Back To School
Back To School Vision
As you’re getting ready to make the annual ‘back to school’ checklist, don’t forget to put assessing your child’s eyes near the top. I promise it’ll be easier than finding the 37 glue sticks or the exact composition book the teacher requested.
Seriously though, do you know that even if a child has 20/20 vision they can still have a binocular vision disorder which affects learning? If your child passed their vision screening but you know they’re not living up to their learning potential, it could still be their eyes holding them back.
Technology in the classroom has taken quite a toll on our visual system which is leading to even more vision-related issues. Research has shown an increase in a condition called “convergence insufficiency,” which is a diagnosis when your eyes are unable to work together. This visual inefficiency creates strain and discomfort with vision at best, and double or blurred vision if the severity increases. Words can also appear to move around the page when reading, making it hard for learning. In fact, this condition may mimic a learning problem rather than an eye problem. Research has also proven that this condition is effectively treated with vision therapy.
What is vision therapy? Great question. It all starts with a functional eye exam, which goes beyond a traditional eye exam to help uncover binocular vision dysfunction.
A functional eye exam focuses more on visual efficiency skills rather than just reading the letters at the end of the room. These skills include the eye’s ability to focus, coordinate, and track accurately for far and near. Difficulties with these skills is what we call a binocular vision disorder.
There’s a checklist of common symptoms of a binocular vision disorder in children:
- Eye drifts out or in
- Double vision
- Easily tired
- Poor coordination and balance
- Unaware of things around them
- Having a head/face tilt
- Gets motion sick
- Cannot sit still
- Excessively touches stuff
- Does not like reading
- Falls asleep when reading
- Poor handwriting
- Better attention when spoken to than when reading
- Poor grades in school, below intelligence levels
- Squints or closes one eye when reading
- Rubs eyes
- Cannot catch a ball
Once we identify the cause of a binocular vision disorder, we can address these deficits through vision therapy. A vision therapy program involves a series of supervised in-office activities and at-home reinforcement exercises that trains your brain how to use your eyes more efficiently, so that your eyes can coordinate, focus, and work together easier and with less effort.
After all, if your brain is working overtime just to see clearly, there’s less brain power available to process what you’re seeing.
If your child is showing any of these symptoms it warrants a comprehensive functional vision examination. It’s important to rule out a visual component before they can reach their potential in school and beyond.
Check out our most recent testimonial from a parent with a child enrolled in vision therapy!
Have more questions about vision therapy? Join the community of 32,000 members on Vision Therapy Parents Unite on Facebook or just give us a call and ask away. At Miami Vision Therapy we want you to “see your potential!”
Man Kin (Eric) Chow, O.D, F.A.A.O
What is a developmental/sensorimotor eye exam and how is it different from a regular eye exam?
A developmental/sensorimotor eye exam delves deep into visual efficiency and visual information processing skills. Visual efficiency skills include accommodation (eye focusing), vergence (eye teaming), ocular motility (eye tracking). Visual processing skills include identification and discrimination, spatial awareness, visual memory, and visual motor integration.
A regular eye exam generally focuses on eyesight and ocular health. Eyesight (i.e. 20/20 or 20/30) is a measurement of the smallest letters you can see 20 feet away. Eyesight can be corrected with glasses or contacts. Ocular health exams check for any ocular diseases that might threaten sight (i.e. glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, corneal abrasions, etc). It is very important to have your yearly eye exams!
It is also important to note that while your eyesight and ocular health can be “normal,” you can still have a visual efficiency or visual information processing issue that is causing your visual symptoms.
To determine if your eye doctor assesses or screens for visual efficiency or visual information processing issues, ask them the following questions:
The Larry Fitzgerald Story
The renowned NFL wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald Jr. attributes his successful football career to the skills he learned in vision therapy.
Larry Fitzgerald Jr. played college football at Pittsburgh University, where he earned uncontested All-America honors. In 2004, he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals (pick number three), and his famed reputation has grown ever since.
Larry Fitzgerald Jr. has had a long and distinguished career and is a firm believer that his visual training helped him to succeed on the football field. According to Mr. Fitzgerald, “When you’re at that age, anything that helps strengthen your eyes and eye-hand coordination is going to definitely help with catching the ball”.
Contact a vision therapy eye doctor to strengthen your eyes and hand-eye coordination like Larry Fitzgerald Jr.
The following are just some of Larry Fitzgerald’s NFL achievements:
- Selected for the Pro Bowl eleven times, he was named First-team All-Pro in 2008 and Second-team All-Pro twice in 2009 and 2011.
- Fitzgerald and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice are the only wide receivers in NFL history to be selected for the Pro Bowl at least 11 times.
- His 234 games played are tied with K Jim Bakken (1962-78) for the most in franchise history.
- Named a co-winner of the 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award— the only league award that recognizes a player’s community services as well as his playing achievements.
- Franchise career leader in receptions (1,303), receiving yards (16,279), receiving TDs (116), 100-yard receiving games (47) and consecutive games with a reception (227).
- Ranked second in NFL history in career receiving yards (16,279), third in receptions (1,303) and is tied for sixth in NFL history with 116 career TD receptions.
What is Larry Fitzgerald’s story?
What many Fitzgerald Jr. fans don’t know is that Larry Fitzgerald worked hard for his achievements, beginning from a young age.
As a young child, Larry Fitzgerald struggled with academic difficulties. Fortunately, his grandfather, Dr. Robert Johnson, the founder of an optometry clinic in Chicago, understood the essential role the visual skills play in reading, writing, and even athletic performance.
