Behavioural Optometry

Why a Behavioural Optometrist ?

Behavioural Optometrists have under-gone post graduate training to provide a holistic approach to the assessment and treatment of vision and visual information processing problems. Vision is a learned skill and developed over time, much like walking and talking. The visual system is a significant part of how we process information and 80% of what you perceive, comprehend and remember depends on the efficiency of the visual system.

Vision and Learning

It is understood that one in four children have a vision problem which interferes with their ability to learn efficiently and achieve in school.

Having clear and comfortable vision is a good start to efficient learning but is not the only requirement.

Eye Movement (Tracking) Skills are motor skills that allow the eyes to fixate on objects, jump from one object to another and follow moving objects efficiently.

Visual Spatial Skills are used to understand directional concepts which organise our visual space such as left and right, and influences letter and number reversals.

Visual Analysis Skills are used to identify, sort, organise, store and recall visually presented information. It is the ability to receive and process visual information, remember it and apply it later. There are a number of sub-skills associated with visual analysis.

Figure Ground: The ability to pick specific detail from a background of irrelevant information; visual form recognition, discrimination and constancy and the ability to discriminate differences in forms.

Visual Closure: The recognition of the final product when only incomplete clues are presented.

Visualisation: Being able to recall a previously viewed image and mentally manipulate it; visual spatial memory and visual sequential memory.

Visual - Motor Integration: Coordinates visual skills with both gross and fine motor movement. It allows for the integration of visual input to motor output and enables planning execution and monitoring of motor tasks.

Visual - Auditory Integration: Requires linking together visual information with information heard. Examples are seeing a word and saying it out loud and hearing a word and writing it down.

Vision problems do not wholly cause reading and or learning disabilities, but they do play a role in some learning disorders and can contribute to some of the difficulties associated with them. Behavioural Optometrists aim to alleviate visual problems that can interfere with reading and learning. Often this can be the child's major hurdle and significant gains can be made in the child's performance by just re-mediating the vision problem.

In most cases, Behavioural Optometrists do not directly treat reading and learning difficulties but work with schools, teachers, occupational therapists and psychologists to achieve the best outcome for the child by enabling comfortable and efficient visual skills.

Behavioural Optometry aims to:

  • Prevent the development of eye and vision difficulties
  • Provide remediation and rehabilitation for eye problems that have already developed
  • Develop and enhance visual skills needed to achieve maximum visual performance in the classroom, workplace, playing sport and recreational pursuits

Physical eyesight problems are important:

Refractive problems such as shortsightedness (myopia), longsightedness (hypermetropia) and astigmatism can present with blurred vision, eyestrain and head-aches which can impede efficient and comfortable visual process.

Eye coordination and accommodation problems can also contribute to discomfort as well as inefficiencies in both reading and writing. Eye movement control (tracking) is particularly important in efficient reading and copying processes in the classroom.

Vision and Reading

There are many visual skills that are required when reading. During reading, not only must you see things clearly, but there are accurate eye movement skills maintaining focus and integrating eye movements with higher cognitive processing Oculomotor skills, accommodation, vergence, visual perceptual skills and binocularity are just some of the aspects of vision that have been found to be important in learning but most particularly reading.

Checklist for vision problems in the classroom

Appearance of eyes

  • One eye turns in or out at any time
  • Reddened eyes or eyelids
  • Encrusted eyelids or frequent styes

Complaints when using eyes at desk

  • Headaches/strain in forehead or temples
  • Discomfort after/during reading or desk/computer work
  • Complaints of blur either for distance or reading tasks
  • Short attention span

Ocular Motility

  • Head turns when reading across the page
  • Loses place, rereads or skips lines or needs finger to assist
  • Frequently omits words particularly small ones
  • Difficulty copying from the board

Visual Perceptual Skills

  • Must feel things to assist interpretation
  • Letter reversals and repeated left /right confusion
  • Lack of orientation/placement of words or drawings on page. May write crookedly with difficulty staying on lines
  • Uses other hand as a spacer to control spacing
  • Difficulty in recall or reproduction, singularly or sequentially