Vision therapy is a type of physical therapy for the eyes and brain. It is considered by many to be an effective therapy for amblyopia or lazy eye, crossed eyes, double vision and convergence insufficiency. Vision therapy is sometimes used as an adjuctive treatment for some reading and learning disabilities. Visual exercises are one of the treatment modalities used in vision therapy.
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Who Offers Vision Therapy?
Traditionally, vision therapy is conducted in a medical office setting. Exercises are progressive and tailored to meet the specific needs of the patient. Office sessions are performed one to two times per week and last from 30 minutes to an hour. The doctor may give exercises to be done at home, in between visits.
Instruments of Medically-supervised Vision Therapy
Physician-supervised vision therapy utilizes both regulated and non-regulated medical devices in the vision therapy process. Candidates for vision therapy are selected only after a comprehensive eye examination has determined that they meet the criteria for therapy. Devices such as corrective lenses, therapeutic lenses and prism lenses are regulated. That is, they can only be used by trained medical professionals. Visual-motor-sensory integration training devices, vestibular or balance equipment, computer software, optical filters, eye patches, electronic targets and timing mechanisms are examples of non-regulated medical devices used by physicians for vision therapy.
Dinosaur Card and Other Online Aids
Some vision therapy exercises are done with the use of a Dinosaur Card, a transparency developed by Paul Adler, B.Sc., FBCO, DCLP. The Dino Card is designed as an aid to build monocular and binocular visual skills. While available for purchase online, Dr. Andrew Martin advises that the Dino Card should not be used for self treatment. The exercises are to be done 5 to 10 minutes per day as part of a medically-supervised program and as specifically directed by your doctor. Eye Can Learn.com offers a wide variety of exercises to help train the eyes and brain to improve visual information processing skills of perception, tracking, focusing and eye teaming (see References).
Exercise for Focus Training
If you don't have a Dino Card, purchase a transparency sheet from an office supply store. Using your word processor, select bold 9 point sans serif lettering and type the word "dinosaur" exactly in the middle of your word processor document. Print onto the transparency. Look through the transparency to a distant object, and focus on it. The distant object could be a chart given by your doctor, a simple piece of paper with some writing on it or your computer screen. Now quickly focus on the “d” in dinosaur on the card. Focus again on the distant object, then quickly look at the second letter on the card. Do this until you complete every letter in the word dinosaur. Your doctor will tell you how many times to repeat the exercise. If your focusing ability is very poor, you may need to wear an eye patch and initially do the exercise one eye at a time.
Exercise for Directionality Training
Separate from the Dino Card, this exercise uses a card with rows of arrows pointing right, left, up and down that can be supplied by your doctor. You can also make one yourself. Take a 5- by 7-inch card. Mark several rows of arrows that point up, down, right and left. Keep the arrows evenly spaced and equally sized. Avoid specific patterns. Place the card on a table. Scan the rows of arrows as if reading. Each time you see a right pointing arrow, touch it and say “right.” Repeat this procedure for left, up and down arrows. When you become good at this, try to do it synchronized with a metronome or a favorite music selection. Finally, try to say the direction that is opposite to the arrow you are pointing to. See if you can do this without making a mistake. To avoid reliance on memory, turn the card 90 degrees after each exercise.