What is Developmental Optometry?
Developmental Optometry is a specialty within optometry which focuses on how we use our eyes in daily life, such as for reading, writing, learning, sports and so on. Most eye doctors test how clearly you can see the letters on the eye chart (as well as checking the health of your eyes), a Developmental Optometrist provides specialized testing for all the visual skills required to function in daily life.
The role of the board-certified developmental optometrist is becoming increasingly important in today’s visually demanding world. Approximately 20% of the population has not developed adequate visual skills needed to function properly, especially when viewing small objects up close as required when reading print, one of the most demanding tasks placed on our visual systems. As specialists in visual function, a developmental optometrist will evaluate the following areas:
1) Binocularity, or how the eyes interact with each other and how they transmit information to the brain. The doctor measure the eyes’ ability to aim together accurately in order to maintain single vision, and they check to make certain the eyes don’t slide out of alignment, such as with crossed or wandering eyes.
2) Oculomotility, or tracking. Developmental optometrists will also check their patients’ ability to control where they aim their eyes, such as the skill required for reading so we don't lose our place. They also make sure patients can follow a moving target smoothly and are able to make accurate eye jumps from one point to another.
3) Accommodation, or focusing. Developmental optometrists evaluate their patients’ ability to change their focus rapidly and smoothly when looking from distance to near and back again, such as from board to desk. In addition, developmental optometrists check to see if patients can maintain clear focus at near ranges for extended periods of time without blur or fatigue, such as required for reading small print.
4) Vision Perception. Developmental optometrists also run tests to determine if patients have developed the perceptual skills they need to understand and analyze what they see, checking skills such as visual memory, visual discrimination, visual closure, and visual figure-ground.
5) Visual Motor Integration, or eye-hand-body coordination. Finally, developmental optometrists run tests to see if patients’ visual systems are efficiently transmitting information to the body’s motor centers for good balance and coordination. This is especially important for young athletes.