Behavioural Optometry

July 2017
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A Behavioural Optometrist believes that your visual status and the way you interpret what you see is not just dependent on how clear your eyesight is. Consideration must be given to all your visual (including focusing), visual motor, and visual perceptual skills.

In this way, your Behavioural Optometrist will consider not only the remediation of any eyesight difficulties, but also the development of the whole visual system and the benefits of prevention, protection, and enhancement of your visual system in order to improve all aspects of visual performance.

Treatment regimes include the utilisation of lenses and prisms, along with visual hygiene instructions. Commonly a course of vision therapy appointments is recommended to work on developing spatial awareness, motor control, and focusing.

Here at Canon Street Optometrists, one of our optometrists, Sarah Lang, is passionate about Behavioural Optometry. We are fortunate enough to have Sarah as part of our team to provide our customers with a more holistic approach in the treatment of vision and visual perception problems.

All patients will benefit from the more holistic approach, but it is especially suited to those with learning delays, eye motor control problems, lazy eyes, developmental delays, or neurological damage.

Why is it called Behavioural Optometry?

The ‘behavioural’ aspect of Behavioural Optometry is not about a child’s ‘naughty’ behaviour, rather it is about the effects on a person of vision problems and the ways behaviour can change as a result of the visual system not working properly.

A behaviour is anything that you notice a person doing. Rubbing your eyes is a behaviour, as is getting too close to your book when reading, covering one eye, or even avoiding reading. A Behavioural Optometrist wants to find out what behaviours are being noticed by teachers or parents that might be a clue that the child is having vision problems.

A Behavioural Optometrist:

  • ensures that the focus, movements, and teaming of the eyes are working efficiently and have the stamina for everything that you want them to do
  • ensures vision development in children is progressing as it should, and is not impacting their ability to learn
  • assesses vision processing skills
  • provides vision therapy services

With children, a Behavioural Optometrist spends more time exploring how a child’s eyes work when looking at the whiteboard, as well as when they spend time on electronic devices / reading. They make sure the child’s eyes are working efficiently so that their vision doesn’t affect their ability to learn. In addition to assessing a child’s eyes, Behavioural Optometrists will frequently assess a child’s visual information processing skills. These skills enable a child to make sense of what they see when they are learning.

Good vision, efficient tracking eye movements, and accurate interpretation of what is read are all important if a child is to read well. If any of these skills are not appropriately developed, they can hold a child back from reading as well as they could. A Behavioural Optometrist will identify which skills are underdeveloped for a child’s age and provide vision therapy to help develop them.

Glasses are still important in Behavioural Optometry, however they are sometimes used in a different way to that in traditional optometry. Glasses lenses do more than just correct eyesight problems. They also change spatial awareness, including the apparent position, size and speed of objects viewed, and the posture of the eyes and body. This can be most noticeable when you first put on a new glasses prescription, or if you change between glasses and contact lenses.

Glasses lenses can therefore be used in a few different ways within a Behavioural Optometry context – correctively, therapeutically, preventatively, and for training purposes. Just as an antibiotic from your doctor might be prescribed for different purposes: to treat an infection, for acne, prevention of infection after injury / surgery, or to prevent malaria when overseas, so too can a prescription for glasses.

A glasses prescription can still be used for corrective lenses, as in traditional optometry, e.g. to give clear sight in myopia (short-sightedness). However, lenses can also be used in a therapeutic way – usually plus lenses or prism – to relieve strain and fatigue and enable comfortable vision for longer and with better performance, especially for reading or computer use. Sometimes lenses are used to prevent future vision problems, e.g. myopia. Another use for lenses is in Vision Therapy, where they are used to change the focussing demand, alter the perceived position in space, and enhance awareness of what the eyes are doing when they are focusing.

Frequently a behavioural vision examination will result in some glasses being recommended. These are often low plus powered lenses that help by reducing strain and enhancing performance for close work. Sometimes this is enough on its own to relieve the symptoms, but sometimes Vision Therapy will also be beneficial to work on the whole visual system.

Come in and see us to find out more information on how Behavioural Optometry might benefit you.


Sarah Lang

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