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Vision Therapy for Dyslexia: Help or Hype?

Is Vision Therapy Effective in Treating Visual Processing Disorders and Learning Disabilities Like Dyslexia?

While many cases of dyslexia are traceable to processing disorders in the brain's language center, some dyslexic children also have physical problems with their vision. Given this fact, vision therapy is a term that many parents encounter as they seek to discover the best way to help a child who struggles to learn. A whole industry of visual therapies has arisen in recent years, each of which claims to improve dyslexia and a wide range of behavioral or visual processing disorders. It’s important to thoughtfully evaluate these therapies, because they range from the medically valid to the unsubstantiated.

The Medical Viewpoint

While physicians do not always support the premises or promises of vision therapy for processing disorders, because many families feel good about the effects of vision therapy, it's definitely worth consideration. The New York Times Magazine wrote an in-depth article that looked at both sides of vision therapy.

An Optometric Exam is a Reasonable First Step

The American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association put out a joint statement on diagnosing and treating visually-based dyslexia. In this statement, these eye-care leaders declare that anyone (child or adult) with learning-related issues should receive a comprehensive optometric examination as part of evaluating their special needs.  A child’s eyesight should never be ignored as a possible cause of reading challenges. There are various corrective therapies and eye wear available to treat organic problems with eyesight.

Perfect Eyesight Does Not Always Mean Perfect Visual Processing

However, 20/20 vision is not the only factor that matters when it comes to visual processing. In fact, according to Dr. Robert Melillo, author of Disconnected Kids and co-founder of the Brain Balance Program, it's the least important function of the eye and the visual system. If the two hemispheres of the brain are not in sync, the occipital lobes of the eyes are desynchoronized causing eye tracking, convergence and divergence issues. These visual processing issues can cause challenges with reading as well as lead to other academic issues.

A Balanced Approach to Dyslexia

Perhaps the best approach is offered by the National Center for Learning Disabilities (NCLD). They note the complicated nature of dyslexia and the fact that scientific research continues to develop new treatment approaches: "With regard to dyslexia, decades of research, including more recent neuroimaging studies, show us that reading is not a vision problem but rather a problem with language processing that takes place in highly specialized ways in the brain." As such, vision therapy while not entirely proven, may be effective in correcting brain function associated with dyslexia. In The New York Times’s discussion, Boston pediatrician Eileen Costello states that vision therapy can indeed yield benefits by giving children some positive attention and relieving parental anxiety.

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Disclaimer: The information presented on this web site is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment of specific medical conditions. Discuss this information with your healthcare provider to determine what is right for you and your family.

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