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Vision therapy, also known as visual training, vision training, or visual therapy, is a method attempting to correct or improve presumed ocular, visual processing, and perceptual disorders." [1] Vision therapy encompasses a wide variety of non-surgical methods[2] which some have divided into two broad categories: 1) orthoptic vision therapy, also known as orthoptics, and 2) behavioral vision therapy, also known as behavioral or developmental optometry.[1]

Orthoptics aims to treat binocular vision disorders such as amblyopia, strabismus, and diplopia. It is practiced by optometrists and ophthalmologists, as well as orthoptists under the guidance of some ophthalmologists and pediatric ophthalmologists.

Behavioral vision therapy is practiced primarily by optometrists who have specialized in this field. It attempts to treat additional problems including difficulties of visual attention and concentration, which are said to manifest as an inability to sustain focus or to shift focus from one area of space to another. The ability to shift the focus of visual attention from one place in space to another is a visual ability that affects many aspects of life including reading, most vocations and most avocations. Eye doctors may also prescribe vision therapy to sufferers from eye strain and visually-induced headaches. However, not all such therapy is limited to disorders of the visual system. Professional athletes, for example, may use vision therapy to enhance peripheral vision on the playing field or increase responsiveness to fast moving objects.


The concept of vision therapy was introduced in the late nineteenth century for the non-surgical treatment of misaligned eyes. This early and traditional form of vision therapy is what is now known as orthoptics. Collaboration of some eye care professionals with educators and neuroscientists produced an expansion of vision therapy into the treatment of other eye teaming (binocular) deficits (the use of the flow through the right and left eyes simultaneously to the brain) as well as dysfunctions in visual focusing, perception, tracking and motor skills.

As a result of this expansion and ensuing confusion over what the term "vision therapy" includes, there is some controversy as to the use of vision therapy for individuals with learning disorders.


Major optometric organizations, including the American Optometric Association, the American Academy of Optometry, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, and the Optometric Extension Program, support the assertion that vision therapy does not directly treat learning disorders, but rather addresses underlying visual problems which are claimed to affect learning potential.[3]

Advocates cite a number of indications for the use of vision therapy. Some assert that poor eye tracking affects reading skills, and that improving tracking can improve reading.[4]


In 1988, a review of 238 scientific articles was published in the Journal of the American Optometric Association defining vision therapy as "a clinical approach for correcting and ameliorating the effects of eye movement disorders, non-strabismic binocular dysfunctions, focusing disorders, strabismus, amblyopia, nystagmus, and certain visual perceptual (information processing) disorders." The paper concluded, "It is evident from the research that there is scientific support for the efficacy of vision therapy in modifying and improving oculomotor, accommodative, and binocular system disorders, as measured by standardized clinical and laboratory testing methods for patients of all ages for whom it is properly undertaken and employed."[5]

Convergence insufficiency is a common binocular vision disorder characterized by asthenopia, eye fatigue and discomfort.[6] Asthenopia may be aggravated by close work and is thought by some to contribute to reading inefficiency.[1] In 2005, the Convergence Insufficency Treatment Trial published two large, randomized clincal studies examining the efficacy of orthoptic vision therapy in the treatment of symptomatic convergence insufficiency. Although neither study examined reading efficiency or comprehension, both demonstrated that in-office vision therapy was more effective than "pencil pushups" (a commonly prescribed home-based treatment) for improving the symptoms of asthenopia and the convergence ability of the eyes.[7][8] The design and results of at least one of these studies has been met with some reservation, questioning the conclusion as to whether intensive office-based treatment programs are truly more efficacious than a properly implemented home-based regimen.[9]


In 1998, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Ophthalmology, and American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus issued a policy statement regarding the use of vision therapy specifically for the treatment of learning problems and dyslexia. According to the statement: "No scientific evidence exists for the efficacy of eye exercises ('vision therapy')... in the remediation of these complex pediatric neurological conditions." [10] In 2004, the American Academy of Ophthalmology released a similar position statement asserting that there is no evidence that vision therapy retards the progression of myopia, that it improves visual function in those with hyperopia or astigmatism, or that it improves vision lost through disease processes.[11]

Although skeptics assert that vision therapists may have a financial bias in proclaiming the efficacy of the practice[12], proponents of vision therapy claim that other eye professionals have a similar bias in rejecting its claims.[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 American Academy of Ophthalmology. Complementary Therapy Assessment: Vision Therapy for Learning Disabilities. Retrieved August 2, 2006.
  2. Aetna. Aetna Clinical Policy Bulletins: Vision Therapy. Retrieved August 2, 2006.
  3. "Vision, learning and dyslexia. A joint organizational policy statement of the American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association." J Am Optom Assoc. 1997 May;68(5):284-6. PMID 9170793.
  5. The 1986/1987 Future of Visual Development/Performance Task Force. "Special Report: The efficacy of optometric vision therapy." J Am Optom Assoc. 1988;59:95-105. PMID 3283203
  6. Bartiss M. "Convergence Insufficiency." Retrieved August 2, 2006.
  7. Scheiman M, Mitchell GL, Cotter S, Cooper J, Kulp M, Rouse M, Borsting E, London R, Wensveen J; Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial Study Group. "A randomized clinical trial of treatments for convergence insufficiency in children." Arch Ophthalmol. 2005 Jan;123(1):14-24. PMID 15642806.
  8. Scheiman M, Mitchell GL, Cotter S, Kulp MT, Cooper J, Rouse M, Borsting E, London R, Wensveen J. "A randomized clinical trial of vision therapy/orthoptics versus pencil pushups for the treatment of convergence insufficiency in young adults." Optom Vis Sci. 2005 Jul;82(7):583-95. PMID 16044063.
  9. Kushner BJ. "The treatment of convergence insufficiency." Arch Ophthalmol. 2005 Jan;123(1):100-1. PMID 15642819.
  10. American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, American Academy of Ophthalmology. "Policy Statement: Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision" September, 1998.
  11. American Academy of Ophthalmology. Complementary Therapy Assessment: Vision Training for Refractive Errors. Retrieved August 2, 2006.
  12. Worrall, RS; Nevyas, J; Barrett, S. "Eye-Related Quackery." Quackwatch. Retrieved August 2, 2006
  13. Cooper, R. "Why would some ophthalmologists and their organizations claim that vision therapy doesn't work?"

See also

  • College of Optometrists in Vision Development
  • Optometric Extension Program

External links

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