Vision Therapy: How Long Should It Last?

When it comes to vision therapy, you may have one physician recommend 10 weeks while another physician recommends 25 or 30 weeks of therapy. Why is this? Ultimately, it boils down to the how well the physician understands vision. There are two main approaches to this.

Convergence, Saccades, and Accommodation

It is believed that some parts of the vision are separate. So, there may be an issue with how the eyes come together (convergence), how the eyes track (saccades), and how the eyes focus (accommodation). Treatment is ultimately focused on doing the one thing that caused the individual to fail that test and only that. Certain skills will be worked on for roughly five to 10 weeks. After this time, the individual will undergo another evaluation to see if the test can be passed. Treatment is sometimes extended for another five to 10 weeks. In some cases, extensive testing may be conducted to look for deficits of visual processing, looking at sequential and visual memory and other areas.

Vision as a Combined System

Another thought is that vision is combined system where all of those previously mentioned traits are related. For instance, before your eyes are able to move accurately (saccade), the brain must calculate where the eyes will move. In addition, the eyes must coordinate the movement together or the eyes will wind up in somewhat different spots. In the event the accommodation is not on target, it could impact the way the eyes move together. This particular theory takes a look at the way the vestibular and visual systems work with one another, how space and depth are processed, and much more.

It is believed that these vision areas don’t function separately, and when they are treating, it is important that everything is integrated properly together to ensure they continue to work this way. There tend to be dozens of different exercises and treatment algorithms that must be completed and followed for the appropriate integrated to be achieved. This treatment method can take as few as 10 weeks, but generally, the treating physician provides an estimated timeframe of between 15 and 50 weeks with progress checks throughout. While the progress checks will take place weeks apart, there are expectations built into each exercise, which allow you doctor to know if you are on track.

So, Which One Is Better?

There are pros to cons to both vision therapy methods, as with all things. There is a low barrier for entry to the 10-week approach, and overall, spending 10 weeks in therapy isn’t so bad. However, it has been found that you can learn to beat a test without truly learning how to improve your life or vision. For example, consider following your finger to the tip of your nose with both of your eyes. It is believed that you need more convergence practice if you cannot do this. However, part of the issue is an underlying lack of depth/spatial processing, leading your brain to be unable to understand where your finger is currently located and what must be done to get your eyes to look at it. Sure, you can “beat” the test with convergence exercises, but the root cause will never be truly addressed.

Then, of course, you have to consider how integrated your vision is that it makes since it should be calibrated in order to work together and stay that way. By understanding this and performing some of your own research and in-clinic trials, you can come up with accurate predictions of how long treatment will be needed. However, there are downsides. For instance, the timeframe for therapy can be estimated, but patients may need to make a larger, and much more daunting, commitment. From the clinical side of things, it means success, though.

The 10-week approach is great because people are indeed getting some level of vision therapy, but the overall approach is just lacking. The integrated model may have more of an upfront commitment, but the results are more guaranteed.

Ultimately, in the end, you should sit down with your vision doctor, discuss what approaches are available, what type of outcome measures can be expected, etc. and go from there. For more information, reach out to us here at Performance Vision.