Behavioural Optometry explores the functioning of the eyes and the brain, as they process visual information and the effect on performance and behaviour. Predominantly working with children, Behavioural optometrists also work with anyone who has a visually demanding job or lifestyle.
Sometimes children can perform below their ability in the classroom. This can occur because the child has not developed the 'building blocks' in the vision system needed to enable them to read, write, spell or carry out maths tasks and concentrate.
A Behavioural optometrist can conduct visual perceptual tests in an effort to identify any gaps in these 'building blocks'. Often children will be referred by a GP, maternal and child health nurse or school nurse.
What is involved?
Every child needs an initial eye examination to determine how well they can see and maintain clear vision. If your child is having difficulty with learning, an additional appointment may be scheduled for a visual information processing assessment. This test takes approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour with a Behavioural optometrist.
Visual Information Assessment - Your child is asked by your Behavioural optometrist to complete individual tasks in the following areas:
Eye movement skills
These skills are needed in order for a child to keep their position on a page, copy from the board and read fluently. They also assist with general co-ordination.
Visual spatial skills
Good visual spatial skills start with a child's awareness of them self in space, their left-right awareness, awareness of external objects, and finally of the printed page. Without this knowledge, children will often reverse letters, numbers and words and show poor page organisation.
These skills allow a child to immediately recognise a word. Children with poor visual memory will often act as if it is the first time they have come across a word, even if they have come in contact with the word hundreds of times before.
Allows a child to 'make sense' of visually presented information. Without this ability, children will struggle to appreciate subtle differences between letters, numbers and words, which impairs comprehension.
This is our ability to discern small differences between the things we see. This skill is very important in letter, number and able word recognition.
We use our figure ground skills every time we search for something in our environment. The more cluttered the background, the more difficult it is to locate the object we seek. Figure ground skills are used when reading, when searching for words and in a classroom situation.
Visual motor integration
Handwriting requires a child to make a mental plan of the letters and words (utilises visual analysis skills) then use fine motor skills (pen control) to execute this plan. Children with poor visual motor integration will tend to have slow or messy handwriting or poor page organisation.
Although not a focus of our testing, it is important to get a baseline measurement to obtain an overall picture of your child's learning style. Good auditory skills allow for a child to sound out unfamiliar words, retain verbal information and understand information sequencing. This helps with reading, writing, and mathematical and musical ability.
If the Visual Information Assessment reveals any areas needing improvement, you and your child may choose to start a vision training program, or to seek help from an occupational or speech therapist.
A vision training program is divided into 5 basic sections:
-Visual thinking and memory
-Visual motor integration
-Attention and sequencing
Many children need to work in more than one area. Each area is divided into a number of different levels of exercise. Different children start at different levels.
Depending on the needs of the child and other factors, the child can attend in-house therapy or practice the exercises at home for 30 minutes a day, or a combination of both. On average, the program is a 6 month commitment.