What is behavioural optometry?

Behavioural Optometry is a specialism within optometry which can help to improve visual system issues caused by a range of conditions such as dyslexia or dyspraxia. At Harpenden Eye Centre, our fully accredited behavioural optometrist is one of only a small number of qualified experts in the UK and we are proud to host the only Behavioural Optometry and vision therapy clinics in Harpenden. 

"Behavioural Optometry is a specialist interest in how vision affects human performance. Vision and the motor visual system are our primary source for gathering information with 87% of learning occurring through the visual system. Even subtle issues with the visual system can have a major impact on our efficiency and performance, even more so for children where these systems are still developing.

Children are usually born with the necessary hardware to allow the development of normal sensory skills, but it takes a busy childhood of play, exploration and experience to develop and train the software that controls what we take in from the world. If this software is not established properly, it can result in problems with the visual system and therefore learning. If undetected these problems can continue into adulthood." The British Association of Behavioural Optometrists


Which conditions can behavioural optometry help with?

At Harpenden Eye Centre, our fully accredited behavioural optometrist can help with a range of conditions which cause visual problems, including, but not limited to:

  • Dyslexia
  • Dyspraxia (DCD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Aspergers
  • Strabismus and misalignment of the eye
  • Amblyopia and lazy eye
  • Traumatic brain injury, head injury or stroke

How will I know if myself or my child should see a behavioural optometrist?

It may be difficult to know whether behavioural optometry is right for you or your child. Below is a list of common symptoms or visual complaints from those who could benefit from seeing a behavioural optometrist:

  • Shows poor concentration and is easily distracted
  • Fidgets continuously
  • Poor comprehension of reading content
  • Rubs eyes or blinks excessively whilst reading or writing
  • Head turns when reading across the page or uses an unusual posture
  • Moves book around the desk whilst reading or writing, or moves it closer or further away
  • Loses place frequently and needs to use a finger or marker to help
  • Short attention span whilst reading or copying
  • Writes upwards or downwards and cannot stay on ruled lines
  • Orientates drawings poorly
  • Complains that the text is moving, blurring or that the text is changing size
  • Complains of patterns in the print, described like worms or rivers
  • Tiring easily whilst reading or writing
  • Headaches, red, sore watery eyes or visual discomfort 
  • Uses poor spacing while writing and may use hand as a spacer
  • Skips or rereads lines unknowingly
  • Repeats letters within words or completely omits numbers, letters or phrases
  • Omits numbers, letters or phrases during copying 
  • Misaligns numbers both vertically and horizontally
  • Closes or covers one eye, or squints
  • Extreme lack of orientation
  • Poor coordination and seems as though the eye is not guiding the hands
  • Cannot focus on moving objects, such as a ball being thrown
  • Difficulty in spotting differences and confusing words which have the same beginning or ending
  • Whispers to self for reinforcement whilst reading silently
  • Reading or writing deteriorates as time goes on, such as during lessons
  • Reads or write very slowly with a considerable amount of effort
  • Easily frustrated when asked to complete reading or writing tasks
  • Shows a low level of self-esteem


What are the goals of behavioural optometry?

  • To prevent vision and eye problems from developing or deteriorating
  • To provide treatment for eye conditions which have already developed
  • To ensure the visual abilities needed in the classroom, workplace, playing sports or using computers are developed normally and work well
  • To help improve visual processing which can aid underlying conditions, such as dyslexia
  • To strengthen functional eye skills, just as you would want to strengthen weak hands or core muscles
  • To develop efficient visual skills which are just as important as developing motor, gross motor and coordination skills  

How can these goals be achieved?

Our behavioural optometrist will conduct an initial assessment with you or your child lasting around 2 hours. During this assessment, the optometrist will carry out a variety of tests and examinations and discuss your concerns. The optometrist will devise an action plan which will include weekly visual therapy sessions to monitor, assess and develop the visual skill set. 

These weekly visual therapy sessions will be required for a minimum of 3 months, though may be required for a period of 18 months or longer. It is imperative that you are committed to attending these weekly sessions and carrying out any exercises recommended by the optometrist at home for the goals to be achieved. Visual therapy is a process which requires determination and dedication. The success of visual therapy relies on the efforts of patient, as well as their parents or primary caregivers in the case of a child. It is important to understand that vision therapy is not a cure for the conditions which cause visual stress, but can help alleviate the symptoms if programmes and activities are followed exactly as instructed by our optometrist. 

For further information on our process, the visual therapy sessions and our prices, please contact us for more information.