Visual processing – what do you mean?

The brain and nervous system integrates information from all the different senses: visual, auditory, smell, taste, proprioception and vestibular. It is a deluge of information that needs to be filtered and processed. For various reasons, this filtering system can develop glitches and sensory processing can become over regulated or under regulated. An example, some individuals are highly susceptible to light and glare, highly dependent on sunglasses and tints whereas other individuals need extra light to function well.

Are there other skills that need to be improved and not just vision?

Most definitely, depending on the situation.  Sensory processing is built on a foundation of good motor system development and integrating the body midlines amongst other things such as educational and language experiences. Cellular metabolism is important, so addressing various lifestyle factors is beneficial (hydration/nutrition/ natural light and environment etc). It is more than vision and a goal is to develop solid foundations for higher level sensory processing to work more easily.

What should parents look out for when they come in for the eye exam with their child?

As we assess things like eye movements and tracking in the exam room, it is useful for parents to observe their child’s posture and head position as well as the effort required to answer the various eye tests. Fast, accurate, automatic answers are a higher-level performance.

What is vision therapy?

Vision therapy is a form of brain training to improve visual skills, spatial awareness and self-awareness of where the eyes are pointing in space.  It requires repetition and motivation and is not a quick fix. Developing visual thinking skills is a key feature and the intent of vision therapy is not about eye muscle strength or lazy muscles.

Is behavioural optometry a quick fix?

Occasionally lenses can provide a strong improvement in near vision performance, this can include tracking speed, ability to organise and process information on the page as well as reducing eye strain. The type of lenses I am talking about are low plus powered reading lenses, prisms and/or precision colour tints. Assessment to determine whether this will assist near vision and what type of lens to use is quite involved and takes extra test time. Lenses are not a complete answer to all kinds of learning problems.

Do you diagnose dyslexia or Irlen Syndrome?

No. Dyslexia is most often described as a language-based disorder. This terminology is used by educational psychologists as well as educators trained in specific learning difficulties. Optometrists assess vision, eye health and visual processing, not language-based disorders or difficulties with phonemic awareness.