Vision therapy programs are designed to correct complications like astigmatism, wandering eyes, lazy eye or crossed eyes – all of which can affect eye focus, eye movement, visual perception and coordination. With visual therapy, a combination of vision exercises and specialized equipment are used to train the visual system to repair itself, or strengthen itself, so that eye problems can be rectified or diminished enough to improve how the patient views the world and functions in it.
Executed under the supervision of an optometrist, visual therapy is implemented in an office once to twice a week for up to an hour. Exercises and equipment will be personalized to meet the patient’s needs based on the severity of the problem and related symptoms. These components will also be considered when determining how many sessions the patient requires. To accompany in-office visits, the optometrist may also educate the patient on how to perform specific vision exercises at home.
When visual therapy is complete, and all necessary sessions have ended, the patient’s visual skills and capabilities should have improved and any symptoms associated with their eye condition should have reduced significantly. In addition, visual efficiency should have enhanced and the patient should be more efficient when it comes to processing and understanding visual information.
Eye patches are used to strengthen muscle control in weak eyes. By placing a patch over the strong eye, the weaker eye is forced to do the heavy lifting. While it may be uncomfortable for the patient at first, the muscle controlling the weaker eye will become tougher and more resilient. This will allow the individual to control its movement. When removed after therapy, the person should be able to move both eyes in an organized fashion so that they work together and not against one another.
Corrective lenses are used to correct deviations, adjust focal points or neutralize other anomalies that impact the eyes’ ability to focus an image on the retina. To do this, the lenses must be the correct type and of the right power. Strength – which is expressed as diopeters – relies on the material of the lens, as well as the slope of the curve that is grounded into the lens. For instance, if the person is nearsighted and has trouble viewing objects far away, the lens will be concave, or thicker at the edges than in the middle, to allow for distant objects to come closer to the eyes. On the other hand, if the individual is farsighted and has a problem seeing objects up close, the lens will be convex, or thinner at the edges and thicker in the center. Convex lenses, unlike concave ones, bend toward the focal point, which makes the image appear larger than the object actually being seen.
The brain and the eyes work together to create a visual experience. On one hand, the eyes send signals to the brain, which allows it to translate that data into visuals; on the other, the brain sends signals to the muscles attached to each eye, controlling their movements. If anything disrupts these signals and the brain, there may be problems with eye teaming, eye tracking, motor skills and learning. Balancing boards, or teetering boards, help with these components by retraining motor patterns and neurological links.
Visual-motor-sensory integration training uses various devices to appeal to a person’s senses, including touch, sound and smell. This type of therapy is particularly useful in children with autism. Devices may include play dough, rubber toys, weighted bells and blankets, water, rice, sand, beans, musical instruments, computer games, talking toys and other items. All of these are used to stimulate the senses as a way of strengthening visual, motor and sensory skills.
These exercises are mainly used at home and range from simple head and eye movements to performing more complex activities like throwing a ball or focusing on a stationary object while the head is moving. While moving one’s head and tossing a ball sounds easy enough, they are not simple tasks for persons with sensory system disorders that affect movement and sense of balance.
Automated targets with timing mechanisms not only show the optometrist how the eyes move in the beginning of treatment – when eye problems have yet to be fully addressed – by strategically positioning the targets, but they give weak eyes a necessary workout. By moving the eyes around to focus on different targets at different times, the weak eye’s muscles are strengthened so that they can learn to move in harmony with the stronger eye.
Computer aided vision therapy consists of a software package designed to enhance eye tracking skills, visual thinking, processing skills and binocular vision skills. Eye teaming, focusing and tracking are not optical in nature, and problems in these areas are the result of poor eye muscles. Specialized software not only trains the eyes to work together, but strengthens the muscles that control their movement.
Contact lenses, or therapeutic lenses, are thin lenses that are placed on the surface of the eye. While some wear them for cosmetic reasons, their primary function is to correct and improve vision problems related to refractive errors, act as a protective layer in patients with eye injuries, reduce discomfort or pain associated with refractive and non-refractive errors, and minimize light sensitivity in patients with eyes disorders or injuries to the eye.
A prism has the same cross-section across the entire length of its shape. When used in eyeglasses, they often correct abnormalities associated with nearsightedness, farsightedness and double vision. Eyeglasses, or corrective lenses, reduce or increase the size of the image based on the eyes’ ability to see and focus, while prisms fool the brain into believing the eyes are working collectively by moving the image somewhat down, up, right or left. The geometric configuration permits light to be bent or mirrored in particular ways. Prisms are pounded into the lenses to show the image outside the span of sight and bring it into view so that it can be observed more closely.
Optical filters carefully transfer light in a specific range of wavelengths or colors while obstructing what remains. These dyed plastic or glass devices are placed in the optical path. They are described by their frequency response, and this identifies how the scale and stage of each frequency component of an incoming signal is altered by the filter.
Rotation trainers consist of a disk – with various designs – that is attached to a rod-like base. As the disk rotates, the patient is asked to perform tasks that are designed to test and enhance eye-hand coordination, space awareness, perceptual awareness and visual acuity.
This entails a wall-mounted square board with a starburst design. Along the various striations of the starburst are lighted buttons. As the buttons light up, the patient works quickly to see how many of these lit buttons they can push before they go out. The key is to keep the head still. Peripheral vision can be enhanced by having the individual look at the center of the board and use only their peripheral vision to locate the lights. Saccadic fixators are employed by optometrists to test, evaluate and develop eye-hand coordination, reaction times and spatial integration. This works best for patients who have problems with eye movements, hand-eye coordination and peripheral vision.
This device integrates all of the senses used for learning. It is one of the basic instruments used for visual-motor training, and helps with direction, rhythm, eye-hand coordination, and work and shape recognition. It consists of an aluminum case with illuminated membrane switches organized along a grid. When the user hits one of the membrane switches, it lights up. The device offers an audio feedback tone and the display panel indicates the number of switches that have been pressed. Often the individual will be required to coordinate pressing the switches with the metronome beat, or pattern templates can be put over the membrane switches to help guide the user. If the person presses a switch too early or too late it will not light up and will not be calculated once the timed activity is over.
Here, a ball with letters, numbers, colors, pictures, or a combination is hung from the ceiling. In activities used to help focus visual attention, the individual may be asked to concentrate on a figure while bunting the ball with a rod, or hitting or catching it with their thumbs, palms or fists.
Known also as optometric phototherapy, syntonics deal with the application of selected visible-light frequencies and are used to treat lazy eye and problems with peripheral vision and depth perception. By applying particular visible-light frequencies through the eyes, syntonics can improve vision. This is because when light enters the eye, retinal nerves connected to some of the brain’s center are stimulated. The hypothalamus and pineal gland are regions of the brain that affect electrical, hormonal and chemical balances – all of which impact body function, including vision and the nervous system.