As a 3rd year intern entering clinic for the first time, I was excited and looking forward to patient encounters that involved ocular diseases and contact lenses. The thought of vision therapy instantly brought a dark cloud of boredom into my life because the idea of doing repetitive visual assignments did not sound as interesting as managing glaucoma, corneal ectasias, or diabetic retinopathy. However, it all changed during my clinical experience during the fall of my 3rd year.
That term, I worked with a 9 year old white male in the 5th grade whose visual problems included poor saccadic eye movements and visual perceptual skills which ultimately interfered with his academic performance in school. At the initial consultation, we performed some diagnostic tests including the Developmental Eye Movement (DEM) Test and Test for Visual Perceptual Skills (TVPS) which all correlated with his concerns. During therapy sessions, we incorporated activities such as Michigan Tracking, Hart Chart Saccades, and perceptual building worksheets to address his deficient skills. After some weeks of in office and home therapy, there were both subjective and objective improvements. That term, I also worked with post traumatic brain injury and developmentally delayed patients who achieved positive results.
I learned that vision therapy and rehabilitation is so much more than just patching lazy eyes. It is a customized program comprised of activities to improve poor visual skills for individuals of all ages. Without the use of invasive or surgical techniques, vision therapy and rehabilitation work to correct the flaws present in the visual system. Individuals with learning-related visual problems, poor binocular vision, vergence and accommodative anomalies, brain injuries, cerebrovascular accidents, poor ocular alignment, diplopia, and headaches may benefit significantly from these services.
As future eye doctors, it is important to provide our patients with complete care, including visual therapeutics. What will you do for the amblyopic young patient at risk for strabismus or the post traumatic brain injury patient experiencing convergence difficulties during reading? While patching and prisms may seem like the most obvious methods, it is important to address the core issue for long term success. As optometry students, we have the opportunity to explore more about vision therapy and rehabilitation at little or no cost in course lectures, continuing education sessions, and memberships in professional organizations, like the Vision Rehabilitation Section (VRS) of the American Optometric Association. By actively and thoroughly investigating this sub-discipline, we are preparing ourselves for those unusual patient cases that may come into our practices. The time is now to get ready. If you’re interested in VT and vision rehab, join the AOA-VRS today (membership is FREE for students)!
Breanne McGhee, Pacific University College of Optometry, 2016
AOSA VRS National Student Liaison