Description: The use of professionally supervised eye exercises to correct problems with vision. Some also apply this term to the use of special eyeglass lenses in isolation or in conjunction with eye exercises. Some practitioners may recommend lenses with prisms (sometimes called Kaplan lenses), while others may recommend filtered or tinted lenses (sometimes called Irlen lenses).
Examples: Eye Exercises to enhance visual attention, Rapid Eye Therapy, Irlen lenses. Ambient lenses, or Yoked Prisms, eyeglasses that are prescribed to improve “visual attention”
Research Summary: Eye exercises may be useful for treating certain vision problems such as strabismus (difficulty coordinating the movements of the two eyes to work together) convergence insufficiency (difficulty turning eyes inward to focus on a nearby object). However, there is no known association between such problems and autism spectrum disorders. Although one study suggested that vision therapy might be effective for children with autism spectrum disorders (Kaplan, Edelson, & Seip, 1998). this intervention has not been evaluated for individuals with autism spectrum disorders in studies with strong experimental designs (Rawstron, Burley, & Eldeer, 2005). According to a joint statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and American Academy of Ophthalmology (1998), “No scientific evidence exists for the efficacy of eye exercises (“vision therapy”) or the use of special tinted lenses in the remediation of … complex pediatric neurological conditions” such as autism spectrum disorders.
Recommendations: Researchers may wish to conduct studies with strong scientific designs to evaluate Vision Therapy. Professionals should present Vision Therapy as untested and encourage families who are considering this intervention to evaluate it carefully.
Selected scientific study:
Kaplan, M., Edelson, S. M., & Seip, J. A. (1998). Behavioral changes in autistic individuals as a result of wearing ambient transitional prism lenses. Child Psychiatry and Human Development, 29, 65-76.
Systematic reviews of scientific studies:
Rawstron, J. A., Burley, C. D., & Eldeer, M. J. (2005). A systematic review of the applicability and efficacy of eye exercises. Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology & Strabismus, 42, 82-88.
Position statements from professional organizations:
American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and American Academy of Ophthalmology (1998). Joint Statement: Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision – Reaffirmed 2014 American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Retrieved from: http://www.aao.org