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Vision Therapy

January 09, 1987

Throughout David Johnston's article, "Jury Out on Vision Therapy for Troubled Teens" (Jan. 2), reporting Dr. Stan Kaseno's San Bernardino County Juvenile Hall project, claims were made that there is no research substantiating visual training's effectiveness.

The Optometric Extension Program, an international nonprofit foundation headquartered in Santa Ana, provides postdoctoral continuing education in behavioral optometry to optometrists in 26 countries and began teaching visual training in 1937. Their 1980 research review (available on request) lists scientific studies, 12 on groups with control groups, 10 groups without controls, and 11 studies of individuals, from one to 100 youngsters and adults. Most showed statistically significant improvement in visual abilities which related directly to substantial improvement in reading and school achievement.

Of the several acknowledged factors in juvenile delinquency, i.e., lack of adequate supervision by parents, improper discipline, individual learning style, temperament, behavior characteristics, peer and/or gang pressure, and low or non-achievement in the classroom, the latter is the one factor which can be dealt with by teachers and educational therapists. However, if a visual functioning problem interferes with visual learning (reading, etc.), the best skilled and caring instruction seldom succeeds. The eyes (of a person with a visual function problem) are usually healthy, see clearly at all distances, and there are no "weak" muscles. The problem isn't eyes, often considered the province of ophthalmologists, but in the automatic control and efficient functioning of eyes, the concern of behavioral optometrists.

Contrary to "critics (who) say even defining vision therapy is difficult," it is easy: visual training (therapy) is the arranging of conditions so a person can develop and improve his/her visual functioning at any age, to process more visual functioning at any age, to process more visual information (symbols, etc.) over a larger area in less time with less effort. It is not therapy in the sense that the optometrist does something to a patient, like massage or administering a drug, but rather that the patient tries, participates and improves his/her own visual skills with the optometrist's guidance and encouragement.

Once improved, the educator takes over. Vision therapy only makes learning easier, more efficient, and teaches nothing. The resulting academic success usually leads to improved self-esteem, self-confidence, peer acceptance, and the need for asocial activities disappears.

In addition to juvenile delinquents, most illiterates, unskilled or low-achieving displaced workers, and even athletes benefit from optometric vision therapy.

HOMER HENDRICKSON, OD

San Gabriel

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