Vision Therapy to Address Learning Disabilities? One L.A. School Official Says ‘Scam’

Photo Credit: Samantha Contis

Vision Therapy to Address Learning Disabilities? One L.A. School Official Says ‘Scam’

I know there are well-meaning people who advocate for vision therapy as an effective way to treat certain aspects of learing disorders. As with most enterprises there are scams and a risk of over-selling. Certain kids need vision training. Most kids with reading problems will not however be helped with this approach. The most common reason kids struggle with reading is that schools do not teach them in a way that fits their cognitive profile of weaknesses (phonological processing and/or rapid naming) and strengths.

The problem in that regard lies within the colleges that prepare teachers of reading:

“Teachers in teacher training are not being taught in reading and reading instruction,” Handler said. “It has not been properly incorporated in teacher colleges, so they cannot teach children right…so they look for other reasons kids have problems [learning to read].”

“There is absolutely no evidence it’s helpful at all,” said Sheryl Handler, co-author of a 2011 joint technical report on vision therapy and reading disabilities that found vision therapy to be an ineffective treatment for learning disabilities.

A handful of other published papers, including an assessment by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, claim there is no valid proof that vision therapy benefits learning-disabled students.

About Sanford

Learning Disabilities specialist and Educational Consultant
This entry was posted in Education Issues and Ideas, News, Reading, Writing, and Math. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Vision Therapy to Address Learning Disabilities? One L.A. School Official Says ‘Scam’

  1. Vision therapy is NOT a scam!! Visual dysfunctions can interfere with learning and usually have a profound influence causing undue frustration.

    Visual dysfunctions are not overt such as speech, etc. hence, it is not easy to detect. Medical and other specialists who are not trained in the evaluation and treatment of these conditions often misguide the parents. There are millions suffering because of this. Dr. Sue Barry shares her poignant story about her own misguided treatment until she sought treatment as an adult in “Stereo Sue” and more importantly please read below………….

    I am compelled to bring to everyone’s attention this article on the National Learning Disabilities website and a parent’s response who I would like to thank for taking the time to share.

    Could Vision Issues Be Contributing to Your Child’s Difficulty With Learning?
    By Debbie Walhof, MD and Leonard Press, OD (On the National LD website)

    Jenny Johnston
    • 17 days ago

    My 8.5 year old daughter was not reading 6 months ago. I have homeschooled her for her entire academic schooling. We tried glasses for 2 years (because her OPTHOMOLOGIST clearly told me that VISION THERAPY was a scam)! When she still couldn’t read or answer math problems on a sheet of paper but she could answer me orally, I began to investigate Vision Therapy. It was the best decision I have ever made as a mother. Alli’s story is too huge to put into a comment but I will say that she went from being labeled “dyslexic” to being “normal”. She went from NOT knowing 60% of the words on a PRESCHOOL word list, to KNOWING 76% of the words on the lists from Preschool THROUGH 3rd grade. (She had not even started 2nd grade when this happened).

    One thing I LOVE about Alli’s story is that there was NO OTHER INTERVENTION!!! Alli was not helped by a reading specialist, speech therapist or any tutor at all. Alli wasnt in resource classes and did not have an IEP. It was ME, ALLI and her AMAZING Developmental Optomotrist who changed her life forever.

    I urge you to please visit my blog teachingcatandbug.blogs… and make your own decision about Vision Therapy. Other parents who are in my situation need to know the option is out there and it can help. I didnt know if it would help, but I wasnt about to let her go through life being labeled DYSLEXIC and LEARNING DISABLED like her dad was….I had to try it and I am forever grateful that we did. Alli has a new road in life 180 degrees from where she was heading.


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  2. Bea says:

    Kudos to you for doing this! I am a reading specialist who has (for the last 3 years) been bringing the visual component into the conversation when we talk about struggling readers. Unfortunately I am in a (geographical) state that is led by the notion that all struggling readers suffer from problem with phonological awareness. I have been present at presentations when parents have been told by the “experts” that there is no visual connection ( at which time I raise my hand and state that I believe there is a visual connection with some children). It is parents, like you, who will make a difference by raising their voices loud and clear.

  3. Sanford says:

    Bea, agreed. Vision Therapy is not a scam.

    Things are shameful and dishonest only when they purport to cure something that they can’t.

    Explicit and phonics-based reading instruction with attention to morphology and spelling is the most effective approach for the vast majority of people with reading and spelling problems. But if it were to claim that it remediate fibromyalgia, or anxiety disorder, it would be stretching its credibility beyond the pale.

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