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Should My Child See An Occupational Therapist Or A Vision Therapist?

vision therapy 640Parents of a child struggling to keep up at school will do almost anything to get their child the help they need. But parents don’t always know what kind of help the child needs, and from whom.

School administrators often recommend that parents bring their children to an occupational therapist (OT) to help cope with behavioral or learning problems, not realizing that the problems may stem from underdeveloped visual skills, which can be improved with a program of vision therapy (VT).

Below, we’ll explain how OT and VT differ, and offer some guidance for parents and educators. For more information or to schedule an appointment for your child, contact EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical today.

What’s the Difference Between OT and VT?

The truth is that OT and VT have a notable amount of overlap, but there are a few key differences.

Occupational therapists help people of all ages to gain/regain the ability to perform various daily tasks through the use of sensory-motor exercises and interventions. OT aims to improve gross and fine motor coordination, balance, tactile awareness, bilateral awareness, and hand-eye coordination.

Vision therapists help children and adults with poor visual skills to improve the functioning of the visual system and strengthen the eye-brain connection. Doing so can alleviate many symptoms like headaches, eye strain, dizziness, and even anxiety.

Examples of visual skills are eye teaming, tracking, focusing, depth perception, visual processing, and visual-motor skills.

How does a visual deficit look in a real world situation?

A child (even with 20/20 eyesight) may need to read a sentence several times in order to understand its meaning, or tilt their head to read the whiteboard, or may try to avoid doing any visually demanding activities. Poor performance in school and on the playing field can often be attributed to visual skill deficits.

Which Therapy Is Right For Your Child?

If a child’s visual system is the underlying cause of behavioral or learning problems, then a personalized vision therapy program may be all they need to get back on track.

So, when should you consider vision therapt for your child? The answer is simple.

If your child is struggling in school or while playing sports, have them evaluated by a vision therapist first. If they have any trouble performing visually demanding tasks like homework, reading, spelling, sports, or complain of headaches — bring them to a vision therapist for an evaluation.

The bottom line is this: no other practitioner can offer the same quality and expertise as a doctor of optometry when it comes to healing the visual system.

OT’s sometimes perform visual exercises with children, but only an eye doctor experienced in vision therapy can prescribe therapeutic lenses, prisms, and filters that greatly enhance the healing process.

It’s also important to note that not every optometrist is trained in vision therapy. You’ll want to choose an eye doctor with experience in diagnosing and treating people of all ages with all types of visual dysfunction.

Additionally, even if your child passes the school’s vision screening, they may still have a problem with visual processing and other skills. School vision screenings only test for visual acuity (eyesight) and neglect the other very important visual skills that enable a child to succeed.

Since the visual system is highly integrated with other systems, an interdisciplinary approach is often the most effective. OT and VT don’t always have to be undertaken simultaneously, but some children benefit from this type of holistic approach.

If your child is struggling with learning or behavioral problems, their vision could be an underlying cause or contributing factor. To schedule your child’s functional visual evaluation, contact EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical in Fayetteville today.

Frequently Asked Questions with Our Vision Therapist

Q: My child is struggling in school. Should I have his/her eyes examined?

  • A: A comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist can often determine if there are visual issues interfering with a child’s ability to perform in school. Many visual symptoms, some obvious, others less so, can contribute to a child’s poor academic achievement. Some of these issues can be alleviated with a good pair of eyeglasses while others may require vision therapy. All the doctors at Eye Vision Associates are trained in the diagnosis of vision related learning problems.

Q: What are some of the learning difficulties a child may encounter if they have vision issues?

  • A: Children may have difficulty reading if their near vision is blurry or the words jump around the page. Older children may have difficulty copying from the board at the front of the class or may struggle with math homework that has multiple questions on the page.

We encourage you to contact EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical today for a vision therapy evaluation in Fayetteville, to assess if their vision is what has held them back from their studies.


References:

Request A Functional Visual Exam
Find Out How We Can Help You! 479-521-6460

How Vision Therapy Impacts Confidence & Success

Mom Daughter Child Eye HealthBuilding confidence in children is critical to their success. However, children with poorly developed visual skills tend to lack confidence in their abilities. They may struggle to keep up in school, finding it difficult to concentrate in the classroom, or be unable to catch a ball when playing on the sports field.

Fortunately, vision therapy can help children (and adults) develop the specific visual skills they lack, offering them the best opportunities to enhance their comprehension, increase their reading level and attention span, and improve their sports performance.

This, in turn, directly impacts their confidence levels.

How Does Vision Therapy Work?

The primary goal of vision therapy is to improve the child’s visual skills. A child can have 20/20 vision and yet have underdeveloped visual skills. Poor visual skills impede the ability of the eyes, brain, and body to work as a team. Vision therapy develops and enhances this communication, allowing people with visual dysfunction to process and react to visual information faster and more efficiently.

Vision Therapy Process

A vision therapy program consists of visual exercises specifically tailored to the patient’s individual visual needs. Depending on the type and level of visual dysfunction, the eye doctor will prescribe a personalized program of exercises to develop the communication between the brain and the visual system. Eye doctors also use tools such as specialized optical lenses, eye patches, prisms, balance boards, and digital simulations to train the brain-eye connection.

Visual Skills

There are several visual skills that vision therapy helps to improve. These include:

  • Saccades – the eyes’ ability to move quickly or “jump” between two or more focus points. This skill is crucial for reading, as children need to be able to move their eyes along a straight line without straying to other lines.
  • Pursuits or Tracking – the eyes’ ability to smoothly track a moving target. This skill allows a child’s eyes to glide along with a page and also to catch, hit, or kick a moving ball.
  • Convergence – the eyes’ ability to work together as a team in order to focus on a nearby object like a book or computer screen..
  • Accommodation Flexibility – the eyes’ ability to continuously change focus between near and distant objects. This is the skill required when a child looks at the blackboard and then copies the writing into a notebook.
  • Accommodation – The eyes’ ability to maintain focus on close-up activities. This skill is needed for homework and for using a computer for many hours.
  • Visual Memory – The ability to remember words and information. Good visual memory is essential for spelling.
  • Color Perception – The ability to distinguish between various colors. This skill is essential for the accurate interpretation of color-coded materials, such as graphs and charts.
  • Fine Visual-Motor – The ability to engage in close-up activities with accuracy and comfort. This skill is needed for reading, writing, cutting with scissors, and assembling a puzzle.
  • Visual Integration – The ability to combine your vision with your other senses to perform complex tasks. This skill is required to process various forms of visual information accurately and quickly. Visual integration is crucial for a student copying from the board and analyzing the information.

Confidence And Success Building

Developing visual skills can help children meet the demands of school, improve their grades, and allow them to gain confidence in the classroom. Vision therapy can also lead to improved hand-eye coordination and allow them to have more fun on the sports field. In fact, vision therapy can be a key component in preparing children for higher education. As they master new skills, they feel more confident in their abilities.

Keep in mind that school eye screenings and most regular eye exams evaluate eyesight, but do not assess the essential visual skills required for sports, reading, and learning. Only a comprehensive vision exam can determine whether a child has poor visual skills. Contact EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical to book a vision exam to assess your child’s visual skills. We can create a tailor-made vision therapy program to help your child succeed and reach their full potential.

Request A Functional Visual Exam
Find Out How We Can Help You! 479-521-6460

4 Ways To Help Your Students With Vision-Related Learning Difficulties

sad child 640An estimated 1.25 million children in North America are affected by some form of visual impairment that impacts their daily living. Ranging from nearsightedness to lazy eye to cross-eye, these visual problems can have a drastic impact on their performance in the classroom, which may lead them to lag behind their peers.

Fortunately, there are certain steps that educators can take to help their students with visual problems succeed. First, let’s explain the link between vision and learning.

Why are Visual Skills Necessary For Learning?

Because up to 80% of classroom learning is vision-based, it is no wonder that children with subpar visual skills may lag behind their peers academically.

We’re not referring to visual acuity, such as myopia (nearsightedness) or hyperopia (farsightedness), but rather the visual skills that rely on brain-eye communication. Problems with these skills can only be detected during a functional visual exam.These vision skills include eye teaming, tracking, accommodation, and focusing, all of which are critical for proficient reading, writing, and reading comprehension.

Teachers of school-aged children with poor visual skills can implement certain strategies to accommodate and even improve students’ academic performance. Below we’ve listed a few suggestions.

How Educators Can Help Students With Vision-Related Learning Challenges

1. Consider Where Your Students Should Be Seated

Make sure your students are seated facing the whiteboard. They should not have to look over their shoulder or turn around to see what the teacher is writing on the board. Some classrooms have students seated at round tables, forcing some children to turn around to see the front of the classroom. While this type of seating arrangement has its benefits, it is not appropriate for children with visual impairments, as they may find it difficult to quickly shift their gaze.

2. Pay Attention to Their Visual Needs

Try to meet the students’ visual needs. For example, if a child is expected to wear glasses for certain tasks, make sure that the child follows through. If the child doesn’t comply, consider speaking with the child’s parents.

3. Optimize Classroom Lighting

If you know that a certain student has a visual problem, seat them so that they aren’t in direct sunlight or under a shadow. Natural lighting is preferred, but when this isn’t possible, tungsten light bulbs are generally favored by the eye over fluorescent lighting. Please note that any flickering light bulb should be changed without delay.

4. Choose a Teaching Method That Accommodates Their Vision

Below are steps you can take to help students with poor visual skills:

  • Use black or dark-colored markers on the whiteboard. Avoid bright colored markers like orange, red, and yellow.
  • While writing on the board, say the words/numbers aloud to assist those who may have difficulty reading or seeing the text.
  • Avoid using language that relies heavily on vision, such as “like this one” or “over there.”
  • Be patient when a student with subpar visual skills stares off into space or daydreams. This is often a symptom of visual dysfunction, rather than a lack of attention.

How We Can Help

At EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical, our goal is to help each child reach their full potential by strengthening any visual skill deficiencies.

We treat children with many types of visual dysfunctions, often using a specialized form of therapy called vision therapy. Vision therapy trains the eyes to focus better or work as a team (among many other visual skills) by strengthening the eye-brain connection.

To learn more or to ask any questions, contact EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical today.

EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical serves patients from Fayetteville, Springdale, Farmington, Prairie Grove, and throughout Arkansas.

REFERENCES

 

Request A Functional Visual Exam
Find Out How We Can Help You! 479-521-6460

Choose Holiday Gifts That Support Your Child’s Vision

child looking at toys 640Gift giving season is fast approaching. If you plan on purchasing a gift for a child, you may want to consider choosing one that supports healthy visual functioning.

Here’s our list of children’s gifts that benefit their visual health in a fun and enjoyable way.

Building Toys

Building toys help children develop hand-eye coordination and visualization skills. They also help enhance visual-spatial skills — an essential component of reading readiness. Understanding how to create a structure refines children’s spatial-organization skills.

Playing with building toys perfects skills like problem-solving, patience, and focus.

Some popular building toys are Legos, Duplos, Mega-Bloks, Clics, and Magnatiles. Many building toys are appropriate for children aged 1-9, but follow the age recommendation and warning labels listed on the packaging.

Visual Thinking Games and Toys

Jigsaw puzzles, memory games, dominoes, checkers, Rush Hour, and Bingo all help children to build visual thinking and processing skills. Visual thinking, also known as visual/spatial learning or picture thinking, is the ability to think and analyze what you have seen. This skill is needed for math and reading comprehension.

Visual thinking games are a great way to cultivate abilities like visual memory, form perception, eye tracking, sequencing, and pattern recognition.

Space Perception Toys

What better way to develop a child’s hand-eye coordination than with a lively game of catch or ping pong? Space perception toys also promote a child’s awareness of the space around them, as well as three-dimensional depth perception, eye tracking, and accommodation flexibility (the eyes’ ability to continuously change their focus between near and distant objects).

Other examples of space perception toys include marbles, pick-up-sticks, Jenga, and any game or sport that involves a ball.

