How did you decide to become a pediatric and binocular vision optometrist?
I knew early on in my optometric education that I was interested in pediatrics and binocular vision optometry. In my second year of optometry school I started a collaboration with a school-based vision clinic in Cincinnati obtaining data to use for my master’s degree. Also, during optometry school, I worked part-time as a vision therapist for 3 years.
What do you enjoy about being a pediatric and binocular vision optometrist?
I love being able to advocate for children and their vision. Children don’t often speak up to their parents or teachers that they are struggling with seeing, which usually results in poor academic performance. Being able to catch these problems early and help with glasses and/or vision therapy can have a huge impact on their future.
I also work with a lot of adults with brain injuries which can severely impact their vision. These resulting vision conditions can make performing normal work and home tasks almost impossible and with the help of glasses and/or vision therapy, we can help them get back to their normal lives.
What is vision therapy?
Vision therapy is an individualized program to help patients develop or improve their fundamental visual skills. Vision therapy targets different visual systems including vergence (eye alignment and flexibility), accommodation (eye focusing), saccades/pursuits (eye tracking/movement), and visual perception. We achieve this using a variety of specifically designed equipment including lenses, prisms, computer-based systems and virtual reality based systems, and more.
Can vision therapy help with learning problems?
Yes. There are many visual skills used in the classroom. If the eye alignment is off, children may see double vision on the board or their books/computer. If they have poor flexibility, changing their focus and eye alignment from looking at the board down to their paper or tablets can be challenging.
If they have poor visual perception, difficulty in spelling, sounding out words, and letter reversals are common. Poor accommodation can cause headaches after reading or doing homework. If their eye tracking skills are deficient, they will often skip lines while reading resulting in poor comprehension and slow reading speeds. We can address all these issues with vision therapy which can help their performance in school.
Is there scientific evidence that vision therapy works?
Yes! There are many studies that show that vision therapy is effective and are readily available to the public. Some examples of great supporting research are:
- A Randomized Clinical Trial of Treatments for Symptomatic Convergence Insufficiency in Children (2009) Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial Investigator Group
- Improvement in academic behaviors after successful treatment of convergence insufficiency (2012) Borsting E, Mitchell GL, Kulp MT, Scheiman M, Amster DM, Cotter S, Coulter RA, Fecho G, Gallaway MF, Granet D, Hertle R, Rodena J, Yamada T; CITT Study Group.
- The Effect of Saccadic Training on Early Reading Fluency (2014) Danielle F. Leong, OD, Christina L. Master, MD, Leonard V. Messner, OD, Yi Pang, OD, MD, PhD, Craig Smith, MD, Amaal J. Starling, MD
- Is visual memory predictive of below-average academic achievement in second through fourth graders? (2002) Kulp MT, Edwards KE, Mitchell GL.
- Frequency of Visual Deficits in Children With Developmental Dyslexia (2018) Aparna Raghuram, OD, PhD; Sowjanya Gowrisankaran, PhD; Emily Swanson, BS; David Zurakowski, MS, PhD; David G. Hunter, MD, PhD; Deborah P. Waber, PhD
Is vision therapy helpful for athletes? What is sports vision therapy?
Yes! Sports vision therapy is known to help improve performance and reduce chance of concussions. Dynamic visual skills used in sports include eye tracking, peripheral attention, vergence, accommodation, depth perception, contrast sensitivity, and more. In sports vision therapy, we work on developing or improving these skills.
Does vision therapy help with visual symptoms that results from traumatic brain injury, whiplash, stroke, concussions and other head injuries?
Yes! The most common visual symptoms after brain injuries are double vision, blurry vision, light sensitivity, headaches, and poor eye movements. This is because the connections between your brain and eyes are now impaired after your brain injury. Vision therapy can help build those connections back up to relieve symptoms.
What age should my child begin vision therapy?
There is no set age to begin vision therapy. Some conditions such as amblyopia are best treated during early years of childhood and visual conditions resulting in poor school performance should be treated early on. However, vision therapy is effective for all ages including adults.
What is your favorite patient story?
This is hard to choose because I have enjoyed everyone that I have worked with and helped. I have prescribed glasses to an infant and watched them be more attentive to their surroundings and seeing their parents’ faces clearly. I love hearing my vision therapy school-age children talk about how they now enjoy reading and are doing better in school after finishing their vision therapy program.
I have helped many concussion patients be able to get back to work sooner to help provide for their families by prescribing vision therapy. I have helped an amblyopic child who had been patching for over a year with little improvement to their vision achieve 20/20 vision after completing vision therapy. They are all my favorite stories!