Your Questions Answered

Want to know more about how Behavioural Optometrists are different and how they can help? Here are the answers to some Frequently Asked Questions.

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What is a Behavioural Optometrist?

Behavioural Optometry considers your vision in relation to your visual demands, such as reading, computers, and learning to read and write, to ensure your vision is working easily and comfortably. The way that you interpret what you see does not depend solely on how clear just your sight is

For more explanation, watch this short video:

Is there evidence that Behavioural Optometry works?

Yes, there is! This website has a whole section devoted to the science and the evidence for Behavioural Optometry - learn more »

Why choose a Behavioural Optometrist?

A Behavioural Optometrist:

  • explores how someone’s eyes work in the distance but also how they work when reading or using various types of technology
  • ensures that the focus, movements and teaming of the eyes are working efficiently and have the stamina for everything that you want them to do
  • manages amblyopia and strabismus (turned eyes)
  • assesses vision processing skills
  • provides vision therapy services
  • ensures vision development in children is progressing as it should and is not impacting their ability to learn
  • assesses and manages the vision issues of children and adults with learning difficulties, dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Parkinsons and those with special needs or who are developmentally delayed and those who have had a stroke or head injury
  • takes a holistic approach and uses information from teachers and other professionals to understand everything that is of concern to the person
  • understands the health of the eye and how your body health impacts eyes.

What does a Behavioural Optometrist do when testing vision?

ACBO Optometrists carry out a comprehensive vision and eye health examination, and then may use more tests to further investigate important aspects of vision, especially focusing, convergence, eye coordination and tracking eye movements. 

They aim to evaluate the efficiency of vision, and its effect on learning and other functions. In addition to assessing a child's eyes, Behavioural Optometrists will frequently assess a child's visual information processing skills that are an important part of the learning process.
Behavioural optometrists may also provide a comprehensive assessment of a child's development of visual information processing abilities, which are an important part of the process of learning.

When should children have an eye examination?

  1. As soon as possible if there is a family history of vision problems such as eye turn, lazy eye, or high degrees of long or shortsightedness.
  2. At age 3 onwards to ensure there are no signs of a lazy or turned eye, or high degrees of long or shortsightedness.
  3. Between 3 and 5 years if significant hyperopia is found, then regularly.
  4. When they start school if their progress is significantly slower than expected, to check for vision problems which could be interfering in learning to read, or using their eyes to read and write.

See ACBO's vision screening policy here.

Other references:

Behavioural optometrists may also provide a comprehensive assessment of a child's development of visual information processing abilities, which are an important part of the process of learning.

Do children need both behavioural examinations and normal examinations?

No, children do not need both types of examinations. All aspects of a normal eye examination are covered as part of a behavioural eye examination. Typically a Behavioural Optometrist will assess a child's vision, focussing, eye teaming, visual information processing and eye health as part of their examination

Which part of the examination was the behavioural part?

Behavioural optometry is more than just the test performed. It's a way of thinking about a child's visual system and the impact that any treatment will have on them both in the classroom and outside of school. A Behavioural Optometrist tends to spend more time exploring how a child's eyes work when looking at the board as well as when they spend time on electronic devices/ reading. They make sure the child's eyes are working efficiently so that their vision doesn't affect their ability to learn. In addition to assessing a child's eyes, Behavioural Optometrists will frequently assess a child's visual information processing skills. These skills enable a child to make sense of what they see.

Are there different aspects to Behavioural Optometry practice?

Yes.  Behavioural Optometrists may often have areas of practice in which they have extra experience and learning.  This could include:

  • Children's vision
  • Sports related vision problems
  • Learning related vision problems
  • Vision problems related to head injury
  • Stroke and neurological disease

Is Behavioural Optometry just for kids?

No, Behavioural Optometry is for everyone young or old who wants to look after all aspects of their vision.

How do you become a Behavioural Optometrist?

All optometrists need to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) every year to retain their right to practice. When they decide on the focus of their continuing education, they may choose Behavioural Optometry if that is an area of interest for them. ACBO provides education for optometrists wishing to pursue this particular interest area.

Why choose an ACBO member Behavioural Optometrist?

ACBO is the peak body for Behavioural Optometry education in Australasia. ACBO members have access to education and resources specifically for Behavioural Optometry practice and are acknowledged leaders in this field.

What is the difference between an ACBO Fellow and an ACBO member?

An ACBO Fellow has completed the Fellowship process which involves a minimum of 3 years extra specialised study and assessment. It is the highest qualification available in Behavioural Optometry.

Do I need a referral to see a Behavioural Optometrist?

No - you can find your nearest Behavioural Optometrist on the ACBO website and make an appointment directly with that practice

Are the services provided by a Behavioural Optometrist covered by Medicare or Private Health Fund?

Some aspects of a behavioural optometry assessments and treatments are covered by Medicare or Private Health Insurance. You are best to discuss your child's individual requirements with you Optometrist so that you are fully informed about possible out of pocket costs.

Why are services sometimes not fully covered by Medicare or a Private Health Fund?

Medicare covers a portion of a basic eye examination. This includes assessment of vision and eye health. Some behavioural optometry services are outside of the scope of Medicare and therefore out of pocket fees apply. We recommend you discuss any out of pocket fees with your optometrist.

What does vision have to do with learning?

Let’s exaggerate! How much learning would happen for a child at school without their vision? Not a lot! It is so very important to make sure that every part of a child’s vision from how well the eyes focus and move together, to how the eyes and brain talk and how the eyes, ears, body and brain work together as a team is vital to make learning easy.

What is vision processing testing?

