Vision Therapy For Children with Special Needs
Vision and perception problems have a higher incidence rate among children with special needs than the average population. If undiagnosed or untreated, visual dysfunction will only add to the child’s challenges and affect their behavior, interfering with reading and learning, and reducing their ability to perform routine tasks.
The vision disorders typically affecting kids with special needs include nearsightedness (myopia) or farsightedness (presbyopia), as well as other eye-coordination disorders such as eye turns (strabismus), eye movement dysfunction, “lazy eye” (amblyopia), and poor eye teaming and coordination. This can cause the child to experience a distorted sense of what he or she is viewing, difficulty with depth perception and other visual information-processing problems.
The good news, however, is that these vision problems can be helped through vision therapy. Rebecca St. Jean, O.D. and Elicia Miller, O.D. and vision therapists at The Vision Therapy Center at Advanced Eye Care have extensive experience working with special needs patients and regularly create vision therapy programs catered to the patient’s specific abilities and requirements. Let us help your child improve their visual functions, learning, and ultimately, their lives.
What is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy is often compared to physical therapy – but for the eyes and the visual system as a whole. It is a customized program made up of special lenses and focused exercises aimed at improving and building up visual functions. The patient is guided through new visual experiences and learns skills which helps them better interact with the visual world. Because each patient’s vision needs are different, vision therapy is personalized to ensure the best results.
Vision therapy helps “retrain your eyes” to improve certain aspects of functionality, focus, eye teaming, hand-eye coordination, visual tracking, visual perception, contrast sensitivity, and more. Exercises may be combined with special eyeglasses or prisms to help support the therapy regimen.
What Conditions Does Vision Therapy Treat?
A wide range of vision problems can be treated through vision therapy. The combination of eye exercises, lenses, and prisms can strengthen eye muscles, and help the eyes focus on images or objects at varying distances. The ultimate goal is to restore as much visual function and clarity as possible.
Eye conditions typically treated with vision therapy include:
Amblyopia (lazy eye)
Convergence Insufficiency (problems focusing)
Strabismus (crossed eyes)
By enhancing vision skills, your child can better execute tasks and everyday activities such as reading, writing, focusing, and improving attention to details.
Vision therapy is a process that requires patience and determination. If you or your child have been told that nothing can be done or that they will have to live with their visual problems, don’t give up. Ask the The Vision Therapy Center at Advanced Eye Care about Vision Therapy as a solution to your child’s vision problems.
Vision Therapy for Special Needs Children
Developmental disabilities often affect a person’s visual system, including the eyes, brain and visual pathways. If present, these visual challenges can further exacerbate a child’s disability, leading to issues at school, sports and when doing routine tasks.
Whether vision issues are overlooked or simply ignored because of their current care situation, these individuals don’t always receive the types of functional vision screening they need in order to ensure that their visual system is working adequately.
Certain Special Needs children can find it difficult to sit still through a regular eye exam, and this can result in an inaccurate or incomplete evaluation. Furthermore, because children don’t know how they are supposed to see, they rarely verbalize if something isn’t working right, which can leave certain vision problems undetected for many years.
As time goes by, the condition can become increasingly difficult to manage. That’s where our expertise comes in. Rebecca St. Jean, O.D. and Elicia Miller, O.D. has extensive experience in treating special needs children and is uniquely qualified to diagnose, treat, and manage your child’s visual difficulties. Our standard of care and gentle approach yields excellent results and a positive vision therapy experience.
Symptoms of Undetected Vision Problems in Children
Special needs children with undiagnosed vision problems have certain telltale signs and symptoms. These include:
Omitting or repeating lines when reading
Poor reading comprehension
Homework requiring more time than it should
Reduced visual attention
Difficulty completing assignments on time
Difficulty copying information from the board
Tilting head/closing one eye while reading
Having one eye that turns in or out
Avoiding near work
Unable to listen and look at a person simultaneously
Regularly knocking things over
Having motion sickness
Visual perceptual problems
If your child displays any of these symptoms, an undetected yet treatable vision problem may be the cause.
Vision Therapy for Autism
Many people on the autism spectrum have specific vision problems, which include difficulties tracking, integrating peripheral with central vision, and making eye contact. Strabismus (eye turn) and amblyopia (lazy eye) are also more common among autistic individuals than in the general population.
In fact, research shows that issues with saccades, the rapid eye movement between two points, which is essential for reading. Saccades are particularly prevalent in people with autism.
The Vision Therapy Process
Before beginning any type of treatment, the doctor will perform a comprehensive eye exam. This involves a thorough examination of the patient’s eyes and visual abilities, which includes a number of tests to obtain a full picture of your child’s eye health.
The doctor will delve into the family’s medical history, medications, any other relevant factors. These questions are important as they can factor in a child’s visual skills and development.
Once the comprehensive eye exam has been completed, Rebecca St. Jean, O.D. and Elicia Miller, O.D. will determine whether vision therapy is the right course of action. The vision therapy program is supervised by our doctor, who will create a tailor-made program for your child.
How Successful is Vision Therapy?
How Quickly Will I Notice Results?
There are usually some gains seen fairly soon, but It can take up to 6 months to realize significant results. This may depend on each patient and their specific therapy regimen. In addition to the exercises, visual aids, or eyeglasses, the vision therapy plan consists of close monitoring and follow-up appointments. Over the course of the program, the eye doctor will determine the number of visits needed in order to achieve the best possible results.
Knowing the time it will take to achieve the right outcome will depend on the child’s visual needs and overall eye health. This is why Rebecca St. Jean, O.D. and Elicia Miller, O.D. recommends regular checkups to ensure that there are noticeable improvements and positive changes in the patient’s visual functions.
We Are Partners in Your Child’s Vision Therapy
Both the child and his/her parents are partners with Rebecca St. Jean, O.D. and Elicia Miller, O.D. in the vision therapy program. The series of exercises and learned visual skills must be performed on a regular basis to ensure a successful outcome.
The eye doctor will provide you with detailed instructions and a schedule of drops, patches, and exercises, to ensure the most positive results.
If you’ve exhausted every other method of vision treatments, then it’s time to speak with The Vision Therapy Center at Advanced Eye Care about vision therapy.
The Vision Therapy Center at Advanced Eye Care provides customized vision therapy for our young patients in South Charleston, Davis Creek, Hillsdale, and Institute, in the West Virginia. Let us help your child maximize their visual skills and reach their full potential.