How To Use Wolff Wands

Woman having difficulty keeping place in text while reading

How Do Wolff Wands Improve Vision?

Sometimes the most effective treatments are the simplest. Wolff wands are decidedly low tech, yet help vision therapists treat conditions ranging from tracking disorders to problems with the eyes' ability to focus on near objects.

What are Wolff Wands?

Wolff wands are the creation of the late Dr. Bruce Wolff, a vision therapy pioneer. The wands are used in pairs and consist of 12" long metal rods topped with reflective silver and gold balls.

What Conditions Are Treated with Wolff Wands?

Vision therapists use the wands to treat a variety of conditions, including:

  • Peripheral Visual Awareness Issues. You may be focusing on these words at the moment, but you're probably also aware of images and movements at the edges of your vision. People who have poor peripheral visual awareness only focus on objects and images directly in front of them. Poor peripheral visual awareness, also called tunnel vision, can be a safety concern. If you're not aware of movements or objects in the periphery of your vision, you may more likely to trip over an obstacle or fail to notice another car while you're driving.
  • Convergence Insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency (CI) occurs when your eyes don't work well together when focusing on near objects. The disorder can cause double or blurred vision, headaches, and eye strain. If you have CI, you may lose your place frequently while reading, or have difficulty concentrating or catching items. If CI isn't treated promptly, your brain may eventually ignore input from one of your eyes, causing a condition called amblyopia (lazy eye).
  • Tracking Problems. The ability to track objects with your eyes is essential for reading, eye-hand coordination, good handwriting, and copying words from a blackboard or whiteboard.
  • Saccadic Dysfunctions. Saccades are involuntary eye movements that occur when your gaze shifts from one object or point to another. If you have a saccadic dysfunction, your eyes may not move quickly enough, causing difficulties with keeping your place while reading, playing sports, using coordination, copying words, or tracking objects.
  • Accommodative Dysfunctions. Accommodative dysfunctions affect the ability to focus and can occur due to spasms in the muscles that control the eyes or difficulties contracting or relaxing the muscles. Symptoms include headaches or eyestrain after reading just a few paragraphs, blurry vision during close work, and difficulty concentrating.
  • Anisometropia. It's not unusual for vision to be slightly better in one eye, but sometimes the differences can be significant. Prescription eyeglasses usually improve vision, but vision therapy may also be needed in some cases.

How Can Wolff Wands Improve Visual Disorders?

Wolff wands can be used to both diagnose and treat disorders. During a patient's comprehensive eye exam, the vision therapist moves the wands through the field of vision at eye level, from left to right and above or below eye level. If this test and others reveal a problem, use of the wands may also be incorporated into the vision therapy plan.

During one therapy exercise, patients sit or stand, keeping their heads still. The therapist moves the wands in circles or other patterns and calls out which wand the patient should focus on. At the beginning of the exercise, patients may be asked to cover each eye in turn when viewing the wands, then use both eyes together to follow the moving balls. The silver and gold balls capture the patient's reflection, making it a little easier to maintain focus on the moving balls.

Glasses that contain prisms may be worn during some Wolff wand exercises. Prisms are special lenses that improve spatial awareness, eye alignment, and perception. While wearing prisms during another vision therapy exercise, the patient moves the wands and reports what he or she sees as the position of the balls change. Using this exercise, it's possible to decrease tunnel vision and improve the ability to see images and objects at the edges of the visual field.

Wolff wands are just one of the techniques vision therapists use to help their patients improve vision. Vision therapy is very helpful in treating disorders common in childhood but is also effective in helping adults make the most of their vision. If you're concerned that you or your children may have a vision disorder, get in touch with us and schedule a comprehensive eye examination.


Vision Development & Rehabilitation: High Prevalence of Visual Middle Shift Syndrome in TBI: A Retrospective Study, 10/16

Optometry Times: Vision Therapy: A Top 10 Must-Have List, 8/1/14

OVP Journal: Vision Therapy Procedures for Tunneling, 8/15 Dr. Jeffrey Getzell


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  • "Before our daughter began vision therapy she was struggling with reading and sports. We thought she was just clumsy (walking into walls and falling a lot). My wife and I know something was't quite right; so we had our daughter tested for Central Auditory Processing Disorder, took her to an optometrist and to an eye specialist at a hospital. My wife's mother urged us to see Dr. Gordon. A significant visual tracking problem was found.
    After vision therapy our daughter went from needing extra help with reading to reading above grade level. She is now excelling in softball and has been named to the All-Star Team this year. She has become more confident and willing to try new things."
    "We can't thank Dr. Gordon's office enough for our daughter's success."
    Drew D.
  • "Before vision therapy reading was terrible. Nothing made sense on the paper. Vision therapy helped me with spelling and reading. I'm not skipping lines when reading and I love how I was taught to spell. I bring home 100's in spelling and reading is coming along too!
    I'm also on the Honor Roll at school too!"
    Elizabeth S.
  • "Our son was in 2nd grade when we found out that he had vision problems. He was referred to the occupational therapist in school for his handwriting. After her testing she called to tell us that all of signs were related to vision problems. Our son complained of headaches, motion sickness and very bad handwriting.
    Most of his teachers were telling us they thought he had ADD or ADHD.
    His attention span in school was short and he rushed through his work. He absolutely hated anything that had to do with writing.
    After starting vision therapy we saw improvements very quickly; as well as his teachers. His handwriting has improved tremendously and his posture is much better.
    We are so thankful for the occupational therapist discovering his vision challenge. We drove an hour and a half each way to Dr. Gordon's office for our weekly vision therapy sessions.
    The success of our son was well worth the drive."
    Amber W.
  • "What a difference! It has been an emotional roller coaster dealing with certain aspects of our son's left. But it was refreshing to know that we could count on the staff administering vision therapy to have his best interest in mind. To watch our son overcome the obstacles he had prior to vision therapy is worth everything. We absolutely recommend vision therapy because we have seen what it can do for our child. We are grateful for vision therapy and couldn't imagine his life without it!"
    Jerome K.
  • "I saw words differently and struggled throughout my childhood with my sight. After years of testing and appointments I found Dr. Gordon who diagnosed a Convergence Insufficiency. After a few months of vision therapy I was amazed at the my improvement.
    My life is truly changed!"
    Ella S.
  • "My son has always struggled in school. As an educator I looked for answers based on what I knew; learning disabilities, ADHD, etc. By the time he was in 4th grade I had to find some way to help my son. I realized that many of his symptoms were similar to many of my students who had Central Auditory Processing difficulties. Buffalo Hearing and Speech Center confirmed the diagnosis and recommended a visual processing evaluation. No one ever considered his reading challenges to be related to a visual processing problem. Since starting vision therapy his struggles in school have decreased, his math grades have improved as well as his reading; and he is more confident in his ability to succeed."
    Joanne L.
  • "Dr. Gordon is a developmental optometrist, which means...he is trained to deal with eye dysfunctions beyond simple near-sightedness/far-sightedness and...he can help improve vision through behavior programs. Dr. Gordon patiently worked with me to get the best possible prescription...He's a compassionate and very competent eyecare professional, and I strongly recommend him."
    Michael L.