Vision Processing testing checks how well the brain is dealing with the pictures that the eyes are sending through. A baby is not born with the ability to understand the pictures from their eyes and vision processing skills develop as the child develops. If your vision processing development is out of sync with your age and grade level then learning in a classroom can be very hard.

Do you test for and diagnose dyslexia in children and adults?

No, Psychologists test for and diagnose dyslexia. A Behavioural Optometrist does not diagnose dyslexia. The meaning of the word dyslexia is “a dysfunction in reading” so a Behavioural Optometrist will test, diagnose and help with visual problems that may be causing added difficulties with reading.

How could a Behavioural Optometrist help in treating someone with dyslexia?

A full assessment done by a Behavioural Optometrist will identify vision problems that can affect reading ability and so we can be of help. We are only treating the visual problems that affect reading and are not treating the dyslexia.

What is vision therapy and vision training?

Vision therapy and vision training are the same thing. VT is a series of exercises or activities that allow a child to develop important skills that will assist them with focussing, eye alignment or interpretation of visually derived information

How could vision therapy help my child to read and write?

Good vision, efficient tracking eye movements and accurate interpretation of what is read are all important if a child is to read well. If any of these skills are not appropriately developed, they can hold a child back from reading as well as they could. A Behavioural Optometrist will identify which skills are underdeveloped for a child's age and provided vision therapy to help develop them.

What things can vision therapy help with?

The range of benefits from doing therapy is very wide. Younger patients may notice that they are able to read more easily and fluently without eyestrain, blurred vision or headaches. Generally, self-confidence improves and they are able to attend to tasks for longer. Adults may notice improved efficiency and comfort doing office work. Most people find they read more easily and enjoy reading more.

Can vision therapy help with poor handwriting?

Yes. Assessment of visual motor skills is part of a behavioural optometric examination. Appropriately developed visual motor skills are important for neat handwriting. If a child's visual motor skills are underdeveloped, vision therapy exercises can be of assistance

Has this got something to do with brain plasticity?

Most of how and what we see happens in our brains not our eyes. We know that we can train our brains to do things differently, brain plasticity, and so vision is part of what can be changed. A Behavioural Optometrist will help you do this through a vision therapy programme.

Why have I never heard of a Behavioural Optometrist before?

Behavioural optometrists can have a professional interest in:

  • Children’s Vision
  • Sports vision performance
  • Learning and vision

Behavioural optometry as a professional field has been around since the 1920’s and has developed as an area of optometry practice since then. There are around 3,000 optometrists around the world who identify with behavioural optometry, in countries like the USA, Canada, Germany and New Zealand.
The principles of Behavioural Optometry are taught at universities and colleges around the world, including:

  • The Southern College of Optometry, Tennessee, USA
  • Deakin University, Victoria, Australia
  • State University of New York, USA
  • Arizona College of Optometry – Midwest University, Arizona USA
  • University of Waterloo – Ontario, Canada
  • Illinois State University College of Optometry, USA

Members of the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometry are educated and registered in the same way as other optometrists, and provide behavioural optometry assessment and treatment as well as standard optometry services.

Why has the Behavioural Optometrist asked me or my child to wear glasses when I can see just fine?

A glasses prescription given to you by a Behavioural Optometrist is very similar to an antibiotic prescription that might be given to you by a doctor. They may prescribe the antibiotic for a chest infection but an antibiotic can be used for different things such as acne, to prevent malaria when overseas or to prevent you from getting an infection after surgery.
Glasses can also be prescribed for different things. They can be prescribed to help you see more clearly, but they can also be prescribed to make it easier for your eyes to converge when you are reading, to prevent tired eyes after long hours of computer work or they can be prescribed to prevent vision problems in the future, especially myopia. Your Behavioural Optometrist will explain to you the reasons that they have recommended a glasses prescription and it could be for something other than just seeing clearly.

My child isn’t naughty and doesn’t behave badly so why would I see a Behavioural Optometrist?

The word “Behavioural” in this context refers to the effects on a person of vision problems, and the ways vision can change as a result of vision not working properly, not to the behaviour of the child. It’s all about an overall approach to vision care.
A behaviour is anything that you notice a person doing. Rubbing your eyes is a behaviour, getting too close to your book when reading is a behaviour, covering one eye is a behaviour, even avoiding reading is a behaviour. A Behavioural Optometrist wants to find out what behaviours are being noticed by teachers or parents that might be a clue that the child is having vision problems.

Why would tinted glasses be prescribed?

Studies into the impact of tinted lenses are varied (see the section on tinted lenses and pattern glare). Some people who experience moving or jumping words when reading, known as pattern glare, report an improvement with reading, particularly with the comfort and fluency of reading, with a coloured lens. Coloured lenses are also used by some people who suffer from migraines, have had brain injuries or other neurological issues. Consideration of the use of tinted lenses should be undertaken in consultation with your behavioural optometrist as part of your overall management.

What caused the problems with my child’s eyes?

If there is a reason for the difficulties that your child is experiencing with their eyes it will be explained to you by the Behavioural Optometrist once they have examined your child’s vision. As with a lot of conditions, research hasn’t given us all the answers about why something might happen. However a Behavioural Optometrist will provide you with all the information that you need to help overcome your child’s vision problems.

Is there anything that I could have done to prevent these problems?

No. Vision and vision processing problems occur for children who have had a healthy life with great educational opportunities as well as for those children who may not have been as fortunate. Sometimes, despite the best of parenting, certain skills may not develop on their own, or focusing problems can gradually develop, and may require the assistance of an optometrist experienced in managing these issues.

What can I do at home to help my child?

Many vision therapists will prescribe activities for parents and children to do at home as part of the vision therapy process

Find a Behavioural Optometrist


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