That is a great question. What the heck is behavioral optometry? Over 70 years ago, an optometrist named A. M. Skeffington began to look a little differently at the way people view the world. His studies resulted in the practice of behavioral optometry. Behavioral optometry says that vision, rather than being like a camera lens, is a complex, integrated relationship between the eyes, the brain and the entire body. Continued studies revealed that, while some vision problems are genetic, the majority are caused by adaptations to the environment—not all of which are healthy and positive. Behavioral optometrists also say that what is learned can be unlearned. Through vision therapy and the use of lenses, they help teach people new, efficient ways to view the world.
With a solid foundation in clinical practice and scientific research, behavioral optometry has been successful in treating certain learning disabilities in children, improving the performance of athletes and helping people adapt to computer and other work stresses. Your behavioral optometrist will usually ask many questions and use a variety of tests you haven’t seen before in an exam. These tests will help reveal the following skills:
- Eye movement (ocular motility): Following objects smoothly, accurately, effortlessly and with minimal demand on conscious attention. How quickly and accurately you look from one object to another without fatigue.
- Eye focus skills (accommodation): How easily and quickly you change focus from near to far and vice versa. How well you sustain focus at near tasks without fatigue or discomfort.
- Eye teaming skills/binocular coordination: How well do two eyes work together on far-seeing tasks? And near? Can they sustain teaming so accurate single and clear information can be obtained and comprehended without undue effort, fatigue or discomfort?
- Eye-hand coordination: The ability to team eyes and hands. Can you visually plan and perform a task in a defined spatial area? Do you have “two left feet,” are “all thumbs,” or consider yourself clumsy?
- Visual perceptual skills: An understanding of yourself as a point of reference for developing spatial concepts and figuring direction. Do you grasp the relationship between “where I am” and “where it is.” Can you make accurate judgments of size, shape, position and distance? Can you remember what you see and visualize objects in relationship to other objects?
After the exam, Dr. Davis will either prescribe lenses, vision therapy, or both. Through a supervised program of lenses and/or vision therapy, Dr. Davis will help you develop your own visual abilities and improve your skills. Dr. Davis will work with you to see what can be done so that you are using your entire visual system to its full potential. Each year, research continues in the area of behavioral optometry, vision therapy and vision. For specific research topics or information on sports vision, computers and vision, learning disabilities or visual development in children, and more, ask your behavioral optometrist.