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What is Developmental Optometry

What is Developmental Optometry?

Developmental optometry is a specialized field focused on enhancing visual performance that was formally introduced in 1971 with the formation of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD).

Developmental vision is complementary to behavioral optometry, which has its origins in the Optometric Extension Program (OEP).

The 21st century has seen developmental optometry blossom into a form of integrative or holistic care. We collaborate with other developmental and integrative professional who share similar concepts about tapping into the unlimited potential of children and adults alike. You can learn more about how we collaborate with occupational therapists and optometrists.

Note that in addition to the detailed information provided below, there are many excellent publications that will provide you with more information about developmental vision.

Understanding Developmental Optometry

Developmental optometry focuses on how visual function can improve through therapy, enhancing both visual acuity and visual skills.

Foundations of Developmental Optometry

Developmental optometry rests on the premise that vision can improve with proper intervention. This field views vision as much more than sharpness of sight; it includes a range of visual skills such as tracking, focusing, and processing visual information.

Role of a Developmental Optometrist

A developmental optometrist assesses visual problems beyond mere clarity of vision. They design and implement vision therapy programs to enhance visual skills. These eye care professionals support individuals in developing visual abilities that contribute to effective reading, learning, and daily activities.

A Developmental Optometrist helps to improve vision which may lead to learning and performance improvements

Core Principles of Vision Therapy

Vision therapy encompasses several principles aimed at enhancing visual function. These principles focus on more than mere clarity of vision; they address a suite of visual skills crucial for effective sight.

Visual Acuity and Eye Health

Clear vision forms the basis of visual acuity, a primary focus for optometrists. Regular examinations ensure the eyes can see sharply and detect any health issues early. Lenses may correct vision problems when acuity falls below optimal levels.

Binocular Vision and Eye Teaming

Effective binocular vision requires both eyes to work together seamlessly. Eye teaming, a core principle of vision therapy, involves exercises that improve the coordination between eyes, essential for depth perception and stable vision.

Visual Motor Integration

This aspect ties together visual input with motor output. Vision therapy assists individuals in developing coordination between sight and movement, underpinning skills necessary for tasks like writing or catching a ball. It’s critical for addressing various visual motor integration issues.

Specific Conditions and Treatments

Developmental optometry addresses various visual function issues through targeted treatments tailored to specific conditions.

Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) and Strabismus

  • Amblyopia (Lazy Eye): This condition occurs when one eye fails to achieve normal visual acuity, despite the use of glasses. Treatment often includes patching the stronger eye to improve the weaker one. Vision therapy exercises are also effective in stimulating visual development and eye teaming.
  • Strabismus: Misalignment of the eyes, either turning inward, outward, up, or down. Treatment may involve eye exercises, glasses, prisms, and in some cases, surgery. The goal is to improve binocular vision and eye coordination.

Convergence Insufficiency and Double Vision

  • Convergence Insufficiency: This condition signifies a difficulty in keeping both eyes working together when looking at close objects. Symptoms include eye strain, headaches, and double vision. Treatment generally includes vision therapy to improve eye coordination and the ability to maintain clear, single vision at near distances.
  • Double Vision: Also known as diplopia, can stem from various causes including poor binocular vision or eye muscle problems. Treatment depends on the cause and may involve prism lenses or vision therapy to train the eyes to work together effectively.

Visual Information Processing Disorders

These disorders affect how visual information is understood and processed by the brain. They can impact reading, writing, and learning abilities.


  • Visual Perception: Refers to the brain’s ability to make sense of what the eyes see. Therapy often includes exercises to improve skills such as pattern recognition and spatial awareness.
  • Visual Processing: Encompasses the mental processes that give meaning to what we see. When disrupted, it can affect memory, attention, and the ability to discern details. Activities and exercises designed to enhance these skills are a central part of treatment.
Developmental optometrists provide comprehensive evaluations and employ various tools to address these conditions effectively. They strive to improve visual skills, not just visual acuity, enhancing overall visual performance.

Vision Therapy in Practice

Vision therapy applies tailored visual tasks to improve visual abilities. Successful therapy relies on careful assessment, personalized programs, and multi-disciplinary coordination.

Assessment Through Comprehensive Exam

A comprehensive eye exam kickstarts the process. Here, a developmental optometrist examines all aspects of eye health, vision, and visual skills to diagnose underlying issues.

Customization of Vision Therapy Programs

Therapists tailor vision therapy programs to meet individual needs. They design progressive visual tasks focusing on improving specific eye functions and visual processing skills.

Collaboration with Other Health Professionals

Occupational therapists and other health professionals often collaborate with vision therapists to ensure a well-rounded approach to vision care and rehabilitation. This teamwork ensures comprehensive patient care.

Impact of Developmental Optometry on Learning

Developmental optometry can transform how children engage with learning by addressing visual challenges that affect reading, writing, and tracking.

Visual Challenges in the Classroom

Children with visual issues may struggle to track text on a page or on the board, leading to learning hurdles. Developmental optometry aims to identify and treat these issues, improving a child’s ability to focus and absorb information.

Improving Reading and Writing Skills

By enhancing essential visual skills such as tracking and fine motor coordination, developmental optometry can boost a child’s reading and writing abilities. Effective interventions often lead to improvements in how children decode text and organize written work.

