Over the last few weeks, several people have reached out to me with questions about the information behind and the importance of the visual perceptual testing most Developmental Optometry offices offer. Although the level of questions received vary from beginner to fairly in depth, the need for understanding is evident. I am in no way an expert in the area, but I have been around a while so, as always, I’ll share my perspective.
As an isolated process, I’ve grown less and less fond of perceptual testing because, in all fairness, it’s just a snapshot of a patient’s life and performance abilities. When pressed, sometimes I’ll quip that testing is two hours spent in a doctor’s office for people who generally dislike going to the doctor, with a stranger who you know is watching you, usually in the most visually non-stimulating environment we could create, performing a bunch of tasks which feel like school, and at the end of it all we get to discover what the patient has been saying all along in their own way. Learning is tough!
Now, go do your best!
Personal feelings aside, it’s quite true that visual perceptual testing is a crucial step in the diagnostic process, like it or not. It’s designed, in most cases, to measure the level of impact to the visual collection and processing mechanism and does offer a starting point for Vision Therapy. Along with performance challenges, it also demonstrates what a person can do, which should not be overlooked. When a patient or a parent asks me about their testing results, I will discuss their areas of strength as much, if not more than, their areas of weakness. In my mind, this is necessary because so much in their life is built upon the negative and what they cannot do. They can’t spell, they can’t add, they can’t remember what they read, or they can’t catch a ball.
OK, fine. But what can they do? What do they enjoy? What skill, visual or otherwise, can we build upon? Where do they feel success? Does the testing demonstrate those areas? Sometimes it means we talk about how the patient completed the testing without becoming frustrated or throwing their pencil across the room.
Don’t laugh. It’s happened to me a few times!
Over the next few weeks, the idea here will be to look at and share some ideas for the more common tests used in Developmental Optometry, and in particular, offices I’ve been a part of. My goal is not to decode every step of the administration nor to create a step-by-step instruction manual re-write. Rather, to offer some insight on the intangibles which can be gleaned from each examination exercise, the observations which have proven valuable in my world, and the areas each test seems to truly be analyzing.