forward thinking behavioural optometrists are finding that employing both of these styles of tasks is seeing major improvements in kids with learning disabilities.

Traditional Vision Therapy for Children

Traditional treatment for the eyes and vision tends to centre on techniques that improve measurable characteristics of the eyes in the consulting room rather than the brain.? These may have a positive effect on a child?s ability to learn, but at times they may not directly correlate to an improvement in how they learn in the classroom.

Included in these types of vision therapies are focus, eye coordination, convergence and some eye movement training, which certainly can help but may not necessarily be translated into increased school performance.? That is not to say that they do not have value, and in optometry terms we can actually measure improvement, but the point is that these types of eye exercises may not necessarily improve results.

A New Breed of Vision Therapy for Children

There is a fresh and exciting change in visual therapies for kids which are aiming to have a more direct effect on how they learn rather than a change in their eyes alone.? These new training ideas revolve around techniques which they use directly in their learning experience, and they are tailor made for children with learning disabilities.

These newer treatments target things like eye movements, to improve the flow and expression of reading, visualization, to increase the ability of children to learn new spelling words and other developmental areas such as coding, sequencing and directionality.

This type of program for children is yielding real results by influencing both vision and the brain and increasing the classroom performance because they are developing or coaching the actual skills kids need to perform well in their education.

Combining Both Gives Children the Best Vision Therapy

Simply training visual skills may help a child to perform better, but if the more traditional aspects of therapies are ignored, the fundamental vision problem will limit improvement.? Therefore, the best approach is to combine both aspects of the treatment for children so as to gain maximum improvement for the eyes both in the optometry office and the classroom.

I believe that any child struggling to learn needs to have a complete behavioural optometry assessment to ensure that any underlying visual problems are dealt with.? Treatment of such problems might include reading lenses or the more traditional vision therapy for children.

Beyond this, the newer style of therapies for kids could hold the key for real and sustained improvement.? By targeting the skills they use in the classroom, we are able to quickly develop the tools a child needs to learn and improve rapidly.

And after all, this is what most parents want.? A change in the optometry office is good, but an improvement in school results is what matters most, and this can definitely be helped by using the right vision therapy for children.

vision therapy exercisesVision therapy exercises are often thought of as being eye exercises, yet they go far beyond the scope of traditional therapies for the eyes.? Eye exercises are often criticized as being hard work, laborious and ineffective when it comes to children with learning difficulties, and while these criticisms certainly hold true for most eye therapies they are not true for vision therapy exercises.

The Difference between Eye Exercises and Vision Therapy Exercises

The basic premise of vision training is that the eyes are attached to the brain.? Therefore, while we may incorporate some aspects of traditional eye exercises, we need to address the relationship between the eyes and the brain.

While older eye exercises supposedly try to strengthen muscles or readdress imbalances in the muscles, our intensive vision therapy goes beyond this as it attempts to modify what the brain understands from input from the vision system.? This opens the scope for helping children interpret and understand what they see, not just getting the eyes to see it, and so we can investigate and train a far wider range of skills in a child with learning disabilities.

What Can Vision Therapy Train?

Vision training has the ability to sharpen a large number of skills that are required by children to read, write and spell effectively.? While some more traditional treatment is incorporated, notably those which promote eye coordination and focusing, the greater emphasis is placed on vision exercises which directly impact on a child?s visual skills and hence school performance.

So what are the areas which these visual therapies train, and how do these have an effect on a child?s ability to learn?? As someone who is designing and applying these ideas for my patients who have problems with how they learn, I am uniquely placed to be able to share exactly what we are targeting and how improving vision and visual performance can influence learning.

1. Focus:? Most kids use this in two main ways.? They must be able to change focus quickly and accurately, especially for tasks like copying off the board, and most importantly they need to be able to sustain it over a period of time, enabling them to concentrate for longer without getting sore or tired eyes, headaches or being distracted.

2. Eye Teaming:? We have two eyes, and they need to work as a team, both when they are relaxed looking at a distant object, and especially when they are converged when viewing a book or computer.? If they fight one another this causes stress on the vision system and symptoms like double vision, suppressing one eye and reduced concentration on near work.

These are the more traditional treatment techniques that we incorporate into our vision training, but the true power of this program comes when we address the next areas?

3. Eye Movements or Tracking:? To read, kids must move their gaze across the page and confidently know that they are pointing to the next word in order to read well.? Inaccuracies in this skill cause them to misread words, skip words, skip lines or lose their place, and this skill responds extremely well to the right training.

4. Visualization or Visual Memory:? This skill is the very building block that we use to remember spelling words, and without it kids struggle to learn spelling, and regularly misspell words.? It is loads of fun to train, responds very well to our training methods and enables them to learn vast amounts of words quickly and easily, exploding their vocabulary by hundreds of words.? Learn this skill and spelling becomes easy!

5. Laterality and Directionality: Training these skills with our system reprograms the special map in a child?s mind and rapidly teaches them rights and lefts.? This usually entirely eliminates letter reversals, even in young children.

6. Eye-Hand Coordination and Bilaterality Training:? Using fun gross and fine motor activities we can help kids to have greater control of their pencil when they are writing, as well as improving their general coordination for sports and other activities.

7. Other Skills:? Our vision training also can also provide treatment for developmental deficiencies in areas like sequencing, coding, spacial awareness and figure-ground, all of which add essential skills to a child and help them improve in their reading, writing and spelling.

Programs we have designed are targeting the ability of children to learn effectively by training and improving their visual skills, and we have had an amazing success rate with our patients.? This is because vision therapy exercises are far more than traditional eye exercises, they are training kids for a lifetime of learning!