What is Vision Therapy?
Many children can have “20/20” eyesight and still have vision problems that can affect their learning and classroom performance. Studies have found that as many as one in four school-age children may have at least one learning-related vision problem. These “other” vision problems include amblyopia (“lazy eye”), eye alignment or eye teaming problems, focusing problems, and visual perceptual disorders. Left untreated, these non-refractive vision problems can cause eyestrain, fatigue, headaches, and/or learning difficulties.
Vision therapy can correct these vision conditions that interfere with efficient reading among schoolchildren. Vision therapy is like physical therapy for the visual system, including the eyes and the parts of the brain that control vision. Vision therapy helps the patient develop the visual skills necessary for good functional vision. Optical devices and exercises are used to improve the eye-brain connection in order to make eye movements easier and more efficient for reading.
Vision Therapy is not a “cure” for dyslexia or ADHD. It can alleviate symptoms that may be similar to symptoms of dyslexia or ADHD. When the act of reading is so difficult visually, most children will get frustrated easily and avoid reading or homework at all costs. When we help them improve their visual skills – tracking, coordinating the eyes, shifting focus quickly, etc. – then we often see improvement in behavioral symptoms.
Overall, the goal of vision therapy is to treat vision problems that cannot be treated successfully with eyeglasses, contact lenses and/or surgery alone, and help people achieve clear, comfortable binocular vision. Vision Therapy does not eliminate the need for distance glasses and is not suitable for every patient experiencing any of the symptoms listed below.
How do I know if my child needs Vision Therapy?
Adults often recognize the symptoms listed below and seek care from an eye care professional. However children do not usually complain of vision problems directly. Therefore we ask through a symptom survey that your child will fill out on their first visit and then we will test for different signs that cause those symptoms, such as:
Blurry or uncomfortable near vision
- Double vision or words that move on the page
- Headaches and/or eyestrain when reading
- Skipping lines or re-reads lines
- Reads slowly or loses concentration easily
Any of these symptoms can lead to secondary symptoms, such as poor reading comprehension and avoidance of near work (including reading).
What outcomes can you expect from Vision Therapy?
When the eyes move, align, fixate and focus together, a whole new world of vision is discovered. With successful treatment, our patients may find that:
- Learning becomes easier
- Reading level and speed increases
- Time spent on homework decreases
- The ability to follow moving objects (a ball, a car) improves
- Seeing objects nearby or at a distance improves
The rate at which patients experience these improvements will vary, but generally progress is seen early in the therapy program.
Is Vision Therapy a new practice?
No. It has been used successfully in different forms for over 80 years and is taught in all optometry schools. But only a few doctors, such as Dr. Louie, choose to add an additional year of residency training specifically on treating binocular vision disorders through vision therapy.
How long does Vision Therapy take? How much does Vision Therapy cost?
Dr. Louie plans every unit of vision therapy specifically for each patient. Since each case depends upon a patient’s diagnosis and severity, the length of treatment will vary person to person. A course of in-office therapy, includes weekly one-on-one sessions with Dr. Louie, periodic evaluations, and all materials necessary for home therapy. Most treatment programs last between 4 and 9 months, and the fee usually ranges between $2,500 to $5,000, but there are shorter and longer cases as well. Vision Therapy is not one-size fits all! Should you decide to have vision therapy with our office, we will explain in detail how many units would suffice for you, or your child, as well as briefly describe a few of our available payment options.
Does insurance cover Vision Therapy?
This topic is very confusing. We have found that most medical insurance plans will not cover vision therapy, excluding it as an elective procedure and often as “unproven” because their exclusion policies are not up-to-date with the research. Therefore, many plans specifically exclude Vision Therapy, just as they might exclude orthodontics. However, some plans have a specific list of diagnoses and procedures that MAY be covered. Due to this inconsistency within medical insurances, we do not bill medical insurances for Vision Therapy. Nevertheless, patients are welcome to try and submit receipts for possible out-of-network reimbursement/coverage. We will supply all of the codes and fill out any forms necessary to help you.
Is vision therapy only for children?
No, vision therapy can benefit patients of any age who want to improve their visual skills. Dr. Louie has worked with children, parents, and grandparents.