Vision 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!