Page 15 - envision11-2021
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Cover Story

                                                                                         V ISION T HER APY

                                                                         BECOMING A FUNCTIONAL

            want to introduce additional specialities that will help them        OPTOMETRIST
            to generate income and vision therapy is one such speciality.”
                                                                         significant amount of continuing education and
            Dr. McKenzie says she is seeing more patients who would    A
                                                                         experience are essential to establish a successful
            benefit  from  the  services  of  vision  therapists,  citing,  “the     vision therapy practice, says Dr. Shirley Ha,
            epidemic of computer use among young people, which leads
            to myopia and problems with focusing.”                 a functional optometrist and a founding member of
                                                                   Vision Therapy Canada (VTC).
            And since vision therapy is performed in-office, it creates    “Functional optometry is considered extended
            another reason for clients to visit their optometric practitioners     education after completing regular optometry school,”
            in person, rather than using impersonal online services.
                                                                   she explains. “Optom 109, 219, 272 and 377 at the
            One challenge facing functional optometrists is the perceived   University of Waterloo’s School of Optometry and
            high cost of their services, which can put them out of reach of   Vision Science  provide the “basics” or introduction
            some people who would benefit from them.               to functional optometry with some clinic rotations in
                                                                   binocular  vision.”  L’Université  de  Montréal  provides
            Dr. McKenzie notes that practitioners require specialized     similar foundational courses through its School of
            training, which is costly (see sidebar). “I  have several     Optometry.
            therapists to educate, plus I need to purchase specialized
            equipment and have a work space large enough for my    The best continuing education courses in North America
            practice,” she explains.                               are offered by VTC, COVD (College of Optometrists
                                                                   in Vision Development) and OEPF (Optometric
            One insurance company has started offering coverage for   Extension Program Foundation); advanced courses are
            functional optometry services, she adds, and patients with   available from NORA (Neuro-optometric Rehabilitation
            health spending accounts can now get financial help to offset
            the costs.                                             Association) and CSO (College of Syntonics Optometry).
                                                                   Graduating optometry students may also choose to do a
            “VTC is talking to insurers about how people can benefit   one-year residency program in Vision Therapy.
            from their services,” she says. “We point out that if someone     “There are many international organizations, such as
            sees a  vision therapist for  treatment early  on, their
            rehabilitation might be quicker, which would enable them to   those in Europe and Australia, who offer similar courses
            return to work sooner.”                                if you want to get a different perspective and travel
                                                                   abroad,” says Dr. Ha.
            As well, VTC’s Fretz Fund is open to Canadians who find   Vision therapy/rehabilitation is taught more widely in
            themselves in need of vision therapy, but have difficulty    some U.S. Schools of Optometry than in Canada, she
            raising the funds to pay for it. 
                                                                   adds, referencing examples such as the State University
            If you are interested in exploring the possibility of becoming     of New York College of Optometry (SUNY), Southern
            a functional optometrist, Shirley Ha suggests you contact     College of  Optometry  (SCO),  Illinois  College  of
            a successful vision therapy practitioner who can provide    Optometry (ICO) and Nova Southeastern University
            guidance about the education, start-up costs, management   (NSU) College of Optometry.  
            and other things needed for success in the field.
                                                                   There are an estimated 250-300 developmental/functional
            VTR has a membership level for people interested in dipping     optometrists across Canada, says Dr. Ha. The practice
            their toes into the water, says Dr. McKenzie. “You     is gaining momentum as awareness increases with
            can spend time with a functional optometrist and talk about   the help of VTC (Vision Therapy Canada) and other
            what it’s like to run a vision therapy office. We work with     organizations, such as COVD, OEPF, NORA and CSO.
            people on a one-to-one basis and we’re trying to recruit
            speakers to address every provincial optometric organization   To encourage optometrists to consider training in
            across Canada.”                                        functional optometry, VTC provides scholarship funds
                                                                   through the University of Waterloo and l’Université de
            Kristel  Jefferies cautions  that for  those  entering  the field,   Montréal schools of optometry.
            there can be a steep learning curve. “I would advise them to
            take as much continuing education on the topic as possible    For those interested in learning more, VTC provides
            in their first few years. And be gentle on yourself as you     education, study groups and training for vision therapy.
            undertake the journey of learning this new, and rewarding,   For further information, visit
            aspect of our profession.”                       n     or email them at

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