Is there any good research to show that vision therapy is effective?

Dr. Press and I write frequently on the VisionHelp Blog about the important research pertaining to developmental vision and rehabilitation. One reason we have this focus on research is because, just as in all areas of healthcare, it is important to show the evidence based principles that establish a basis for diagnosis and treatment. The other reason for our research focus is because, over the years, from time to time, there have been occasions where someone calls into question the validity of, and/or amount of VT related research, as if to suggest that vision therapy does not have sufficient research.

But, to understand the magnitude, depth and breadth of how much work has gone into studying the question of, “Is vision therapy effective” you need look no further.

In this elegantly written, beautiful narrative published in the August 2018 Journal of the American Academy of Optometry,  Dr. Mitchell Scheiman, the consummate leader in vision research, wrote a paper entitled: 2017 Glenn A. Fry Award Lecture: Establishing an Evidence-based Literature for Vision Therapy — A 25-year Journey.

In this paper, the story unfolds about how a passionate group of fellow optometrists, educators and clinicians, with a shared purpose to find the answers about vision therapy  began in 1994 with the question: “Does vision therapy lead to improved reading in children with symptomatic convergence insufficiency?” What evolved from this one question lead to the formation of the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial investigator group and a 25 year journey that even now, still has more territory to cover.

As Dr. Scheiman states, “we now have almost 25 years of collaboration, with more than 200 investigators from multiple professions (optometry, ophthalmology, pediatric medicine, physical rehabilitative medicine, neurology, biostatistics, education, psychology, physical therapy) having been a part of our studies. We have been funded by the National Eye Institute for three randomized clinical trials in an era in which such funding is difficult to secure for all researchers, let alone optometrists.

And their work is not done as there are many more important questions that still need to be answered. As research is showing the most common visual diagnoses that is being identified in patients following a concussion is Convergence Insufficiency. To address this Dr. Scheiman announces, “In 2017, we formed the Convergence Insufficiency and Concussion Investigator Group with a goal of achieving National Institutes of Health funding for a multicenter clinical trial. As study chair of the Convergence Insufficiency and Concussion Investigator group, I am excited that optometrists are now working closely with pediatricians, sports concussion physicians, physical therapists, and neuropsychologists in a collaborative relationship to study post-concussion convergence insufficiency.”

It’s a fascinating read that certainly goes a long way to lay to rest the question: Is there any good research to show that vision therapy is effective?

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD