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Is Vision Therapy Scientifically Proven?

Yes. Having received Vision Therapy myself and seeing hundreds of children benefit from therapy, I have the personal and professional experience to assure my patients that Vision Therapy is highly effective on children with visual learning deficits causing symptoms such as headaches, double vision, loss of place when reading, slow reading, poor handwriting, poor comprehension, and poor school performance. Rightly so, parents and school district administrators should take a deeper look into the effectiveness of Vision Therapy before committing resources.

Scientific Research on Vision Therapy

Vision Therapy has been practiced for decades and is well researched and proven to improve children with Visual Learning Disabilities. You can read a more comprehensive description and a list of Vision Therapy research at these websites:

All About Vision Therapy Studies
Vision Therapy.Org References
COPD Research

U.S. Guidelines on Treatment for Visual Learning Disabilities

In order to provide your student with the care they deserve, I carefully follow the recommended clinical practice guidelines laid out for our country by the American Optometric Association. In my profession, I am bound to uphold a standard of care that includes treatment or referral of Visual Efficiency and Visual Information Processing Disorders. These guidelines lay out the foundation for Vision Therapy as practiced by myself and thousands of doctors across America, and include over 400 studies in their Reference section. Here is an exerpt from the Clinical Practice Guideline:

'An accommodative or vergence dysfunction can have a negative effect on a child's school performance, especially after third grade when the child must read smaller print and reading demands increase. Due to discomfort, the child may not be able to complete reading or homework assignments and may be easily distracted or inattentive.'

- Clinical Guidelines for Vision Therapy in the U.S.

The U.S. Clinical Guidelines are available for public viewing online. These are highly technical but please do take a look at the massive references section which gives great credence to our program. Links to the full clinical guidelines:

U.S. Clinical Guidelines for Vision Therapy Pt 1
U.S. Clinical Guidelines for Vision Therapy Pt 2

Excerpts from Scientific Research

To assist you in your professional assessment of Vision Therapy as a viable treatment for the visual learning disabilities that your student has been diagnosed with, please see the next page (backside) for excerpts from published research on Vision Therapy.

Randomized Clinical Trial of Treatments for Symptomatic Convergence Insufficiency in Children
Arch Ophthalmol. 2008; 126(10):1336-1349. doi:10.1001/archopht.126.10.1336. NCT00338611.
'Twelve weeks of OBVAT [office based vision therapy with home reinforcement] results in a significantly greater improvement in symptoms and clinical measures ' and a greater percentage of patients reaching the predetermined criteria of success compared with HBPP [home based vision therapy], HBCVAT+ [home based computer therapy], and OBPT [placebo therapy with home reinforcement].'

Comparison of visual skills training and reading skills training for reading improvement in students reading below grade level
Maureen K. Powers, PhD. Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology meeting; May 1-5, 2016; Seattle.
'Researchers measured binocular skills, consisting of convergence fatigue, blur at near, tracking symptoms and reading efficiency, before and after the training. They found that symptoms (or comfort level), developmental eye movement tracking and reading all improved in the visual skills training group.'

Vision in children and Adolescents with Autistic Spectrum Disorder
Milne E, Griffiths H, Buckley A and Scope A. J AUTISM DEV DISORD 2009:39(7):965-75.
'The study sample included 51 individuals with ASD and 44 typically developing (TD) controls with no history of developmental or neuropsychiatric disorders. ' Base out fusion range of ASD group was significantly lower than that of the TD group. The participants with ASD had significantly receded NPC compared to the TD group. All of the participants with reduced (>10.5cm) or abnormal (>12cm) NPC were low functioning. ' The findings provide support for a convergence abnormality in ASD.'

Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial
Scheiman M, Et Al. Optom Vis Sci. 2010 Aug;87(8):593-603. doi: 10.1097. PMID: 20543758
'In a randomized clinical trial, 221 children aged 9 to 17 years with symptomatic CI were assigned to home-based pencil push-ups (HBPP), home-based computer vergence/accommodative therapy and pencil push-ups (HBCVAT+), office-based vergence/accommodative therapy with home reinforcement (OBVAT), or office-based placebo therapy with home reinforcement (OBPT). ' The rate of improvement is more rapid for clinical signs (NPC and PFV) than for symptoms in children undergoing treatment for CI. OBVAT results in a more rapid improvement in symptoms, NPC and PFV, and a greater percentage of patients reaching pre-determined criteria of success when compared with HBPP, HBCVAT+, or OBPT.'

The Efficacy of Optometric Vision Therapy
Future of Visual Development/Performance Task Force. J Am Optom Assoc 1988;59(2):95'105.
In this comprehensive report of studies, a task force of the American Optometric Association compiled a comprehensive list of studies and reports that support the efficacy of vision therapy. Two hundred thirty-eight references are cited to support their position. Numerous ophthalmology documents are listed in the rebuttal. Most of the references sited support the efficacy of optometric vision therapy (OVT) related to accommodation, binocular disorders, strabismus and amblyopia.

Much like other forms of therapy, Vision Therapy is often overlooked. Since therapy is performed mostly in small clinical settings, Vision Therapists lack the marketing and reach of pharmaceutical companies. Although schools legally have a duty to pay the costs of therapy for children with an individualized education program, it can sometimes feel like a battle to get your child the care they need. This is because symptoms related to Vision Therapy aren't as readily apparent as symptoms relating to Occupational, Speech, or Physical therapy. It is much easier to dismiss a child's poor control over their eyes than to dismiss poor control over speech or gross motor function, because speech impediments and gross motor impediments are more outwardly visible. Yet a child's ability to control their eyes is of great importance for their success. Educating parents, teachers, and IEP managers on the importance of our eyes is essential to helping the next generation of children in their personal learning process.

Lysle Shaw-McMinn, O.D.

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Written for Our Blog on June 6, 2016


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