Behavioural optometrists and ACBO Accredited Vision Therapists take a holistic approach to treating a diverse range of children’s vision problems that may be due to developmental delay or a result of injury or disease. Using individualised vision therapy programs they work to improve visual comfort and efficiency and to create automaticity of developmentally delayed visual skills.
Areas that can be targeted for improvements within a vision therapy program include amblyopia, strabismus, convergence insufficiency and eye movement control. Therapy can also improve vision processing skills such as visual spatial abilities, visual discrimination and visual memory.
According to Bernie Eastwood, Vice President of the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists, vision therapy programs are optimised when there are regular in-office visits with a therapist who works with a child and their family to guide, challenge, motivate and support the practice of vision activities at home. “Home practice is a vital component in successful outcomes from a vision therapy program. As Malcolm Gladwell states in his book Outliers, ‘Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good’.”
A Co-ordinated Approach
Ms. Eastwood said children with dyslexia, learning difficulties, autism spectrum disorder or ADD, may have vision related learning difficulties which could benefit from a vision therapy program. “It is extremely important to reduce the impact that poor visual skills or vision processing skills may be having on these diagnosed conditions,” she said, adding “co-management with other professionals such as occupational therapists or speech pathologists can be of great benefit to the child and family. Communication and shared understanding of all of the child’s needs improves the delivery and outcomes of all therapies that a child may require to reach their potential.”
Education and Advice
Education and advice to help children and their families optimise their environment is also a significant role of the behavioural optometrist. “Vision therapy will obviously not change an underlying syndrome or disease and so we can help parents and teachers understand the impact that a child’s visual abilities have on daily life,” said Ms. Eastwood.
“Practical advice such as optimising a child’s vision through their position in the classroom can have great impact. Seating a child with nystagmus so that their eyes are positioned in the null point can optimise vision stability and acuity for that child which in turn optimises their learning in a classroom. Educating parents and teachers as to why a child with diplopia on up gaze should not be seated on the floor to look up at a board and why they might get frustrated playing volleyball but not soccer can be extremely enlightening for them.”
Programing vision therapy and
working with a child and their family to achieve their goals and improve their quality of life is a challenging but ultimately rewarding role within optometry. The Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists (ACBO), founded in 1987, provides Australian, New Zealand and Asian optometrists with the opportunity for education and training in the field of neurodevelopmental optometry and its application in areas such as learning difficulties, traumatic brain injury, sports vision and binocular vision dysfunction. Visit acbo.org.au