What is Behavioural Optometry?
Behavioural Optometry is an expanded area of optometric practice that takes a holistic approach in the treatment of vision and vision information processing problems. A behavioural optometrist believes that your visual status and the way you interpret what you see does not depend solely on the clarity of your eyesight. Consideration must be given to all your visual, visual motor and visual perceptual skills. In this way, our behavioural optometrists will not only consider the remediation of any eyesight difficulties, but also the benefits of prevention, protection and enhancement of your visual system in order to improve all aspects of your visual performance.
What are some of the signs or symptoms of reduced vision skills?
These are some of the symptoms you should be alert for:
– Learning difficulties
– Reduced concentration
– Poor comprehension
– Reduced memory with words
– Short attention span
– Loss of place while reading
– Skipping words or lines
– Clumsiness and coordination problems
– Eye strain
– Sensitivity to glare
– Red and sore eyes
– Nausea and motion sickness
Is there evidence that Behavioural Optometry works?
Absolutely. Behavioural Optometry is supported by a substantial body of research spanning many decades and continents. Clinical evidence is substantial and rigorous, and growing as a result of the output of new generations of clinicians, academics and researchers. Visit our Research & Evidence page for a selection of some of the research available.
How are Behavioural Optometrists different from other Optometrists and Ophthalmologists?
Ophthalmologists are physicians who specialise in the medical and surgical care of the eyes and in the prevention of eye disease and injury. Optometrists are health service providers who have been specifically educated and trained by an accredited optometry college in a four-year course. Some optometrists undergo additional clinical training after optometry school.
Behavioural Optometrists focus on exploring the functioning of the eyes and the brain as a complete package by assessing the patient’s visual information skills, which enables them to make sense of what they see and learn. Focusing, eye teaming, visual information processing and eye health are all part of a comprehensive Behavioural Optometry examination. Behavioural Optometrists take a different approach in the treatment of vision problems, so don’t be surprised if you hear a totally different opinion from another professional.
Here’s an example: Behavioural Optometrists see eye turns (strabismus) very differently from ophthalmologists. Typically, strabismus is treated surgically by ophthalmologists – a “hardware” approach –, whereas Vision and Sensory Integration views eye turns as a neural “software” disorder. Our treatment method is non-surgical and driven by the brain’s plasticity to change. Strabismus is not usually a problem with the eyeball itself, but rather a neural dysfunction for which the eye turn is a symptom. It is an adaptation precipitated by conflict in the central nervous system.
Click here to read a very interesting article written by a paediatrician on her view of vision therapy.
Do many people have reduced or poor vision skills?
According to the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists, around one in every five children has an undetected vision problem. Children who spend many hours in front of a computer have a greater risk of having their vision skills reduced. Likewise, the increased use of computers in the workplace has also brought about the development of a number of health concerns for adults, including vision problems.
Does Smart Vision see adult patients?
Our patient base includes all ages, from infants through to retirees who want to look after all aspects of their vision. Our Behavioural Optometrists treat the visual systems of adults and children using the same philosophy, that is, with a great emphasis on visual efficiency, comfort and performance. What usually happens is that while children are undergoing treatment, their parents realise they have components of those same difficulties or want the most efficient lens choices for their performance needs. Adults also need to have their eyes examined at least every two years to ensure optimum vision performance and early detection of diseases.
Do I need a referral?
No. Even though more than 70% of our patients are referred in, a referral is not required. We welcome walk-in patients, but whenever possible, we kindly ask you to please contact us to schedule an appointment, as you might be required to fill out some paperwork prior to your consultation.
What is vision therapy?
Vision therapy (or vision training) is an individualised, supervised program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. In-practice vision therapy usually runs in 16-week blocks. We also offer a home-based computerised developmental vision therapy program designed to build the visual skills necessary for efficient reading.
Vision therapy is designed to help improve:
– Focusing flexibility and maintenance
– Use of the two eyes as an integrated team
– Eye movement efficiency, both for reading and sports
– Visual skills necessary for the development of reading
– Spatial skills that underlie maths
– Eye-hand reaction time
– Sequencing skills
– Integration of vision with auditory and motor systems
– Sport specific visual skills
How much time do we have to spend on vision training?
