Sherwood Park, Edmonton: We Specialize in Pediatric Eye Care
Our eye doctors at 1st Street & Village Eye Centres excel in providing children with clear and healthy vision – so they can excel in school, on the sports field, and in life!
Many parents are unfamiliar with the concept of Vision Therapy and how it works. Our Edmonton, Alberta optometrists have prepared the following explanation of the basics of vision therapy – what it is, when is it needed, what it can do, and what it cannot do.
The Goal of Vision Therapy Treatment
This type of eye care for children aims to enhance visual and ocular performance across the board. Excellent vision depends on much more than visual acuity. Even if your child has 20/20 sight, he or she can still have an ocular condition that requires treatment. Or even if your child was treated with eyeglasses for nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism, there could be other eye problems that require treatment. Examples of other vision disorders include:
- Convergence insufficiency
- Poor eye teaming (binocularity)
- Convergence excess
- Difficulty with accommodation (focusing)
- Weak eye-hand coordination
- Lazy eye (amblyopia)
If any of these conditions are left untreated, they can severely compromise children’s ability to learn in school, socialize normally, and perform well on the playing field.
At our Vision Therapy Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, our experienced pediatric eye doctor will perform a thorough eye exam to determine your child’s specific problem. Using this information, we will customize therapy sessions to address his or her unique vision needs. Our personalized and professional eye care can prevent the start and development of vision-related learning difficulties.
Vision Therapy Does Not Treat Refractive Eye Conditions or Learning Disabilities
A lot of sensationalist hype is out there about how vision therapy can reduce your child’s need for prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses. Don’t be fooled! As effective as vision therapy can be in treating specific vision disorders, it cannot cure nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
In addition, vision therapy is not a cure to fix learning disabilities. However, children who suffer from a vision-related learning problem may benefit significantly from vision therapy. This is because vision therapy is often able to correct underlying vision problems that may be causing trouble with learning. But when it comes to a real learning disability that is not vision-related, the root of the problem stems from a brain-related issue that will not be helped by vision therapy. Dyslexia is a good example of this.
Dyslexia is a condition that affects areas of the brain responsible for information processing, limiting one’s ability to decode letters, identify speech sounds and learn how sounds relate to letters and words. Because it adversely affects a person’s ability to read, spell, write and even speak, it inevitably leads to learning difficulties. Many people mistakenly believe that dyslexia is a vision problem, when it’s actually a brain processing problem that cannot be treated with vision therapy.
But dyslexia is just one reason a child or adult may have trouble learning. Quite often, undetected vision problems impede a person’s ability to read and perform other tasks. Visual skills that may harm your child’s learning include:
- Problems with eye tracking – the eyes’ inability to follow a line of print
- Issues with eye teaming – the inability of both eyes to work together as a synchronized team
- Poor binocular vision – refers to the struggle to simultaneously blend the images from both eyes into a single image
- Accommodation problems – a decreased ability to maintain clear vision when focusing on a near object and when changing focus between distance and close vision.
- Problems with visual information processing – refers to poor visual memory, reduced visual form perception and difficulties with visualization skills
If these or other visual skill deficiencies are what’s causing your child to have difficulty at school, vision therapy can often alleviate or even cure the problem.
It’s often impossible for a teacher or parent to know whether a child has a vision problem or dyslexia because both conditions cause similar problems. It’s important to receive a proper diagnosis to determine whether learning difficulties are caused by dyslexia or a vision problem — or perhaps both.
Why Vision Screenings Are Not Enough
Your child needs to master 17 different visual skills to succeed in reading, learning and sports. Basic vision screening results don’t test for any of these skills and therefore are not sufficient to rule out all vision problems possibly impacting your child.
Basic vision screenings, such as those offered at schools, usually test only for visual acuity — the sharpness of vision in each eye. Some may include additional tests such as lazy eye, eye coordination and color blindness. Though your child may pass all vision screening exams with flying colors, he or she may still struggle with visual-motor skills or eye tracking skills, have poor peripheral vision, or have other undetected vision problems.
