Does your child:
It might be worth it to schedule an appointment with an Optometrist (Doctor of Optometry) in Tucson who specializes in vision therapy.
Vision therapy is a doctor-supervised, non-surgical, and customized program of visual activities designed to correct certain vision problems and improve visual skills. Essentially, it's a type of physical therapy for your eyes and brain.
Vision therapy typically is a program that consists of weekly appointments with a trained visual therapist. At the appointments, the vision therapist leads the patient through a variety of activities - reading alphabet/number charts, playing brain games, using balance boards, exercises with 3D glasses, etc. The patient then has daily homework to help the eyes continue to work together.
Throughout the treatment period, the doctor will do regular progress checks. The doctor may also recommend therapeutic or prism lenses - even if the patient has 20/20 vision.
Traditional vision screenings typically miss the need for vision therapy - especially since some children and adults who could use vision therapy have 20/20 vision. Although vision therapy can help decrease astymatism, the focus of treatment is typically on eye convergence, tracking, etc.
If your child or teen is doing well in school, but has declining eyesight, you may want to consider orthokeratology (also known as vision shaping treatment) instead. We recommend Dr. Christina Reichardt at National Eye & Ear of Tucson.
Most optometrists are not trained to administer vision therapy. You will want to look for a Board Certified Optometrist with experience in Vision Development and Rehabilitation through COVD (College of Optometrists in Vision Development).
Here is a quick introduction to eye care specialists:
The Optometrist or Ophthalmologist is who you will see for progress checks and eyeglass prescriptions. The Vision Therapist is who you will see for weekly appointments and exercises. As such, it is important to relate well with both the doctor managing the program and the vision therapist (who you will see on a weekly basis).
You can start by searching by zip code on the College of Optometrists in Vision Development website. You may also want to seek out recommendations in "Vision Therapy Parents Unite," a closed Facebook group that has almost 40,000 members.
Fees vary, but will probably fall in the $3000-$8000 range.
Most insurance companies do not recognize vision therapy and, as a result, many parents have to pay out-of-pocket. That being said, some parents have had success with submitting letters to insurance companies from the child's eye doctor and/or pediatrician that deem vision therapy as a "medical necessity."
You may also be able to use CareCredit (a loan program) or flexible spending account (FSA) funds.
ESA stands for Empowerment Scholarship Account. It is a program that is administered by the Arizona Department of Education.
In essence, parents can choose to opt their child out of the public school system and instead receive funds to enroll their child in a private school or to homeschool.
There are application dates each quarter. You may be able to use the funds for vision therapy (specific guidelines apply).
Schedule a consultation with a Tucson Optometrist who is experienced in Vision Development and Rehabilitation. Vision therapy offices will sometimes offer free 15-minute consultations. After the initial consultation, you will likely be asked to come back for a full visual exam (which can range in cost from $200-$400).
After the visual exam, the doctor may recommend a vision therapy program. Your child will likely be in vision therapy for 12-36 weeks (2 to 8 months). Many doctors will also include complimentary post-visual-therapy progress checks in their overall package.
***Watch this page for new and updated information about vision therapy resources in Tucson.