Vision Therapy Edmonton at Vision By Design Optometry

Dr. Sarah Keep is passionate about eye health and improving people’s vision. She is one of a few optometrists who provide Vision Therapy and Neuro-Optometric rehabilitation in Edmonton and specializes in binocular vision disorders such as lazy eye (amblyopia) and cross eye (strabismus), and eye teaming disorders (convergence insufficiency).  At Vision by Design we are pleased to offer Vision therapy in Edmonton for those with visual deficits that affect reading and learning, as well as vision issues due to traumatic brain injury.

What is vision therapy?

Vision therapy is a doctor supervised training program to improve the function of the visual system.  Visual therapy can help individuals with various visual challenges so each program is individualized for the unique needs of the patient. The goal of vision therapy is to help patients develop or improve their fundamental visual skills.

Who is vision therapy for?

Vision therapy is beneficial for people of all ages. It is very effective for children with vision insufficiencies, but recent research in ophthalmology and neuroscience have shown both teens and adults can improve visual function because of neuroplasticity. Those with traumatic brain injuries benefit greatly from individualized optometric vision therapy.


Those who benefit from a doctor supervised vision therapy program generally have:


Learning-Related Vision Problems: Visual conditions like eye-tracking, eye-focusing, eye-teaming and visual perceptual delays interfere with a person’s ability to learn. Vision is vital to learning as the majority of the information we gather in the classroom is visual.  It is important for children who are performing poorly in school, have special needs or have developmental delays to be assessed by a doctor who specializes in vision therapy. They will test visual skills, visual motor and visual perception. If needed vision therapy helps improve muscle coordination and control, improving development, the ability to learn and quality of life.  


Crossed Eye (Strabismus) or Lazy Eye (Amblyopia): Poor eye-sight, double vision and/or reduce depth perception is common among these patients. Misalignment of the eyes or a large variance in lens prescription results in one eye not receiving a quality image. The brain suppresses visual information from the weaker eye to avoid double vision and/or confusion. Vision therapy is very successful in helping people with strabismus or amblyopia by breaking the brain’s active suppression of the poorer eye, training the brain to use both eyes as a team.  This can result in improved vision in a lazy eye and better alignment in a patient with an eye turn.


Traumatic Brain Injuries: Patients who have experienced concussions, stroke or have been in motor vehicle accidents often experience a variety of symptoms including light sensitivity, balance issues, dizziness, double vision and/or visual memory problems. An individualized vision therapy program can provide lifelong change in overall comfort and quality of life.


Interest in Improving Athletic Abilities: Vision is extremely important for the success of many athletes. Sports vision therapy helps with hand-eye coordination, tracking, visual reaction time and dynamic visual acuity. Many professional athletes from a wide variety of sports have used vision therapy to take their game to the next level.


What do vision therapy sessions look like?


In order for any therapy to be effective it must be ongoing. Vision therapy typically involves weekly in-office sessions ranging from 30-60 minutes duration. Patients are given therapeutic exercises to be done at home on a daily basis. Effective vision therapy programs vary in length depending on the complexity of the patient’s diagnosis. 


Treatment durations are between several months up to a year depending on the condition. Each vision therapy program is designed and supervised by Dr. Sarah Keep, a developmental optometrist at Vision by Design Optometry. Each patient’s therapy is delivered by a trained vision therapist on a one-to-one basis.


How is a vision therapy eye examination different from a standard exam?


A vision therapy eye exam is designed to identify visual skills deficits in patients who despite having 20/20 vision, have difficulty with eye teaming, eye focusing and eye tracking or other visual skills. Our visual skills assessments are ideal for clients of all ages. Some of the Vision Therapy evaluations offered at Vision By Design Optometry are as follows:


Visual Perceptual Evaluation

This evaluation assesses how the brain interprets visual information. A visual perceptual evaluation can be performed with clients starting at age 5.


Binocular Vision and Accommodative Evaluation

Patients that perform a lot of near-work and computer viewing are more prone to develop signs and symptoms from accommodative or vergence dysfunction. We perform in-depth binocular vision testing for patients experiencing symptoms such as eye strain, headaches, reduced reading comprehension or attention, double vision or other difficulties performing near work. 


Visual Motor Testing

Visual motor integration is the coordination of visual perception ability and fine motor control. This evaluation is ideal for children 3-6 years old, or older patients with developmental disabilities such as Autistic Spectrum Disorder.


Visual Motion Hypersensitivity

Patients who have suffered a concussion often experience increased symptoms in busy visual environments such as driving, a busy shopping mall, or crowded events.  We are able to test for visual hypersensitivities and provide treatment if they are found.  


Vision Therapy

Vision therapy can be described as physical therapy for the visual system. Unlike prescription glasses or contact lenses, which help with vision problems, vision therapy aims to “train” the visual system to correct itself. 


Make an informed decision

Vision therapy is a very controversial topic among vision care professionals. Some, like Dr.Sarah Keep, are advocates for vision therapy. Other eye doctors aren’t convinced of its effectiveness and do not recommend it to patients. 


We encourage you to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Keep and learn more about the benefits of vision therapy in Edmonton and if it’s right for you or your child.


Orthoptics is another term that is associated with vision therapy. Orthoptics literally means “straightening the eyes” and it dates back to the 1850’s. Orthoptics can be successful in treating misalignment due to strabismus, but it is limited to strengthening eye muscles for the purpose of cosmetically straightening the eyes. 


Vision Therapy uses a number of techniques and exercises designed to optimize the entire visual system which includes the eyes, the body, and the areas of the brain that control vision. By treating the visual system as a whole, vision therapy seeks to produce lasting results.

What vision therapy is not

Neuro-optometric vision therapy is not a set of do-it-yourself eye exercises that are often advertised online or on info-mercials, that promise you can ‘throw away your glasses’. 


There is no scientific research behind such programs to corroborate such claims that self-help eye exercises can reverse nearsightedness or other refractive errors. 


It is also important to note that a home-based regimen of “pencil push-ups” should not be considered a vision therapy program, even if recommended by an eye doctor. 


Pencil push-ups is an orthoptic exercise where the patient reads fine print with a pencil held at arm’s length. The patient gradually moves the pencil closer to their eyes while maintaining focus. This activity is recommended to help decrease eye strain and other symptoms caused by convergence insufficiency.  This activity has not been found to be an effective treatment of Convergence Insufficiency and is not the same as In-Office Therapy.