There are many important skills that you need in order for your visual system to work efficiently. Sometimes these skills don’t develop the way they should. This happens for a variety of reasons, some of which we know about and there are others that are still unknown.
Vision therapy is a service provided by Behavioural Optometrists that helps people improve their visual abilities. Vision therapy works to improve these basic abilities, much like occupational therapy or speech therapy works to improve other basic skills.
Visual skill that can be developed and improved through vision therapy includes these abilities:
Imagine watching someone throw a ball to you. Your eyes follow the path of this ball to your hands. You are using tracking – the ability to follow a moving object with your eyes. Tracking is vitally important when reading. You must be able to move your eyes accurately to get the full meaning when reading across a line of print.
When we read, we use fixation – the ability to find and look at a series of stationary objects (like words on a page).
Children in school use this skill constantly. Every time they look from the board to their paper and back, they are changing focus. Adults use this skill as well. While driving, it is important to be able to change your focus from the road to the instrument panel on your dashboard quickly and precisely.
The ability to detect small differences needs to be fast and accurate. When driving a car you need to read the street sign as “Henry” not “Harry”; reading “though” not “through.” This requires focusing skills, tracking, and fixation.
Our eyes were designed to work together by pointing at the same place and moving together accurately and smoothly as one.
Which is directly related to binocularity, helps you to see in three dimensions. A critical skill, it gives you a finely tuned sense of exactly where things are. This is directly related to sports performance and driving a car.
You’ve probably caught yourself saying “…out of the corner of my eye…”. You were referring to peripheral vision – the ability to notice things outside of your direct line of sight and understand what is going on around you, even though you aren’t looking directly at them. Peripheral vision also helps to direct your visual system so you know
where to look next when reading.
A skill to help us remember and “picture” in our minds things we’ve seen before. This skill helps you in many ways – finding your lost keys, recalling information that you’ve read before, giving directions to a specific place. Visualisation is the skill that we use to “see” what we imagine as we read or hear a story. Most great readers, writers, and spellers have great visualization skills.
Acuity is the ability to see clearly far away and close up. 20/20 or 6/6 is the visual acuity is what most people think of when they think of good vision or hear the word “Optometrist.” Seeing clearly is very important, but acuity is just one of the many skills important to healthy vision.
If you think that you or someone you know is experiencing problems and could benefit from vision therapy, the first step is to schedule an appointment with your local behavioral optometrist. The Optometrist will meet with you, perform a complete vision examination that includes a skills assessment and explain exactly what would be best for you.
For most people, vision therapy means once a week visits to their optometrist’s practice for a period of time, where they work with the optometrist or a trained vision therapist working under the supervision of the optometrist. You will be guided through activities designed to correct visual processing problems and/or build your visual skill. The activities are often fun, though challenging. Your therapist might give you a few activities to work on at home, or even suggest purchase of some software. These vision activities, or exercises, usually only take about 15 minutes a day.