We talk a lot about Vision Therapy for kids because of its obvious ability to improve their learning and schoolwork. It is also because it is so important to discover problems and correct them as early as possible. However, that does not mean adults cannot gain the same benefits from this therapy. If an adult’s vision problems were not caught early than they would still exist into adulthood, and occasionally symptoms that were once manageable become more problematic.
Vision Therapy can even be more effective for adults in some cases because they are typically more motivated to improve their visual abilities, whereas children may not understand that they have a problem or how that problem may affect them.
In my practice, we recently treated a young girl who, in addition to her vision-related reading problems, was upset that she could not skip rope like her friends. Jumping rope is a gross motor skill highly influenced by the quality of your visual processing. This type of vision problem had nothing to do with her 20/20 eyesight. Giving her glasses wasn’t going to help her jump rope, but a vision therapy treatment could!
What are saccadic eye movements?
Saccadic eye movements are very fast jumps from one eye position to another. These are the eye movements used in reading or searching. This scanning of the visual field is learned during the first years of life, developing as a child explores their environment. In fact, saccades are the very first eye movements that develop!
How saccadic deficiencies affect reading
These eye movements are critical to success and speed of reading. If they do not develop well, it can result in the opposite effect: slow, frustrated reading. When learning to read the eyes must be able to align and track together (or form saccades) letter-by-letter, word-by-word, and line-by-line. Errors can be made when the eyes lose their place and have to backtrack (leading to re-reading and slow reading). Or instead of moving smoothly they skip around (leading to ‘words moving on a page’ or loss of place when reading and/or misreading words like ‘saw’ instead of ‘was’). When errors like these happen frequently, so much effort is put into trying to coordinate the eyes that reading comprehension declines dramatically.
More than half of patients that are enrolled in a Vision Therapy program with me have a vergence (which means eye coordination) problem.
The most common type of vergence problem is called convergence insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency can lead to reading difficulties including seeing double, getting fatigued quickly, feeling like your eyes are not working together, and headaches.
Visual skills are developed over time, like any other skill you have. So these skills, like all others, can be improved by training. This training can be life-changing for those whose visual skills didn’t develop fully or properly.
As an Optometrist, I know that many visual processing problems can be corrected using Vision Therapy rather than just lenses. I’ve had countless patients come to me having been told that “it’s too late to fix your vision problems” or that they’ll “have to learn to live with these issues.” But with Vision Therapy, so many of these patients have been able to improve their vision problems.
So what is Vision Therapy? Vision Therapy improves the way vision is processed in the brain. These are some of the problems I’ve helped to correct in my clinic with Vision Therapy: