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What is Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy is a program that allows participants to explore how their visual system works, and guides them through activities and experiences in order to help them find more efficient ways to use their visual system.

Good vision is more than just seeing 20/20. Good vision also requires that you can:

  • aim your eyes on a series of stationary objects quickly and accurately.

  • follow a moving object smoothly and effortlessly.

  • change your focus quickly from far to near, and from near to far.

  • use your eyes together effectively and symmetrically.

  • see over a large area by using your peripheral vision.

  • see and recognize an object quickly.

  • see in depth to judge speed and distance accurately.

Who does vision therapy help?

Vision therapy can be used for many different purposes:

  • Children with learning difficulties often use their vision system inefficiently; vision therapy can help them use their vision more effectively for learning.

  • Following brain injury (concussion, etc), vision therapy can help the patient work through any vision-related symptoms.

  • Athletes can use vision therapy to help improve their performance.

  • Patients who do not use their eyes equally or as a team (patients with an eye turn, “lazy eye”, etc) can undergo vision therapy programs to help improve their binocularity (how the eyes work together).

  • ANYONE who does not use their visual system optimally can benefit from a vision therapy program.  Vision is learned:  anything you learn to do, you can learn to do BETTER.

What are some signs that someone may benefit from vision therapy?

There are many different clues that someone is struggling to use their vision effectively.  These include (but are not limited to):

  • Blurred vision (at near and/or far, even when wearing glasses)

  • Headaches (particularly if they are after visual tasks)

  • Eyestrain (eyes feel tired, sore, or like they are “fighting each other”)

  • Double vision (may cover or close one eye to avoid seeing double)

  • Poor eye-hand or general coordination

  • Behaviour issues related to poor attention/focus

  • Challenges with reading:

    • Holds reading material closer or farther than “normal”

    • Distorts posture when reading (tilts head, etc)

    • Moves head while reading

    • Skips words or re-reads lines

    • Reverses words/letters

    • Moves lips while reading to self

    • Uses finger to keep place while reading

    • Frequently loses place while reading

    • Has poor comprehension of material

    • Is below expected grade level for reading ability

    • Doesn’t enjoy reading for pleasure

What does a vision therapy program involve?

The first step of a vision therapy program is a vision therapy assessment.  At the vision therapy assessment, Dr. Sliva will test how the eyes work together (binocularity) and how the brain uses that information (visual perception).  We recommend setting aside 1.5-2 hours for this appointment; if needed, it can be broken down into 2 or more shorter sessions.  Approximately one week after the vision therapy assessment will be a follow-up appointment to go over the results and recommendations from testing.  This appointment is much shorter (~15-20 minutes) and can be done over the phone.  

 

The vision therapy program chosen varies depending on the needs of the patient.  The two most common vision therapy programs are 20 weeks (Basic Vision Therapy) and 36 weeks (Vision Therapy with Learning Difficulties) long.  Patients with an eye turn or “lazy eye” require a 40 week program (Vision Therapy for Strabismus/Amblyopia).  Vision therapy programs require 1 hour each week of in-office vision therapy, as well as 15-20 minutes of vision therapy “homework” to be completed 5 days a week.  (It is important to realize that vision therapy is a huge commitment.  Failure to commit fully to the program will undermine the efficacy of the treatment.  Vision therapy is an active, engaged process; it is only effective in willing participants.)

 

Progress evaluations are held approximately every 8 weeks while in therapy, and 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months following the completion of the vision therapy program.  These appointments are separate from the in-office vision therapy sessions, and are usually 20-30 minutes long.  During these progress evaluations, Dr. Sliva will assess how the binocular vision system is changing, as well as address any questions or concerns that may have come up during vision therapy.

Stress-relieving lenses may be required for near work (generally reading glasses or bifocal lenses), and are an important part of the vision therapy program.  

How does vision therapy differ from a routine eye examination?

Routine eye examinations assess vision (how you see), refractive status (your glasses prescription), binocularity (how your eyes work together), and ocular health (the health of your eyes).  They do not go into depth as to how efficiently your eyes work together, or how your brain uses this information (visual perception).

What does vision therapy cost?

For information on the cost of vision therapy, please contact our office.

The first cost of vision therapy is an assessment.  This includes the binocularity and visual perception testing, as well as the follow-up appointment to discuss the results and recommendations.  A report outlining the results and recommendations will be prepared and emailed to you, and a copy sent to any other professionals as requested (teachers/school, doctors/therapists, etc).

The cost of vision therapy will depend on the length of the program.  There are fees for in-office vision therapy session and progress evaluations.

The cost of glasses is not included in the cost of the vision therapy program.

It is recommended that you contact your insurance provider ahead of time to discuss what coverage you have for vision therapy.  Although our office is happy to direct-bill eye examinations, glasses, and contact lenses to participating insurance plans, we are currently unable to direct bill vision therapy appointments.  Please feel free to talk to our staff about the different payment plans and accepted payment types.

I’ve heard “eye exercises” don’t really work…isn’t vision therapy just “eye exercises”?

“Eye exercises” are used to help “train” the muscles in the eyes to do a particular task.  For example, if you have a hard time converging (turning your eyes inwards), you may see double or experience eyestrain when you read.  If you were to do “eye exercises”, you would be given convergence exercises, where you practice having your eyes turn inwards over and over again.    

 

Vision therapy may involve some convergence activities, but it would also focus on awareness of convergence (how the eyes feel when turning inwards), the benefit of convergence (how it affects the ease of the visual task being performed), and how to use an appropriate, accurate, controlled amount of convergence at the proper time and for the proper task.  In other words, we don’t just want the eye muscles to know how to turn the eyes inwards, we want the whole visual system to know why it is turning the eyes inwards and how to do it as accurately and efficiently as possible.

How do I get started with a vision therapy program?

First of all, it is important to ensure you are “up to date” with your routine eye care.  If you require an updated eye examination, please contact our office to book that appointment before proceeding with the vision therapy assessment.

 

If you have decided that you want to proceed with a vision therapy assessment, you can call (306-636-2020) or email (southeasteyecare@gmail.com) our office to book a vision therapy assessment.  Please fill out the vision therapy history form.  The completed form can be emailed to our office ahead of your appointment or brought along on the appointment day.

 

If you are NOT currently a patient of South East Eyecare (Dr. Olsen or Dr. Sliva), please fill out the appropriate patient intake(s) and arrange for a copy of your last eye exam to be sent to our office.  We are happy to work with patients from other clinics, as we know not every office offers vision therapy.  We will send your optometrist a copy of the report after your vision therapy assessment, so they continue to be included in your care.

Vision Therapy

For more information on vision therapy, please contact our clinic!

CARNDUFF

405 Spencer Street

Carnduff, Saskatchewan

S0C 0S0

Optometrist in office Wednesdays from

10:00am to 7:00pm

Clinic is open Thursdays from 10:00am to 4:00pm

ESTEVAN

#4-102 Souris Ave

Estevan, Saskatchewan

S4A 1J3

Clinic open Monday through Friday, from 9:00am to 6:00pm

 Available After Hours for Emergencies