Video Games Offer Important Vision Therapy Benefits

Teenagers playing video games

Can video games help improve your vision?

Pay a visit to your local vision therapist's office and you're likely to see several of the patients playing video games. Although you might assume that they're taking a little break, video games may actually be part of their therapy.

Benefits of Video Games

There's definitely something addictive about video games. Whether you're matching colored candies, popping balloons, or launching angry birds at pigs, advancing to the next level or beating your previous high score can become an obsession.

Vision therapists take advantage of their patients' natural interest in video games by incorporating them into therapy plans. No matter how motivated the patient, performing the same old therapeutic activities can become a little boring after a while. Special video games designed to improve vision and enhance the pathways between the brain and the eyes make therapy fun and may even help some patients progress more rapidly.

How Do Video Games Help?

Vision therapists use a variety of video games to improve useful vision, including virtual reality games for people who have convergence insufficiency, strabismus, or amblyopia.

Convergence insufficiency occurs when your eyes don't work together as a team. It can cause headaches, eyestrain, or blurred or double vision. You may also notice that you lose your place easily or have difficulty concentrating.

Strabismus, commonly called crossed eyes, happens if your eyes aren't properly aligned. If the condition isn't corrected with vision therapy or surgery, in some cases, you may eventually develop ambylopia, or lazy eye. If you have ambylopia, your brain ignores the light impulses it receives from one eye, which can cause blurred vision and trouble with depth perception.

When amblyopia patients play specially designed video games, both eyes see the same image through their virtual reality goggles with one important difference; the signal strength of the image the good eye sees has been decreased. The difference in signal strength forces the bad eye to work harder. Over time, the bad eye begins to grow stronger.

Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of video games in vision therapy, including one published in the Journal of Vision. Study participants included children ages 7 to 13 who had amblyopia. After playing just 10 hours of an action video game, their ability to see images clearly in the bad eye improved by 28 percent. Improvement has been just as impressive in other studies performed with adult participants.

Video games can also help improve several other problems that affect usable vision, such as visual memory and peripheral awareness.

If you have poor visual memory, you may struggle to copy images, spell words correctly, or remember what you've just read. Video matching games can be helpful in improving visual memory. During the games, players reveal one tile and then must click on other tiles to reveal the matching image.

Peripheral awareness problems may also improve after video game therapy. If you have poor awareness of objects and movements at the edge of your visual field, you may have difficulty playing sports or may trip and fall because you don't notice obstacles.

Video games can help you fine-tune your peripheral vision. One game requires you to stare straight at a screen while numbers appear around the edges of the screen. After the numbers disappear, you'll be asked to click on the numbers you saw. With practice, you'll slowly begin to recognize more and more numbers in your peripheral vision.

Video games are just one of the tools and techniques vision therapists use to help you make the most of your vision. If you think that you or a family member could benefit from vision therapy, contact us to schedule a comprehensive eye exam.

Sources:

Journal of Vision: Action Video Games as a Treatment of Amblyopia in Children: A Pilot Study of a Novel, Child-Friendly Action game, 8/14

https://jov.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2144538

American Optometric Association: Video-Game Vision Therapy, 4/16

http://www.aoa.org/news/clinical-eye-care/video-game-vision-therapy

NJIT Magazine: Can Eye Therapy Be Fun?

https://magazine.njit.edu/sites/magazine/files/pictures/fall2016_can-eye-therapy-be-fun_0.pdf

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Testimonial

  • "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.