Vision & Learning
What is vision therapy?
Vision therapy is the name given to the activities used by a behavioural optometrist to enhance and improve vision processes. It is different to “orthoptics” which uses an exercise programme to strengthen the eye muscles and literally straighten the eyes. Our vision involves over two thirds of our brain and links closely with all the sensory system. In some individuals these links haven’t developed well or are inefficient and by developing and strengthening these links we can make an individual more visually efficient.
A VT programme will involve working on how the eyes team together, how they focus on objects and how they move in space, but in addition we work on the links between these systems and balance and the way we interpret visual information.
Following a VT programme an individual should be more efficient and faster at processing visual information and should do this with far greater ease, free of symptoms of eye strain or discomfort and better able to think. Often they will find they are better at problem solving, maths and spellings and able to work comfortably for longer.
A VT programme is tailored to each individual and modified as they develop as no two subjects will have the same problems or needs. This requires specialised and professional input, combined with an understanding of the demands on that person both now and in the future.
Activities are structured to be enjoyable, but can be challenging and demanding and will need to be worked on everyday if real success is to be achieved.
We offer two types of vision therapy programmes –
In practice – We see the individual in the practice on a weekly basis, as well as providing additional home training exercises to be done in between. Typically an “In practice programme” lasts 4 months. Undoubtedly this is the most effective programme we offer, as we are seeing the individual more often we can keep the programme on track and modified for the individual.
We also have the largest and most equipped vision therapy centre in Ireland.
Distance Learning – Here the emphasis is on working at home. We see the individual once every 4 weeks and review what work has already been done and provide new activities for the next 4 weeks, training the individual and their parent in what needs to be done at home. This programme is most popular with parents who have to travel a long way to the practice and for whom weekly visits are not possible. Our distance programme typically needs about 15 minutes per day at home to give maximum benefit.
How does vision affect learning?
Vision is the dominant sense, and provides over 80% of the information we receive from the world and our surroundings. Our ability to visualise is crucial to thinking and most of our memories consist of visual information. Anything which interferes with our vision may affect how we learn and also cause symptoms such as strain and fatigue. With children this may affect their desire to learn, particularly through close work and this can affect the development of their reading and writing skills. Some difficulties can also affect balance and co-ordination while others can leave children exhausted by even short periods of study or close work.
However the hardest to recognise may be the more subtle difficulties that can affect performance without causing symptoms. These can affect a child’s performance in school and can leading to underachievement and more worryingly a sense of failure.
It is only after a comprehensive visual investigation that we can understand what difficulties your child may have, as it is a complex area and no two individuals will have the same pattern or difficulty.
Below is a very brief guide to some of the issues which may affect vision and visual development:
Refractive Error – The most basic requirement for vision is a clear retinal image, unaffected by excessive long, short sight or astigmatism. Often this is the only visual skill that will be assessed in a routine sight test.
Poor Convergence – The way the eyes team together and work as a pair, this is a common area of difficulty and accounts for over half the symptoms associated with reading difficulty.
Poor Focusing – The ways the eyes adjust to see something clearly up close. Reduced focusing in adults in their forties is expected, but in children it is usually ignored or not even suspected.
Poor Scanning or Tracking – The way the eyes move around the visual world to access and take in information. Problems here can cause a child difficulty in keeping their place while reading, and may affect spatial localisation as well as making us less aware of our surroundings.
Spatial Awareness – Visual information provides us with a ‘space map’ of the world around us and the accuracy of this maps determines how we react to the world around us. The better our spatial awareness the better our interaction with the world.
Perception – All of the above skills provide input that gives us information – what our brain does with that information is perception and how we make sense of the innumerable .are all products of perception and problems in any of these areas can impact on our learning