Inbox: My VT Mailbag
About a month ago, I reached out to a few friends around Developmental Optometry and asked them to have patients, or perspective patients, submit questions to be answered online in a mailbag format. Here are a few of them.
My son has been in VT for close to six weeks and most of what we’ve done involves crawling on the floor and playing games with lenses. Is this normal?
–Connie B., Danbury, CT
If there’s one piece of information to glean from Connie’s question, it’s in the world of Vision Therapy there is no such thing as “normal”. Just as every patient is an individual, every treatment plan is individualized. Surely, Connie, your child is in good hands and his treatment is aimed at improving his particular challenges. If you are unclear as to the process in place, it’s never a bad idea to ask a few questions of those involved. Most doctors and vision therapists are happy to explain and engage parents in the process. After all, successful VT programs truly are a team effort.
Can you explain how primitive reflexes play into Vision Therapy?
–Nancy P., Phoenix, AZ
I seriously could write an entire blog post on the subject. In short, Primitive Reflexes are considered developmental building blocks in the human experience. In some instances, the lack of appropriate integration during childhood development can hinder a person in later stages of growth, which includes visual development. If you’re so inclined, check out Reflexes, Learning and Behavior by Sally Goddard. It’s an easy read and lays things out nicely. Another place to look for written literature is the website of the Optometric Education Program Foundation.
My daughter was diagnosed with strabismus and amblyopia last month and my husband and I have been searching for the right way to help her. Our ophthalmologist recommended surgery and proclaimed that is the only solution that will work. We went to a VT office and were told not to have the surgery, but instead to try Vision Therapy. My husband has a great job and money is not really an issue. We just want what’s best for our child and we literally have been going in circles with what to do. Can you help?
–Ashley D., Oak Hill, IL
Rest assured, Ashley, your frustration is not lost on me. In truth, your question is actually quite common. My belief is parents should be as educated as they can be before making a major decision about their child’s health, including the surgical kind. Although intended as a cure, applying anesthesia and cutting muscle with a scalpel has risks and ramifications which I encourage you to fully understand before you proceed. As you reach your own decision, you might research the effectiveness of the type of surgery you’re considering, the rate of recurrence (often times as a child grows, a second and third surgery is required), as well as if the solution you’re considering is heading towards a cosmetic solution, a functional solution, or both. Although the cosmetic results are not as immediate when achieved through Vision Therapy, intervening through a non-invasive process delivers success with the risk/reward scale tilted greatly in our favor – a benefit surgery doesn’t offer. When treating strabismus, Vision Therapy “teaches” the eyes to work together with exercises done under specific conditions. The brain literally re-learns how to see through the process.
In some cases, the unification of treatment options (Vision Therapy in combination with surgery) is considered. You may want to explore this idea with both doctors to gain a better understanding of your options.
During our VT program, we were sent home with a colored light and told to stare at it for 10 minutes per day. Do you know what this is for?
–David B., Beaumont, TX
I believe you’re referring to Syntonic Phototherapy. This from their website:
Syntonics or optometric phototherapy, is the branch of ocular science dealing with the application of selected light frequencies through the eyes. It has been used clinically for over 70 years in the field of optometry with continued success in the treatment of visual dysfunctions, including strabismus (eye turns), amblyopia (lazy eye), focusing and convergence problems, learning disorders, and the aftereffects of stress and trauma. In recent years, Syntonics has been shown to be effective in the treatment of brain injuries and emotional disorders.
You can read more here.
In your opinion, is there a wrong time to have Vision Therapy?
–Kelly B., Fremont, CA
The decision to treat a patient in Vision Therapy belongs to the doctor, as it is a medical intervention. There’s not really another side to that coin.
My son is two years old and has esotropia. His doctor recommended Vision Therapy but I am worried he is too young. Is it better to wait? How young is too young?
–Maria K., Veneta, OR
Your concerns are important, Maria, and should be expressed to your doctor. I have such incredible faith in the instincts of parents and my feeling is you cannot over communicate your thoughts and concerns. It’s safe to assume since your doctor referred your son into VT the comfort level on the medical end is high, so take comfort there. Still, successful VT is truly a team effort and your understanding of, and comfort with, the process is crucial. That said, I’ve seen patients as young as 12 months benefit from VT as well as patients well into their 70’s. Don’t let your son’s age be a deterrent.
Is Vision Therapy offered worldwide or just in the US?
–Amir A., Dhaka, Bangladesh
Vision Therapy is worldwide, with a large concentration of Developmental Optometrists practicing in the US. You can visit the websites of COVD, OEPF, and NORA and use their “Find a Doctor” function to conduct a search. In the event Developmental Optometrists in your country are not members of these organizations and do not appear on any of these websites, you may benefit from contacting the governing body for optometry in your country and asking how to find a doctor who offers Vision Therapy.
Thanks to all who submitted questions for the maiden voyage of this mailbag. Your participation is greatly appreciated! Let’s keep it going! 🙂
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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in this mailbag are mine alone and are not subject to approval by a Developmental Optometrist or other medical personnel. This blog post is intended as informational only, and should in NO WAY be taken as medical advice, or taken in the place of medical advice. For individualized diagnosis and treatment of a visual condition, please consult a Developmental Optometrist.