Let’s Support Your Child’s Vision Together

A child’s vision enables them to succeed academically, building self esteem. When a child has a problem with one or several visual skills, it can cause them to struggle in school or develop attention and behavioral issues.

That’s why it’s important to provide children with toys, games, and opportunities that support and refine their visual skills.

If you suspect that your child may be struggling with their vision, bring them to EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical for a functional visual evaluation, where will test their visual skills and processing abilities.

Even a child with 20/20 vision can have visual dysfunction that will likely go undetected in standard eye exams or school screenings.

If a problem with their visual functioning is found, we may recommend a personalized program of vision therapy. Vision therapy is an evidence-based treatment method that has been proven effective for a wide variety of visual dysfunctions. This form of therapy can be thought of as a “gym” for the brain, as it helps to retrain the eye-brain connection and speed up a child’s visual information superhighway.


For more information or to schedule a functional visual evaluation, call EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical today.

EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical serves patients in Fayetteville, Springdale, Farmington, Prairie Grove, and throughout Arkansas.

 

Request A Functional Visual Exam
Find Out How We Can Help You! 479-521-6460

Why Vision Therapy Provides Lasting Correction For Strabismus – Eye-Turn

strabismus blog 1024×384Strabismus, more commonly referred to as “cross-eye” or “eye turn,” is a condition where the eyes don’t point in the same direction. While many people choose to correct the condition with surgery, the problem often persists, leaving many patients with little to no improvement. A better, more holistic approach is a personalized vision therapy program like the one offered at EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical. If you or a loved one is experiencing even a slight eye-turn, speak with Dr. Cliff Hughes to determine if vision therapy can help you.

What Is Strabismus?

The terms “eye-turn” and “lazy-eye” are often confused, but they are two different conditions. Strabismus refers to an eye-turn, a condition that can be constant or occur only sporadically. The eyes don’t move in unison, so when the brain receives a different image from each eye, it can’t form a unified image. To cope with the conflicting messages, the brain may suppress, or “turn off,” one of the images. As a result, the suppressed eye will not develop the same coordination with the brain as the stronger eye, which can lead to permanent visual loss or even blindness in the weaker eye, and several other serious visual problems.

Strabismus can manifest in different ways and with varying degrees of magnitude. Each case is unique, and your optometrist can provide clarity on your particular condition at your next eye exam.

What Are Common Symptoms of Strabismus?

When the eyes aren’t aligned, certain symptoms can arise. Aside from the eyes being visibly misaligned, someone with strabismus may squint or tilt their head in order to avoid seeing double. An eye-turn also negatively affects depth perception, making driving or playing sports challenging.

Children with strabismus may close or cover one eye when trying to read the board in the classroom, or while focusing on distant objects. They may have poor grades and be reluctant to participate in team sports due to a lack of visual skills. Often, children with visual difficulties are mistakenly diagnosed with a learning or social disorder when their vision is the problem.

Why Is Vision Therapy a Better Treatment Than Surgery?

The primary reason that surgery isn’t the ideal strabismus treatment is that it ignores the source of the problem: the connection between the brain and the affected eye. Surgeons will try and move the point of the muscle’s attachment to the eye in the hope that this will straighten the affected eye. While this method can at times be effective, many patients are left needing a second or even third surgery because the first hasn’t produced the necessary improvement. Additionally, surgery is invasive and poses risks of infection and other surgical complications.

In the event that surgery is the best option, optometrists often recommend a program of vision therapy either before or after the surgery. This program provides the best opportunity for the misaligned eye to develop connectivity to the brain and stay in the correct position.

In contrast to surgery, optometric vision therapy trains the brain and eye to work together to achieve long-lasting results. By developing this eye-brain connectivity, the long term goal is for eyes to work in unison and ultimately achieve 3D vision.

If you or your child have been diagnosed with strabismus, call EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical to schedule an eye exam with Dr. Cliff Hughes and start your journey to healthy vision.

Why Does Vision Therapy Help with Strabismus from EyeCarePro on Vimeo.

EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical provides vision therapy and other services to patients from Fayetteville, Springdale, Farmington, Prairie Grove, and throughout Arkansas.

