Never heard of behavioral optometry? Well, many people haven’t, although as part of the Rebuild Your Vision family, you are already contributing to this burgeoning field.
This growing subspecialty of optometry uses vision therapy – eye exercises performed in the doctor’s office and at home – to go beyond the usual concerns of vision care and treat “reading problems, learning problems, spelling problems, attention problems, hyperactivity, and coordination problems,” according to Visionandlearning.org, a behavioral optometry Web site.
It can also treat a child who experiences “trouble in sports,” who “frustrates easily,” displays “poor motivation,” and “does not work well on his/her own.”
How is this possible?
Behavioral optometrists believe that these kinds of behaviors, as well as poor performance during visual tasks, are a sign of nonoptimal visual skills. According to Dr. Stanley Appelbaum, author of Eye Power: A Cutting-edge Report on Vision Therapy, this unique approach to understanding the role of the eyes in thinking and learning involves “how eyes work together and move together and process information and store information and do something with the information.”
Therefore, so-called behavioral problems can be tackled from the standpoint of getting the eyes and brain to work together better.
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is a good example. As a child, he did not do well in school and was a poor athlete. But his grandfather began to use vision drills, such as asking his grandson to balance on a board while trying to track a dot, or walk on a wood rail while focusing on an object. This vision training was designed to improve perception, hand-eye coordination, reflexes, focus, and more; Fitzgerald credits it for his successes, both on and off the field.
Appelbaum himself suffered from chronic headaches as a child, and thus hated to read. In optometry school he discovered he had “convergence insufficiency,” a condition characterized by eyes that don’t turn in together, affecting close work such as reading. He was treated with eye exercises, and his headaches disappeared. Now he loves to read.
According to the American Optometric Association, “Studies indicate that 60 percent of children identified as ‘problem learners’ actually suffer from undetected vision problems and in some cases have been inaccurately diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.”
And, as a recent New York Times article noted, “Many behavioral optometrists say that 20 to 25 percent of children overall have vision problems that can impede their ability to reach their potential. These problems commonly include: poor eye-movement control or ‘tracking issues,’ problems with accommodation (when the eyes don’t focus well together or sustain focus at various distances), convergence insufficiency, difficulties sustaining visual attention, poor visual-motor integration (bad hand-eye coordination), weak visual form perception (the ability to reproduce and generalize shapes) and poor visual memory.”
If behavioral optometry can help even a fraction of these kids reach their potential – and there is experiential evidence that it can – then this exciting new field has the potential to revolutionize the lives of millions. It’s exciting to know that you are part of this change.