Sunday, September 29, 2013
VISION THERAPY: Information for Health Care and Other Allied Professionals
A Joint Organizational Policy Statement of the American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association
Society places a premium on efficient vision. Schools and most occupations require increasing
amounts of printed and computer information to be handled accurately and in shorter periods of
time. Vision is also a major factor in sports, crafts, and other pastimes. The efficiency of our
visual system influences how we collect and process information. Repetitive demands on the
visual system tend to create problems in susceptible individuals. Inefficient vision may cause
an individual to slow down, be less accurate, experience excessive fatigue, or make errors.
When these types of signs and symptoms appear, the individual’s conscious attention to the
visual process is required. This, in turn, may interfere with speed, accuracy, and
comprehension of visual tasks. Many of these visual dysfunctions are effectively treated with
Vision is a product of our inherited potentials, our past experiences, and current information.
Efficient visual functioning enables us to understand the world around us better and to guide our
actions accurately and quickly. Age is not a deterrent to the achievement of successful vision
Vision is the dominant sense and is composed of three areas of function:
• Visual pathway integrity including eye health, visual acuity, and refractive status.
• Visual skills including accommodation (eye focusing), binocular vision (eye teaming), and
eye movements (eye tracking).
• Visual information processing including identification, discrimination, spatial awareness, and
integration with other senses.
Learning to read and reading for information require efficient visual abilities. The eyes must
team precisely, focus clearly, and track quickly and accurately across the page. These
processes must be coordinated with the perceptual and memory aspects of vision, which in turn
must combine with linguistic processing for comprehension. To provide reliable information, this
must occur with precise timing. Inefficient or poorly developed vision requires individuals to
divide their attention between the task and the involved visual abilities. Some individuals have
symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, eyestrain, errors, loss of place, and difficulty sustaining
attention. Others may have an absence of symptoms due to the avoidance of visually
The human visual system is complex. The problems that can develop in our visual system
require a variety of treatment options. Many visual conditions can be treated effectively with
spectacles or contact lenses alone; however, some are most effectively treated with vision
Vision therapy is a sequence of activities individually prescribed and monitored by the doctor to
develop efficient visual skills and processing. It is prescribed after a comprehensive eye
examination has been performed and has indicated that vision therapy is an appropriate
treatment option. The vision therapy program is based on the results of standardized tests, the
needs of the patient, and the patient’s signs and symptoms. The use of lenses, prisms, filters,
occluders, specialized instruments, and computer programs is an integral part of vision therapy.
Vision therapy is administered in the office under the guidance of the doctor. It requires a
number of office visits and depending on the severity of the diagnosed conditions, the length of
the program typically ranges from several weeks to several months. Activities paralleling inoffice techniques are typically taught to the patient to be practiced at home to reinforce the
developing visual skills.
Research has demonstrated vision therapy can be an effective treatment option for:
• Ocular motility dysfunctions (eye movement disorders)
• Non-strabismic binocular disorders (inefficient eye teaming)
• Strabismus (misalignment of the eyes)
• Amblyopia (poorly developed vision)
• Accommodative disorders (focusing problems)
• Visual information processing disorders, including visual-motor integration and integration
with other sensory modalities
Vision therapy is prescribed to treat diagnosed conditions of the visual system. Effective
therapy requires visual skills to be developed until they are integrated with other systems and
become automatic, enabling individuals to achieve their full potential. The goals of a prescribed
vision therapy treatment regimen are to achieve desired visual outcomes, alleviate the signs
and symptoms, meet the patient’s needs, and improve the patient’s quality of life.
This Policy Statement was formulated by a working group representing the American
Academy of Optometry, American Optometric Association, the College of Optometrists in Vision
Development, and the Optometric Extension Program Foundation. The following individuals are
acknowledged for their contributions:
Gary J. Williams, OD; Chair
Susan A. Cotter, OD Louis G. Hoffman, OD, MS Glen T. Steele, OD
Kelly A. Frantz, OD Stephen C. Miller, OD Jeffrey L. Weaver, OD, MS
Approved by: American Academy of Optometry, May 14, 1999
American Optometric Association, June 22, 1999
College of Optometrists in Vision Development, June 25, 1999
Optometric Extension Program Foundation, June 25, 1999
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