Your current level of visual competency and your diagnosis will determine which vision training program we will use. Remember your individual program will be designed to change pre-learned habits or teach skills never learnt. If you wanted to be good at soccer, you would expose your brain to the learning of those skills with a soccer ball daily. It is the same with vision training. If doing once per day, expect to spend 20 minutes. But it is best to spend 2 to 3 minutes per activity several times a day if you can.
Will my child notice any changes during her vision therapy program?
Generally it is the parent who will observe the improvements. You’ll see increased attention span, ability to self-correct, fewer mistakes, more attention to detail – and recognition of that detail. The child will simply notice it is “easier” to perform some tasks. Only about 25% of children complain about their difficulty seeing the words on the board or in the book, or having eye strain, headaches, sore eyes or double vision. These children will most probably notice all those symptoms have disappeared. Can you imagine how this makes them feel? It’s like a whole new world is opened to them.
How long does it take for improvements to be noticed?
Once diligent vision training is commenced, most of our patients start noticing improvements within the first month of treatment, gradually increasing until the end of the block of training. If several blocks of training are required, then the specific areas addressed by block are the ones that improve, with the remaining difficulties continuing to present until they are trained.
Are the improvements maintained?
That depends on the particular vision skills. The perceptual skills that are learnt are never lost and continue to develop with normal development and learning in life. It’s like learning to ride the bike – once mastered, always there. However, the functional skills are different all together. The visual system needs to be maintained as children are developing. As stresses are put on their eyes, they can regress and might need help again.
Do vision skills need to be reassessed on a regular basis?
Yes. If no new symptoms have developed, children need to be reviewed yearly, as their visual systems are very fragile and vulnerable to breakdown. The demand on their eyes for near concentration is also increasing day by day until they finish studying, so this must be considered. Adults’ visual systems are more set in their ways, so reviews are recommended every two years.
Does Smart Vision always prescribe glasses?
Not always. But most children who come to our practices are referred by someone who had already identified a problem. Therefore, they are most likely to need some sort of enhancement reading glasses – training or otherwise. Additionally, because we are looking at overall visual efficiency and performance, and not just clarity of sight, we will pick up a lot more things that can be helped along the way. We prescribe corrective lenses as well as training lenses, preventative lenses and performance enhancement lenses – not just the traditional optical compensatory lenses. In fact, we prescribe training lenses at a rate greater than 10 times optical compensation lenses.
Are my glasses going to make my eyes lazy or worse?
Glasses that are prescribed for corrective measures – like optical errors such as short sightedness, long sightedness and astigmatism – can make you more dependent on them. But glasses that we prescribe for training purposes recalibrate and train your eyes, so that hopefully you won’t always need glasses. You will most likely get worse if your eyes are under strain without your reading glasses, which often happens when kids become lax at wearing them because the initial problems seem to be gone or because they don’t notice any differences when wearing them, as there may be no effect on the clarity of sight.
Why should I get my spectacles from you?
There is a plethora of choices out there in both frame and lens design choices. The quality (optical distortions, clarity, durability, strength) is greatly variable. We apply our strict quality control to all products. If a particular product does not meet those specifications, we stop supplying it. We never source our products on price and profit margins and we guarantee you the finest quality spectacles on the market today. Read our Patient Care Promise for more details.
Can your services be claimed under Medicare or private health funds?
For adults: The standard 20/20 eye test is partly claimable from Medicare on the spot and is charged at the Optometrists Association Australia scheduled fee. Additional tests may be required. Please note the Medicare rebate only applies in the case where you have not seen another optometrist in the last three years (for under 65 years of age) or one year (for over 65 years of age).
For children: The standard 20/20 eye test and children’s vision assessments are partly claimable from Medicare on the spot if your child has not seen another optometrist in the past three years. Additional tests may be necessary and will incur out-of-pocket expenses not claimable by Medicare.
If you have private health insurance, you may also be eligible for benefits on the purchase of glasses and contact lenses. Please contact your fund for information on your optical entitlements.