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Vision Therapy

Should My Child See An Occupational Therapist Or A Vision Therapist?

vision therapy 640Parents of a child struggling to keep up at school will do almost anything to get their child the help they need. But parents don’t always know what kind of help the child needs, and from whom.

School administrators often recommend that parents bring their children to an occupational therapist (OT) to help cope with behavioral or learning problems, not realizing that the problems may stem from underdeveloped visual skills, which can be improved with a program of vision therapy (VT).

Below, we’ll explain how OT and VT differ, and offer some guidance for parents and educators. For more information or to schedule an appointment for your child, contact Hartsdale Family Eyecare today.

What’s the Difference Between OT and VT?

The truth is that OT and VT have a notable amount of overlap, but there are a few key differences.

Occupational therapists help people of all ages to gain/regain the ability to perform various daily tasks through the use of sensory-motor exercises and interventions. OT aims to improve gross and fine motor coordination, balance, tactile awareness, bilateral awareness, and hand-eye coordination.

Vision therapists help children and adults with poor visual skills to improve the functioning of the visual system and strengthen the eye-brain connection. Doing so can alleviate many symptoms like headaches, eye strain, dizziness, and even anxiety.

Examples of visual skills are eye teaming, tracking, focusing, depth perception, visual processing, and visual-motor skills.

How does a visual deficit look in a real world situation?

A child (even with 20/20 eyesight) may need to read a sentence several times in order to understand its meaning, or tilt their head to read the whiteboard, or may try to avoid doing any visually demanding activities. Poor performance in school and on the playing field can often be attributed to visual skill deficits.

Which Therapy Is Right For Your Child?

If a child’s visual system is the underlying cause of behavioral or learning problems, then a personalized vision therapy program may be all they need to get back on track.

So, when should you consider vision therapy for your child? The answer is simple.

If your child is struggling in school or while playing sports, have them evaluated by a vision therapist first. If they have any trouble performing visually demanding tasks like homework, reading, spelling, sports, or complain of headaches — bring them to a vision therapist for an evaluation.

The bottom line is this: no other practitioner can offer the same quality and expertise as a doctor of optometry when it comes to healing the visual system.

OT’s sometimes perform visual exercises with children, but only an eye doctor experienced in vision therapy can prescribe therapeutic lenses, prisms, and filters that greatly enhance the healing process.

It’s also important to note that not every optometrist is trained in vision therapy. You’ll want to choose an eye doctor with experience in diagnosing and treating people of all ages with all types of visual dysfunction.

Additionally, even if your child passes the school’s vision screening, they may still have a problem with visual processing and other skills. School vision screenings only test for visual acuity (eyesight) and neglect the other very important visual skills that enable a child to succeed.

Since the visual system is highly integrated with other systems, an interdisciplinary approach is often the most effective. OT and VT don’t always have to be undertaken simultaneously, but some children benefit from this type of holistic approach.

If your child is struggling with learning or behavioral problems, their vision could be an underlying cause or contributing factor. To schedule your child’s functional visual evaluation, contact Hartsdale Family Eyecare today.

Frequently Asked Questions with Our Vision Therapist

Q: My child is struggling in school. Should I have his/her eyes examined?

  • A: A comprehensive eye examination by an optometrist can often determine if there are visual issues interfering with a child’s ability to perform in school. Many visual symptoms, some obvious, others less so, can contribute to a child’s poor academic achievement. Some of these issues can be alleviated with a good pair of eyeglasses while others may require vision therapy. All the doctors at Eye Vision Associates are trained in the diagnosis of vision related learning problems.

Q: What are some of the learning difficulties a child may encounter if they have vision issues?

  • A: Children may have difficulty reading if their near vision is blurry or the words jump around the page. Older children may have difficulty copying from the board at the front of the class or may struggle with math homework that has multiple questions on the page.

We encourage you to contact Hartsdale Family Eyecare today for a vision therapy evaluation to assess if their vision is what has held them back in their studies.

Hartsdale Family Eyecare serves patients from Hartsdale, Westchester, White Plains, and Scarsdale, all throughout New York.


 

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Why vision therapy comes before tutoring or a learning center

Teacher eyeglasses 1280 x 853Our parental instinct naturally wants to find the fastest solution & often the first options for a child who struggles in the classroom are either a tutor or a learning center. However, not every solution to a learning problem can be solved by forcing extra hours of the same material.

One of the foundations of vision therapy is how we educate parents to recognize that when their child has a tantrum, gets easily frustrated, and can’t continue with homework, maybe very bright and intelligent in other areas. The issue might not have anything to do with the child’s intelligence. In fact, many parents who find out about vision therapy have already enrolled their child in various programs only to discover that something a lot more basic was the source of the child’s setbacks – their vision.

Why aren’t parents brought to vision therapy from the beginning?

There are various reasons why vision therapy may not have been recommended to you initially or perhaps have never heard about it until now.

  1. Vision therapy is a unique program that only some optometrists specialize in and offer at their clinics. Therefore, not all eye doctors when performing their eye exam will be on the lookout for a vision problem in your child.
  2. There’s a lot of competition in this field. Tutoring and learning centers offer a lot of value, and they’re often large institutions trying to win over your business.
  3. Other practitioners may not have had the education or years of training to specialize in vision therapy, but they will attempt ‘eye exercises” on their own to solve the problem. While there may be some benefits from this, without having the necessary training you’re not going to solve the problem appropriately.
  4. Because vision therapy is an out-of-pocket expense, parents try to turn to cheaper means or hope the problems will simply go away as the child grows older.

With factors like the ones shared, many children continue their years at school without ever treating their vision problem until the problem becomes too severe to cope or they reach adulthood & discover what was holding them back the entire time.

Plus, some parents consider their child in 1st or 2nd grade too early to start vision therapy. The child is starting to read & pronounce the words now, so who says it’s a vision problem that won’t go away? Unfortunately, in scenarios like this, a child with a vision problem who reaches 3rd, 4th, or even 5th grade falls behind the class as the foundational visual skills were never developed. The child may be able to pronounce words & run through sentences, but they will lack comprehension. For people with normal vision, it’s difficult to understand how someone can read through a page & not remember what they read. Children end up learning to read but never reading to learn.

Why Vision Therapy Should Be Your 1st Priority

Fortunately, vision therapy is well researched & supported with multitudes of success stories over the years. Plus, a developmental optometrist who specializes in vision therapy has ways to accurately test your child’s various visual skills & identify whether vision therapy is needed. There’s no guesswork involved. This means that your child will achieve normal, functional vision at the end of therapy, and in many cases, they become amazing readers, sports players, and happy to learn.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Arlene Schwartz

Q: Can you request lenses made from glass? Is glass still used for lenses?

  • A: Yes. Opticians still sometimes use glass for lenses. However, glass is not used very often because they aren’t as safe. If these glass lenses breaks, they can shatters into many pieces and can injure the eye. Glass lenses are much heavier than plastic lenses, so they can make your eyeglasses less comfortable to wear.

Q: Can a coating be added to eyeglasses to protect them from further scratches?

  • A: A protective coating can’t be added to a lens after it’s scratched. The coating is applied when the lens is manufactured and can’t be put on later.

Quality Frames For Prescription Eyeglasses & Computer Glasses In Hartsdale, New York. Visit Hartsdale Family Eyecare for an eye exam and eyeglasses that match your style.