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light therapy“Will looking at a light help me in school?” was recently asked by one of my current vision therapy patients, “Henry”. “Henry” is an eight your old boy currently in the third grade. He struggles with reading, comprehension and staying on task in school and while doing his homework assignments at home. Fortunately for him, his teacher had recently attended one of our informational seminars and recommended that he have his vision checked with us.  His teacher knew that we would be checking beyond his ability to read an eye chart.

During his examination, it was determined that he was unable to turn his eyes in comfortably and was diagnosed with a convergence insufficiency.

He also struggled with copying material from the Smart Board and reported that everything looked blurry when he had to look back down to read indicating that he also had an accommodative deficiency.

Henry’s mom affirmed that he avoided doing near work and would think of every excuse possible to avoid sitting down to do his homework. She said “Henry” held the record for the most consecutive trips to the bathroom during one homework session.  Seeing that she was an avid reader, she was saddened by the fact that “Henry” hated to read and would never even think of picking up a book for enjoyment.

Part of this eye examination also included a test called a Readalyzer or Visigraph where the participant wears goggles with sensors that detect eye movements. The goggles are connected to a computer that instantly displays what the eyes are doing while the individual reads. “Henry’s” results were telling. He was skipping words and lines and re-reading sentences. Because of this his overall reading ability was scored at below a kindergarten age level.

Vision Therapy Recommended

“Henry” enrolled in vision therapy.  At about week 3 of his 12-week therapy program, I became concerned that despite the fact he was working really hard in therapy and homework was completed diligently, he was not making the necessary progress. His accommodation or his ability to clear images from the near to the far continued to be weak, and he was still not able to converge his eyes comfortably.

Addition of Light Therapy

I informed “Henry” and his parents that we would be adding light therapy to his homework protocol.

I went on to explain that many Behavioral Optometrists add light therapy or Syntonic Phototherapy to their vision therapy programs to enhance and speed up the healing process of the visual dysfunctions.

Syntonics from the word syntony simply means, “To bring into balance”. Using specific combinations of colored light, different portions of the brain are stimulated in turn balancing it’s biochemistry. As a result, greater and quicker progress can then be made.

Henry was required to look at the color combinations for 20 minutes per day for five days of the week. Within in the first week after beginning light therapy, both his accommodative and convergence issues began to improve dramatically. The following exercises were no longer impossible for him. His treatment and progress was back on track!

accommodative flipperAccommodative Flipper

One side of the flipper is a plus lens, the other a minus lens ranging in powers of a +1.50/-1.50 to a +2:00/-4:00. Plus lenses are used to assist in seeing up close (like the readers you get at the drug store) and minus lenses are to help with distance vision. The goal of this exercise is to be able to clear a small letter chart with both sides of the flipper quickly. Many children have trouble going from looking at the black board or smart board far away and then back down to their book or paper they are working on and visa verse. This is very disrupting to their ability to copy down information or find their place in a book. One of the sure signs that a child struggles with this is the homework assignment pad that may or may not come home from school. Many do not even bring it home due to the fact that they were unable to copy the assignments down. If it does make it home, it is many times unreadable or there are things that are missing. Children’s accommodative (focusing) system is meant to be very flexible and their ability to clear images from the near to the far should be easy and natural. If this is not the case, than an accommodative deficiency is diagnosed and one way to treat it is with the flipper exercise.

Lifesavers1Fusion Card (“Lifesaver Card”)

This exercise works convergence (eyes turning inward) and divergence (eyes relaxed looking straight out) . With convergence, the patient starts at the bottom of the card with the circles that are closest together and turns their eyes in. If their convergence ability is working, they are able to make a third circle in the middle of the two existing circles and hold it there comfortably. The farther the circles get apart on the card, the more convergence demand. When working their divergence, they relax their eyes to make a third circle in the middle again trying to hold it there comfortably and making their way up the card. Obviously, this is used to treat convergence insufficiency.

brock stringBrock String

This exercise also works convergence insufficiency and the ability to have binocular vision,or the ability of both eyes to work together. When using the Brock String, one end is held at the tip of the nose, while the other is tied to a fixed point, like a door knob. Three beads on the string are placed at different distances and the patient must focus on each of the beads. If seeing correctly, the bead they are looking at is single and the other two are doubled. An individual with binocular issues will have issues seeing the other beads as doubled.

“Henry’s” mom reported that he was getting his homework done quicker.  Mom even found him reading a book, by himself, that wasn’t assigned for homework!

So YES “Henry”, looking at a light can help you do better in school.

For more information on vision and light therapy, visit www.COVD.org and www.collegeofsyntonicoptometry.com