As a parent, it is critical that you remain alert to any behavior that could signal a vision issue. Keep an eye out for any of the following symptoms and ask teachers to do the same.
- Reading below grade level
- Spelling or comprehension difficulties
- Slow completion of tasks (homework etc.)
- Messy handwriting
- Quickly becoming tired when reading or avoiding reading tasks
- Using fingers to track words while reading
- Often skips words or lines when reading
- Frequent falls or bumps into things
- Experiences difficulty catching a ball or aiming
- Struggles to stay focused
- Experiences headaches at school or working on the computer
- Squints or tilts the head when concentrating
- Frequently rubs, covers or closes an eye when focusing on a target
Any of these could point to a deficit in certain visual skills required to perform well as a student, in sports or in every-day life.
Visual Skills in Learning and Sports
About 80% of learning activities are based on vision. Simply seeing letters clearly in a book or on the board is not enough to enable a child to read, learn and thrive. A child has to be able to accurately and easily interpret what he or she sees in order to make sense of it. The eyes need to work together, focus simultaneously, track letters in a line and frequently refocus from near to far.
Children with undiagnosed visual issues are often misdiagnosed with a variety of behavior-related syndromes, such as ADD/ADHD and dyslexia. In certain social environments, they may even be labeled as unintelligent or misbehaved, all of which can adversely impact their social status and emotional state.
Success in sports also requires proper visual skills. These include control over eye movements, proper depth perception, and simultaneous focus, as well as excellent hand-eye coordination to carry out the desired action.
If your child is having trouble learning or particpiating in extra-curricular acitivities, vision therapy may help.
Vision Therapy Sessions in Our Edmonton Centres
At our advanced 1st Street & Village Eye Centres, our qualified optometrist will design and facilitate your child’s session, which is typically 45 minutes long.
We will use a variety of tools and instruments that are made specially for vision therapy, including beads, balls on a string, wands, prisms, lenses and customized charts. The innovative techniques that we implement will strengthen different parts of the brain that are involved with your child’s visual system. One of the most common tools we use is called a Brock string.
Brock String Exercises
A Brock string is a common tool used in vision therapy. It’s made up of a flexible white rope or string that’s about 10 to 15 feet long, that is lined up with colored wooden beads that move along the length of the string. Patients with convergence insufficiency, amblyopia (lazy eye), or strabismus (eye turn) commonly use the Brock string to strengthen specific visual skills.
Exercises with a Brock string largely involve focusing on different beads at different distances to train the eyes to better converge and diverge, and encourage the brain to work with both eyes equally. These exercises can be used as a tool to diagnose and treat visual problems, including lazy eye, convergence insufficiency and other deficiencies in a person’s visual skills.
This helps relieve symptoms such as eye strain, headaches, blurry vision, balance issues and other problems related to visual skill deficiencies.
While the Brock string has numerous applications, it is not a do-it-yourself project; you will have the best results under the supervision of a vision therapy optometrist. Contact Village Eye Centre to learn more about the Brock string exercise and vision therapy.
Vision Homework for Children
The success of vision therapy rests heavily on a good relationship between patient and eye doctor, along with parental support and encouragement. Our optometrists’ extensive training enables them to design effective at-home vision therapy exercises – and positive cooperation is the cornerstone of helping vision therapy to be successful!
With regular sessions of pediatric vision therapy and homework being done, children usually show improvement after a few months. Eventually, your child will receive a maintenance program of exercises to be done independently, and we will provide instructions about how often to return for follow-up eye exams.
Convenient Vision Therapy Near You
It is essential to find a vision therapist who is easy to reach, because you will need to bring your child for regular appointments. We are pleased to offer a full-service pediatric vision therapy centre in Edmonton, AB, staffed with a team of friendly, experienced optometrists. Contact our office for more information and to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child.