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Vision Therapy Vancouver Conference

TVTO Continuing Education  |  August 2019  |  Vision Therapy Canada Annual General Meeting – Vision Therapist Stream

Location: Vancouver, B.C.

Facilitator: Dr. Meredith Graham

Report by Maxine Jelilyan

We’ve attended the Canadian Optometrists in Vision Therapy and Rehabilitation AGM annually since its inception 4 years ago, but this year we were thrilled to be heading to Vancouver! And if that wasn’t exciting enough, this year was the first time that separate streams were offered, one for the vision therapists and one for the doctors.

In the vision therapy sessions, we covered tips and hands-on techniques for working with patients who struggle with reading. The person reading is looking at words (or letters) on the page, but what they actually SEE is meaning. Without that, imagine how boring reading would be. In our assessments, we test reading, not only to see how the eyes move across the page, but also how many times the patient regresses or goes back over certain bits of information, in an effort to gain meaning to make it memorable. The difference lies between simply acquiring information versus how they process the information they’ve acquired.

                  ~ It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. ~ Henry David Thoreau

We also looked more closely at Dyslexia and the M-Cell pathway deficit as well as ADD/ADHD in relation to reading and how to best address these challenges. Studies show that both auditory and visual shifting of attention can be improved by training in those with Developmental Dyslexia and Specific Language Impairment! And of course, we went over which vision therapy exercises would be most helpful in various circumstances so that we can best help our patients.

Another topic discussed dealt with movement in the vision therapy room and how movement affects vision development in a new model of how the human brain thinks and learns called “Embodied Cognition”. Thinking is dependent on the body, and we need good body awareness to learn. But is this “new”? Behavioural optometrists and vision therapists alike have long understood the importance of developing the human visual process using self-directed, rhythmically accurate, visually guided movement to problem solve… We call it Vision Therapy! And that’s why our VT rooms are equipped with trampolines, balance boards, walking rails, hoola-hoops, metronomes, etc.

We also discussed Vision Problems. If vision is not something that happens to us, but rather something that we “do”, then what is a vision problem? If a patient comes in with an eye turn, as an example, is the problem itself the eye turn? The problem may be that the patient may have a weaker eye, that struggles to work with the stronger one, and perhaps their vision is just “easier” to use if they simply suppress or “turn off” the vision in the weaker eye and use only the stronger eye. Turning the eye makes it easier to suppress the vision in that eye. Their behaviour of turning their eye is actually their best effort to deal with the problem, so it’s actually their solution to the problem. But it takes energy to suppress an eye and the brain likes efficiency. When we teach them how not to suppress their eye and improve how their eyes work together, they will be less tired using their eyes. What we teach in vision therapy is better solutions to the problems or challenges a patient might face. When their old solutions are no longer their best, then they will no longer have use for them, and their behaviour will change. Suddenly someone with an eye turn (or a lazy eye), will have eyes that know how to see so that both eyes are engaged and in the game!

Those are just some examples of the topics covered at the conference this year. Of course, there was lots of networking and camaraderie, hands-on playing with and exploring of equipment, learning new techniques and sharing of experiences so we can all learn and grow together.

I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to have this immersive experience, with such a great group of dedicated therapists. We are all better equipped with new skills and new abilities by having attended this year’s AGM!