Dr. Robert Johnson soon began providing vision therapy to strengthen his grandson’s visual skills.
When Larry Fitzgerald Jr. turned 12 years old, he began to take interest in sports, but required further strengthening of the visual skills necessary to succeed on the sports field.
Once again, Dr. Robert Johnson helped his grandson to strengthen his visual skills, this time to improve his athletic performance.
Which visual skills are necessary for athletic success?
Speed and accuracy are both factors that contribute to a sports player’s successful performance— and the visual skills are essential for achieving these factors.
The visual skills allow you to track a ball as it flies through the air, assume the correct position to make an effective catch, and accurately pass the ball to another player.
The following visual skills are necessary for optimal sports performance:
- Dynamic visual acuity
- Eye focusing
- Peripheral vision
- Depth perception
- Visual reaction time
- Eye-hand coordination
- Visual memory
- Visual concentration
Most binocular vision conditions are caused by problems within the visual system, or the neural connections between the eyes and the brain.
If a vision problem is detected, a vision therapy program can help to retrain and strengthen the visual system to improve the visual skills.
Through vision therapy, Larry Fitzgerald Jr. was able to improve his visual dominance, control, precision, spatial judgment and rhythm.
Larry Fitzgerald improved his game with vision therapy, and you can too.
2021 Update: Vision Therapy Research
Vision therapy is an evidence-based science with over 260 published articles on its effectiveness.
Are looking for published research on VT?
Provided below are just a few references for published research articles on vision therapy and its effectiveness for the treatment of many vision conditions.
1. Clinical Trial of Treatments for Convergence Insufficiency in Children
Conclusion: Office-based vision therapy is an effective treatment for children with Convergence Insufficiency.
Published by: Mitchell Scheiman, OD; Susan Cotter, OD, MS; G. Lynn Mitchell, MAS; Marjean Kulp, OD, MS; Michael Rouse, OD, MEd; Richard Hertle, MD; and Maryann Redford, DDS, MPH. ‘Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT) Study Group. A randomized clinical trial of treatments for convergence insufficiency in children. Archives of Ophthalmology 2005’; 123:14-24.
2. Best Treatment Determined for Childhood Eye Problem
Conclusion: 75 percent of the children who had weekly office-based vision therapy experienced significant improvement in their convergence in 12 weeks.
Published by: Mayo Clinic: ‘Best Treatment Determined for Childhood Eye Problem’ : Treatment of Convergence Insufficiency with Vision Therapy.
3. Effective Treatment Identified for Common Childhood Vision Disorder
Conclusion: Vision Therapy is effective treatment for a common childhood eye coordination problem called convergence insufficiency.
Published by: National Eye Institute, ‘More Effective Treatment Identified for Common Childhood Vision Disorder’: Evidence-Based Treatment for Convergence Insufficiency
4. Effective Treatment of Convergence Insufficiency (CI)
Summary: Although CI is quite common, with reported rates of prevalence ranging up to 13%, this pilot study by Scheiman and colleagues does move forward our understanding of the treatment of this disorder.
Published by: Kushner Burton J. ‘The Treatment of Convergence Insufficiency. Archives of Ophthalmology 2005’, 123:100-101. Complete article – PDF version
What Are Visual Efficiency Problems?
Did you know that visual problems can dramatically reduce a person’s ability to learn or their productivity at work?
Poor visual skills can negatively impact performance in school, at the office, and on the sports field. Understanding and knowing what to look out for can help with early detection and treatment of visual problems.
Below are various visual efficiency problems and symptoms that are commonly diagnosed by eye doctors.
1. Eye Teaming Problems
Your two eyes need to work in perfect coordination and unison, in order to see the world in a clear and precise way. The images the brain creates may be confusing or uncomfortable when the eyes don’t function as a team.
Convergence excess and convergence insufficiency are two common eye teaming problems.
Convergence insufficiency refers to when the eyes have difficulty focusing inwards on an object that is being held closer to the nose. Convergence excess is the opposite, the eyes aren’t able to easily focus outward. This leads to difficulties with distance vision.
Symptoms of eye teaming problems include:
- Double or blurred vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty reading
- Eye rubbing or squinting
- Poor depth perception
- Tired or uncomfortable eyes
2. Eye Tracking Problems
Eye tracking involves effortless and smooth movements of the eyes. Proper eye tracking helps quickly gain information from and scan the environment around us to understand where we are and what our next move should be.
When eye movements are slower than normal, it may indicate an eye tracking problem. Three types of eye tracking problems are: deficiency or pursuits, deficiency of saccades, and fixation dysfunction.
Individuals with an eye tracking problem may:
- Have poor hand-eye coordination
- Easily lose their place while reading
- Often skip lines when reading
- Spelling difficulties
- Substitute or omit words
3. Focusing Problems
Every time our eyes shift their gaze from one object to another, they accommodate their focusing power so that each object appears clear. When the muscles responsible for accommodating focus in the eye can’t relax, tighten or maintain position, focusing problems arise.
Symptoms of focusing problems can include:
- Avoiding or difficulty reading
- Blurred vision
- Blurred vision when shifting focus from one object to another
- Headaches during or after reading
- Holding objects close to the face in order to view them
- Frequent eye rubbing
- Watery eyes
Vision Therapy Can Help
Vision therapy helps to strengthen and increase eye-brain connection, which is often weak in a person with visual efficiency problems.
A personalized vision therapy program involves custom-made visual exercises that create new pathways in the visual system. By regularly performing these exercises patient’s will develop improved visual skills and may notice a significant reduction in symptoms. Vision therapy may also involve the use of specialized lenses, filters, or prisms.