 

Request A Functional Visual Exam
Find Out How We Can Help You! 479-521-6460

Treating Your Non-Reader With Vision Therapy

toddler reading book 1257105 (1)The following scenario may sound familiar. It’s a school night and your child has a reading assignment which he or she refuses to complete. You plead with your child, offering to read it together or incentivizing with a reward. No matter what you do, your child just wants to watch TV or play yet another video game.

Perhaps you’ve already consulted with your child’s teacher, school counselor, and pediatrician about the reading difficulties, just to be told that all seems normal — yet you remain concerned. At EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical, we understand the challenges for parents and children that accompany reading difficulties, and we’re here to help.

A functional visual evaluation with Dr. Cliff Hughes will determine whether the child’s visual system may actually be at the root of your child’s reading and learning struggles. If a visual problem is hindering your child from reaching their potential, the vision therapy program offered at EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical can help turn your child into a proficient reader.

Request A Functional Visual Exam
Find Out How We Can Help You! 479-521-6460

Visual Skills Necessary For Reading

There are many visual skills that contribute to academic success. One of the least important skills is termed visual acuity (clarity, sharpness), also known as 20/20 vision, this only assesses how well a child sees at twenty feet away and is part of basic vision screenings in schools and most regular eye exams. However, how well a child sees at a distance of twenty feet has little to do with how well their visual system performs at the reading and learning distance — approximately 11 to 16 inches from the face.

More relevant visual skills required for reading include eye-tracking, eye-teaming, convergence, accommodation, and visual fixation. These skills are assessed during a functional visual evaluation. In simpler terms — both eyes need to work together, move at the same pace, and provide a single and clear image for the brain to interpret. Imagine trying to read when the words are blurry or even doubled? Vision therapy is a customized program to improve these visual skills by training the brain to improve these visual skills —thereby significantly improving the child’s reading, learning, and performance at school.

Early Signs of a Struggling Reader

Although detecting a child’s visual problem can be difficult — either because he or she may not complain about their vision or simply lack the communication skills needed to describe their struggles — several signs may indicate an underlying vision problem. If your child exhibits any of the following behaviors, it may be time to get a functional vision evaluation with Dr. Cliff Hughes.

  • Reading below grade level
  • Low attention span or excessive fidgeting
  • Behavioral issues caused by frustration
  • Resistance to attend school or do homework
  • Shying away from reading out loud or avoiding reading altogether
  • Struggling to summarize or remember what was just read
  • Teachers may notice the child takes frequent bathroom breaks during activities involving reading
  • Covering one eye, head-tilting, or frequently blinking when looking at far-away objects, such as a blackboard
  • Headaches after reading

How Does Vision Therapy Work?

Vision therapy focuses on improving the child’s visual skills. These visual skills, just like walking and talking, are learned skills that can be trained and improved. The brain’s neuroplasticity allows for new learning pathways to be created, making it possible for a child to gain visual skills that weren’t present beforehand. Because around 75% to 90% of a child’s learning occurs through the visual system, any issues with the various visual skills could hinder a child from achieving their potential. On the flipside, enhancing visual abilities can make learning and reading easier and more accessible.

If a vision-related reading issue is the underlying cause of your child’s reading and learning struggles, the vision therapy program at EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical will target and treat your child’s particular issues in a customized program.

Each vision therapy session takes place in-office on a weekly basis under the supervision of Dr. Cliff Hughes. In between sessions, your child will also be expected to perform at-home visual exercises. The length of treatment will depend on the type and degree of the vision-related reading issues. The vision therapist will use various aids and tools, such as prisms, filters, eye patches, balance beams, and digital simulations in the therapeutic process.

Give your child the tools for proficient reading and academic success with vision therapy. If you suspect that a vision problem may be preventing your child from succeeding, contact EyeLove Family Eye Care & Optical today to schedule a functional vision evaluation.

Dr. Cliff Hughes provides vision therapy and other services to patients from Fayetteville, Springdale, Farmington, Prairie Grove, and throughout Arkansas.

Request A Functional Visual Exam
Find Out How We Can Help You! 479-521-6460