Vision therapy is an integral part of optometric care devoted to developing, improving, and enhancing visual skills and visual processing skills. Vision therapy, an optometric specialty treatment, has been clinically shown to be an effective treatment for strabismus, amblyopia, accommodative disorders, binocular dysfunction, ocular motility dysfunctions, and perceptual-motor dysfunctions. These visual skills are controlled by the muscles inside and outside of the eye and are networked with the brain. Neuro-muscular abilities are learned and are developmental in nature. Weak visual skills will not improve over time without treatment. Binocularity, oculomotor skills, and eye-hand coordination can be retrained to perform more efficiently at almost any age. For those on the autism spectrum, vision therapy activities can be implemented to stimulate general visual arousal, eye movements, and the central visual system. The goals of treatment are to help the patient organize his/her visual space and gain peripheral stability so that he/she can better attend to and appreciate central vision, as well as to gain efficient eye coordination and visual processing skills.
What is Developmental Optometry?
Developmental optometry is an expanded area of optometric practice concerned with visual efficiency and the ability to properly process visual information. Developmental optometrists assess their patients to be sure they have developed the visual skills they need to adequately perform tasks required for work, school, and play. Such visual skills include visual fixation, eye movements, tracking, accommodation (eye focusing), and binocular vision. Visual processing skills necessary for learning include visual memory, visual discrimination, visual figure ground, and spatial relations. Additionally, eye-hand coordination, visual motor integration, bilateral integration, and reversal recognition skills are important. Combined, these skills make up the frame work that allows us to learn how to read, write, compute, comprehend, and maneuver through our environment.
Vision and Autism
Visual problems are very common among individuals on the autism spectrum. Autistic individuals have difficulty coordinating their central and peripheral vision. Autistic individuals may also ignore their peripheral environment and remain fixated on a central point of focus for excessive periods of time. Poor integration of central and peripheral vision can lead to difficulties with processing and integrating visual information. Motor, cognitive, speech, and perceptual abilities can also be affected when visual processing is interrupted.