By: Carla D. Adams, OD, FCOVD
WHAT IS THE VISION TRIANGLE?
Some parents have received a notice that their child needs a complete eye examination.
Parents often take their child to an optometrist and anxiously watch as they are asked to distinguish between lenses. “Which is better -1 or 2?” While a routine exam is a good start it should not be the only test for many students. Since vision and learning are closely linked, problems with vision can often interfere with learning. A routine eye exam alone will not always detect all problems that could affect good vision and thus good learning. Parents should be aware of the vision triangle. There are three types of vision exams, two of which are beyond the routine exam performed by eye doctors. By understanding the vision triangle, it will help avoid frustrations. Parents are armed with options if their child should have academic problems related to how he or she interprets what is being taught, especially if the problems persists with eyeglass.
ROUTINE EYE EXAMS
The first part of the vision triangle is the routine eye exam (just like the example above). Routine eye exams can detect sight imperfections such as near-sighted, far-sighted and astigmatism. Routine exams can also detect more complex problems such as crossed-eyes and lazy eyes. These conditions are often diagnosed during routine eye exams and respond well to eyeglasses and contact lenses. However, if eyeglasses cured all learning related problems, then there would be an overabundance of “A” students. Clear vision or having 20/20 sight is only part of the vision triangle. Unfortunately, most optometrists and ophthalmologists do not proceed further.
The second part of the vision triangle is centered on functional vision. To read smoothly, a child’s eyes must work well together. This is called binocularity. A depth perception test is one of several tests used to test this skill. Fine eye movements and focusing tests (accuracy, flexibility and stamina) should also be measured. There maybe deficits in this area if your child complains of reading problems such as eye strain, fluctuating vision that will not stay clear, words that float off the page or even headaches. Maybe you even suspect that one of your child’s eyes do not look straight. These types of deficits do not always respond well to eyeglasses or contact lenses which is why some students continue to have problems after a routine exam. Vision therapy is often a good approach to treating such problems. Typically, only a few eye doctors offer therapy. More will be discussed about vision therapy later.
The third and final part of the vision triangle is perceptual visual testing. Visual perception involves not only the eyes but also the brain and how it interprets and organizes information. This type of disorder surfaces around the age of 6 when children first learn to read. You should consider perceptual problems if your child tends to avoid reading and writing. Children with perceptual problems may reverse letters, print poorly and have trouble learning. Eye glasses alone do not solve perceptual problems. A vision therapy consultation with a pediatric optometrist is advised when learning problems persist.
What is Vision Therapy (V.T.)?
Just as eyeglasses and contact lenses work well to treat sight imperfections (i.e., near sightedness, far sightedness, etc.), functional and perceptual problems are often best treated with vision therapy. It is a type of physical therapy for the eyes. The purpose is to resolve visual problems that interfere with reading and learning. V.T. helps children develop or improve visual skills, read with efficiency and changes how a child processes or
interprets visual information.
Vision therapy is a progressive program of vision exercises or procedures performed under an optometrist’s supervision. The therapy sessions are individualized for each child. The meeting sessions are conducted in-office, once a week.
Following is a list of symptoms that often respond well to vision therapy:
• Blurred or double vision
• Headaches or eye strain
• Crossed eyes or strabismus
• Avoidance or dislike of reading
• Short attention span when reading
• Turning or tilting head to favor one eye
• Rubbing the eyes
• Slow reading speed
• Difficulty remembering what is read
• Omitting or repeating works or confusing letters
• Poor eye-hand coordination
• Losing one’s place while reading or using finger as a guide
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Dr. Carla Adams is a Developmental Optometrist with a specialization in pediatrics and vision therapy. Her training includes an emphasis on serving children with special needs. Dr. Adams is successful in treating children struggling in the classroom as well as children with attention deficit, PDD and autism. She is a partner of the Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley Jayne Shover Center in Elgin. Learn more about her care via www.optique-eyecare.com