There’s a lot of confusion about what vision therapy is, and what it can help with. Some parents may have heard it can help with dyslexia. But there’s no evidence to support that.
That’s because dyslexia is a problem with language, not with vision. Studies do suggest, however, that vision therapy may help with certain vision problems that can affect a child’s ability to see, such as convergence insufficiency (CI). CI is a vision disorder in which the eyes do not work together easily. It can result in trouble with learning, but it’s a different issue than dyslexia.
Learn more about vision therapy, and why it’s not recommended to treat dyslexia.
Vision therapy is a type of eye training. It’s intended to help with vision problems or vision disorders. These problems may impact the ability to read, but they aren’t the same as dyslexia.
Vision therapy starts with a complete eye exam. This is different from eye exams given in schools, which test mainly for distance vision. A complete exam tests factors like visual acuity, which is the term for sharpness or clarity of vision. The exam also looks for lazy eye (amblyopia) and other problems like CI that can affect the eyes’ ability to focus on a nearby object.
After the eye exam, a vision therapy plan is created that may include the following activities:
Wearing an eye patch during part of the therapy session
Looking through prisms
Doing letter-finding puzzles
Wearing tinted glasses or placing tinted plastic over reading material
Visual therapy sessions usually last an hour and take place once or twice a week. Depending on the child’s issues, therapy may be recommended for three months to a year. The therapist may also prescribe eye exercises the child can do at home with the parents’ supervision.
Who provides vision therapy
Optometrists may prescribe some types of eye exercises to treat CI and other eye conditions. But be wary of practitioners who claim that vision therapy can treat some learning and thinking differences. Treating vision problems can make reading more comfortable, but it won’t make it any easier to decode or “sound out” the letters.
Several highly regarded organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, issued a joint statement on vision therapy and dyslexia. The statement says scientific evidence does not support vision therapy as a treatment for dyslexia.
It’s true that untreated vision problems such as CI can affect a child’s ability to read and learn. However, vision problems are not the cause of dyslexia. Dyslexia affects the brain’s ability to sound out letters, not the ability to see them.
If you’re concerned about your child’s vision, start by seeing an ophthalmologist or optometrist for a complete eye exam. If your child doesn’t have vision problems but is struggling with reading, talk to your child’s school or doctor about getting a comprehensive evaluation. And if you’re specifically concerned your child might have dyslexia, find out what to do next.
If you do decide to pursue vision therapy, keep in mind that it can be expensive. Your health insurance provider also may not cover vision therapy.