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There are many ways you can help children and their families get the care they need.
After identifying what kind of vision problem your child has, an optometrist specializing in vision therapy will design a personalized plan. The typical program combines hour-long office sessions with at-home exercises, and runs about three to four months. At that point, the optometrist will evaluate your child’s progress and see whether more therapy is needed.
There aren’t any authoritative statistics to give a sense of how successful vision therapy is overall, and much depends on the types of vision problems involved. On an individual level, though, children who can benefit from vision therapy are far more likely to show improvement if their parents help them stick with the exercise program and attend all follow-up visits.
The vision therapy specialist will design a series of exercises specifically for your child, and—depending on the vision problem at hand—incorporate a wide variety of equipment and activities. These include:
Though vision therapy can be done at home as well as in the office, at Children’s Hospital Boston we believe combining the two (while emphasizing home therapy) is the best way to achieve the goals of treatment. A typical program is built on six one-hour office sessions, scheduled at three-week intervals. At each in-office session, your child will receive the instructions and materials she needs to practice exercises at home (about 20 to 30 minutes a day for at least five days a week).
Sticking to the exercise plan is a critical part of vision therapy. While the optometrist can give face-to-face encouragement during office sessions, it’s up to you and your child to keep that momentum going at home. Skipping exercise practice or cutting it short will only decrease the odds of real vision improvement.
During the final office session, the doctor will review the progress your child has made and determine whether more therapy is needed. If your child has followed the program carefully and developed the needed visual skills, she may receive a few exercises to do at home for “maintenance”—and then only come in for checkups after six months and one year.
Candidates for vision therapy often include children who are having trouble with reading or in school. But whether vision therapy helps treat bona fide learning disabilities is a hotly debated topic.
To help shed some light on the issue, Children’s Hospital Boston is planning studies on the effectiveness of vision therapy, especially with regard to vision and learning. In the meantime, it’s helpful for concerned parents to remember that vision is just one aspect of their child’s ability to read and learn. While it’s important to rule out vision problems in any child with learning disabilities, there are many other behavioral, cognitive and social factors at play.
After suffering a sudden stroke, 34-year-old Jason Crigler also experienced strabismus, a visual defect that occurs when one's eyes don't line up. Jason came to Children’s to see if he would be a good candidate for eye muscle surgery. He was—and in August 2007, he underwent surgery to realign both eyes.
In addition to the clinical information offered on this page, Children’s Hospital Boston has several other resources designed to give your family comfort, support and guidance:
Please note that neither Children’s Hospital Boston nor the Department of Ophthalmology at Boston Children’s unreservedly endorses all of the information found at the sites listed below. These links are provided as a resource.
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”