Can Vision Therapy Help Improve Your Reading Abilities?

Woman reading on bed

Can Vision Therapy Help Improve Your Reading Abilities?

The ability to read well affects nearly every aspect of our lives. Without good reading skills, it's hard for kids to excel in school or athletics. Poor reading skills are just as problematic in adults.

When you can't read well or remember what you read, you may have trouble keeping up at work, responding to emails in a timely manner, and other issues. Vision therapy, an innovative therapeutic approach that focuses on both the eyes and the brain, may help improve reading ability whether you're an adult or child.

20/20 Vision Doesn't Guarantee Good Reading Ability

It doesn't matter how clearly you see the letters on an eye chart if the words on the page tend to jump around when you try to read. Although 20/20 vision is certainly important, it's not the only factor in your reading ability.

If you've noticed any of these problems in yourself or your children, vision therapy may be helpful:

  • Difficulty copying words and shapes or writing on lined paper
  • Reversing letters
  • Trouble keeping your place when reading
  • Fatigue after reading for just a few minutes
  • Lines and words jump on the page
  • Trouble remembering what you read
  • Too much glare when you read
  • Inability to write legibly
  • Slow reading speed
  • Double or blurred vision when reading
  • Can't tell the difference between left and right
  • Headaches, eyestrain or watery eyes when reading

Strabismus and Amblyopia Are Common Causes of Reading Difficulties

Strabismus, also known as "crossed eyes," occurs when the eyes are misaligned. If the alignment isn't corrected, children can develop amblyopia or "lazy eye," a condition that happens when the brain ignores the signals received from one eye. Lazy eye can cause you to lose your place or miss words when reading, especially when the type is small. You may also need to tilt your head or squint when you read or watch TV.

Although vision therapists have had success in improving lazy eye in children, until recently it was thought it was too late for adults with the condition. A 2011 University of California at Berkeley study determined that vision therapy could also improve vision in adults, even if they'd had the condition for years.

Other Causes of Reading Problems

Many issues can affect your ability to read, including problems with:

  • Visual Perception. Your brain and your eyes play equally important roles in your vision. Light enters your eyes and is transmitted into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain via the optic nerve. The brain then turns those impulses into images. Any issue that affects the brain, the eyes or the visual pathways can make it difficult to recognize numbers and letters, concentrate, write legibly, track objects, and remember what you read.
  • Eye Teaming. Your brain produces a single image based on the slightly different information received from each eye. If your eyes don't work together as a team, the image the brain produces may be skewed.
  • Tracking. Reading becomes an uncomfortable chore when your eyes can't follow the words on the page easily.
  • Convergence Insufficiency: Your eyes have difficulty working together to focus on the words on a page if you have convergence insufficiency. After reading a book or working on the computer for a little while, you may notice that words seem to move or everything begins to look a little blurry. Reading may be more comfortable if you cover one eye or squint. Unsurprisingly, paying attention for long periods of time is difficult if you have convergence insufficiency.

How Can Vision Therapy Help Improve Reading?

Vision therapy enhances and improves the connection between the brain and the eyes. It's often compared to physical therapy but vision therapy doesn't just focus on your eye muscles. Therapy sessions help you learn how to use both of your eyes together, make focusing easier, enhance your brain's ability to process images, speed visual processing time, and improve motor abilities needed to read easily.

During a therapy session, you may use a small bat to strike at a swinging ball, play a target game, copy images, play computer games, or participate in other activities that help retrain your brain and eyes. Therapists also use other tools, including prisms, filters, lenses, patches, and balance boards during sessions.

The therapy isn't an instant fix. After all, it probably took years for your vision problem to develop, and it can't be solved overnight. Most people notice an improvement in reading ability after several weeks or months of vision therapy.

Do you think you or your child could benefit from vision therapy? Call us to schedule an appointment.


Berkeley News: Playing Video Games Helps Adults with Lazy Eye, 8/31/11

American Optometric Association: A Look at Reading and Vision

College of Optometrists in Vision Development: Forward Progress from Backward Letters, 8/5/16


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