One of the most debated topics in dyslexia circles is Vision Therapy. Many families claim it is a miracle cure while others feel it is ineffective and a waste of time and money. Why does it help some children and not others? Is there an affordable Vision Therapy program?
What is Vision Therapy?
From the website of Dr. Tim Moore with Epic Vision Center:
Vision therapy is similar to physical or occupational therapy that targets the interaction between the eyes and brain. It is designed to resolve vision problems that can contribute to learning disabilities such as convergence insufficiency, focusing, and tracking problems. This therapy can also be used as an effective treatment for problems like lazy eye, crossed eyes, or double vision.
Some Optometrists treat dyslexia as an eye issue. The eyes do not focus, track, or converge correctly which causes letters to look transposed, misaligned, or even moving. I talked to an Optometrist who claimed that if you fix the eyes, the dyslexia will clear up. (note: This information has crossed my path while talking to an optometrist, and I heard it from secondhand from a few others.) However, as I checked facts on their websites a different explanation appeared, and that’s a good thing. Some parents who’ve found success for their children only using vision therapy also claim it to be a quick fix. While some students may only have eye issues, the academic and cognitive struggles need addressing.
Dyslexia is more than an eye issue.
The International Dyslexia Association’s definition of dyslexia:
Dyslexia is a specific learning disability that is neurobiological in origin. It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge.
Before we go any farther, I need to make a very important point:
If you think your child has a vision issue, please make an appointment with a trusted Optometrist!
Let’s go back to the question of why it works for some and not others.
I think the logical answer is best: It works for those who have convergence, tracking, and other vision problems. It doesn’t work for those who either don’t have those eye issues, or there is more neurologically; such as areas of auditory, phonological component, language, or other cognitive struggles that relate to dyslexia.
Exercises must be done at home on a daily basis for a vision therapy program to work effectively, as is true for any therapy based program. Even after the therapy time period is complete, exercises must be done periodically.
Do I use vision exercises in my educational therapy practice?
YES. I do and my students do them daily. (or they are supposed to…) The parents of my students might be surprised to hear I do them, because I don’t label them as vision therapy exercises. What I do helps with tracking and convergence, along with many other cognitive skills such as attention, directionality, memory, as well as crossing the mid-line. I’m also learning a few new exercises and have a program I make possible for my students to purchase and do at home. *Please note that anytime vision exercises are done at home or outside of an optometrists’s office, it is no longer considered Vision Therapy, only vision exercises.*
Why is there such a debate?
How to best get help for your child is a very debatable topic. What isn’t a debate these days? Mention Vision Therapy in a parent forum and you will receive highly charged discussions supporting and against it. That’s the simple answer.
Vision Therapy is very expensive. It can be anywhere from $125 to $160 or more per hour. Another debate is due to the “magic answer” or quick fix claim. Any time a treatment claims to cure dyslexia or overcome it in a matter of months, there is debate. The truth is that dyslexia is not a sickness which requires a cure. It is a rewiring of the brain and involves cognitive processes. Brain retraining or cognitive therapy requires time and consistency. However, on most of the Vision Therapy websites I visited, they recommended their therapy in accordance with academic assistance and follow through with teachers.
Is there an affordable option?
When I first researched Vision Therapy, I thought… there has to be a way to do it at home. Yes, with a trained professional is always best, but what about those of us who can not afford that cost? Is there an at home program that can be implemented?
YES! There is!
I have found two alternatives I promote. One is free, and one is a series of workbooks you can buy. I like both, however the free one needs completion and I find the workbooks handy. You can read more about that in my blog post about affordable options for vision therapy. Have you had an experience with vision therapy? Comment below or join the conversation on Facebook! I would love to hear about it!