Misdiagnosis and Learning Difficulties

Sometimes, children with visual processing issues get wrongly labeled as having learning difficulties like dyslexia. Developmental optometry can discern between visual problems and other learning disorders, ensuring children receive the correct support to thrive in educational settings.

Advanced Applications of Vision Therapy

Vision therapy extends beyond eye exercises, targeting advanced applications that enhance daily life and specific skills. It involves methodologies that improve vision functionality, sports performance, and rehabilitation processes after brain injury.

Vision Therapy May Contribute Towards Increased Performance in Many Activities, Including Sports

Sports Performance Enhancement

Vision therapy plays a crucial role in sports, where superior visual skills can translate into better athletic performance. It hones abilities such as dynamic visual acuity, eye tracking, and depth perception, all of which are essential for sports that require high levels of coordination and balance. Athletes undergo vision therapy to sharpen these skills, aiming to gain a competitive edge.

Rehabilitation after Brain Injury

Following a brain injury, vision rehabilitation becomes a pivotal part of a patient’s recovery journey. Vision therapy fosters neurological pathways that relate to visual function, aiding in the restoration of visual skills compromised by injury. This therapy contributes significantly to a patient’s quality of life, as it can alleviate symptoms associated with visual deficits and help regain functionality.

Synergistic Therapies and Holistic Approach

Vision therapy often integrates with other therapies for a more holistic approach to treatment. This synergy may involve occupational therapy or physical therapy, which complement vision therapy to address the needs of the whole body. Practitioners tailor these synergistic therapies to each patient, considering how improved visual skills can positively affect overall well-being and daily living.

Recognizing Vision Problems

Early detection of vision problems plays a crucial role in finding effective treatments.

A Comprehensive Eye Exam Can Help to Determine if Headaches are Due to Vision Problems

Symptoms and Indicators

Vision problems often present through consistent symptoms. Individuals may report eye fatigue after tasks like reading or computer work. Headaches, frequent squinting, and blurred vision can also signal eye issues. They might experience dizziness, especially when there has been a rapid change in vision. Eye strain during prolonged visual activities may suggest uncorrected refractive errors.

  • Eye fatigue: feelings of tired eyes, especially after visual tasks
  • Headaches: ranging from mild to severe, linked to visual activities
  • Dizziness: a sense of unbalance or spinning, related to vision shifts
  • Blurred vision: lack of sharpness, difficulty focusing on objects

Common Misconceptions

People often mistake vision-related headaches or fatigue for ordinary causes like lack of sleep or stress. The assumption that such discomforts will resolve without medical intervention can lead to neglect of underlying vision issues. The thought that blurred vision is only short-term or situational can delay the pursuit of professional help. Recognizing these symptoms as potential indicators of vision problems encourages timely evaluation by eye care professionals.

The Role of Equipment and Tools

Key equipment and tools in developmental optometry enable tailored vision therapy that addresses various visual issues effectively. They cater to the specific needs of patients by improving visual skills like eye tracking and depth perception.

Types of Lenses and Prisms

Therapists use multiple lens types to correct and improve vision. These include:
  • Single Vision Lenses: They correct for distance or near vision.
  • Therapeutic Lenses: They train the eye muscles to focus correctly.

Prisms alter light entering the eye to help with:

  • Eye alignment issues
  • Binocular vision problems
Patients may use these lenses and prisms daily to retrain their visual system.

Technological Advancements in Vision Therapy

Eye-Tracking Devices: These tools measure and train a patient’s ability to follow moving objects accurately. They provide objective data on eye movement patterns.

Software Programs: Therapists use specialized programs to develop visual skills. These include exercises for:

  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual processing speed
With ongoing development, these programs integrate advanced metrics to fine-tune therapy protocols.

Professional Advocacy and Education

In developmental optometry, professionals actively pursue advanced training and promote high standards to ensure the best care, particularly in the domains of pediatrics and vision development.

College of Optometrists in Vision Development

The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) stands as a leading organization that supports developmental optometrists through certification, education, and research. It advocates for best practices in pediatric vision care, thereby setting a standard for therapeutic techniques that aid in vision development.

Continuing Education for Optometrists

Continuing education plays a crucial role for optometrists, enabling them to stay current with emerging practices and research in vision therapy. This education often includes hands-on workshops and seminars focused on the latest advancements in the field, ensuring optometrists can provide informed and effective care to patients.

Easy Payment Options

We accept most major insurance, cash, most credit cards, and offer patient financing with CareCredit.
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Insurance and Payment Plans

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At PressVision, we know how confusing insurance can be for our patients. Our patients appreciate that we go the extra mile when it comes to helping our patients and their families deal with their insurance provider. 

Making Insurance Make Sense

We will explain how your deductible works. We’ll also explain what services are fully or partially covered. We’ll also tell you what services are unlikely to be covered. Based on our experience, we’ll even give you our estimate of what you can expect back from your insurance company.

Insurance Submission

We also take care of submitting all required paperwork to your insurance company. We do this every day, and we know the ins and outs of getting insurance claims submitted properly to your insurer.

What to Expect

Insurance providers are always changing coverages for services. While we can’t guarantee that your insurance company will approve or cover all provided services, you can be sure that we will fully explain everything to you and properly submit all required paperwork to your insurer.

Our Modern Fair Lawn Office

Our office is warm and welcoming to both adults and children.  We have the latest technology to assist with proper diagnosis and with vision therapy.

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