By Shari Friedel
Dr. Tori Gengenbach of First Insight Eyecare believes almost anyone can benefit from vision therapy, and is especially excited to offer help to students who may be struggling in the classroom.
Vision therapy has become a passion for the optometrist, who has been on staff at First Insight in Grant for the past two years. She and her husband, Eric, also an optometrist at First Insight, have recently purchased the business, which has locations in Grant, Imperial and Ogallala, from Dr. Tim Meyer.
Dr. Gengenbach said that she stumbled into the optometry field with her original plan being to enter the medical field.
A native of Bixby, Okla., she attended Oklahoma State University and graduated with a degree in physiology.
After meeting Eric Gengenbach, a Grant native and graduate of Grant High School who was also a student at Oklahoma State, the two decided to attend Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tenn. They are now practicing together in Grant, and raising their 14-month-old daughter, Olivia.
Although vision therapy has only recently gained attention, Gengenbach said that Dr. Meyer has practiced it for 25 years, a testament to his progressive mindset. Eric went through some vision therapy with Dr. Meyer as a young child growing up in Grant.
The Gengenbachs have been eager to incorporate vision therapy into their practice, but as new parents just starting their careers, the project was delayed until now.
Gengenbach explained that vision accounts for 70 percent of sensory information, with the brain devoting more to processing visual stimuli than all other senses combined. As many as 25 percent of children have visual problems, said Gengenbach.
A student may have difficulty focusing on the most important data, with too much stimuli causing confusion.
Gengenbach doesn’t buy the excuse that is heard often, “I just don’t like to read.” She feels that somewhere along the line, there was a vision issue that made reading difficult for the student.
Improving the efficiency of the vision system can help students reach their full potential, or at least show marked improvement in the classroom, Gengenbach feels.
Children with problems in school are often diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and are typically put on medication.
As a parent herself, Gengenbach said she would explore every possibility before resorting to medication, which she feels is a “band aid,” just covering up the problem. Vision therapy is one alternative Gengenbach encourages parents to explore for their children.
What is Vision Therapy?
Vision therapy teaches the patient to most effectively use their vision system—eyes and brain, and use them to their best advantage. It is a whole body approach to improving the vision system.
Equipment used can be as simple as beads on a string to a large, touch screen computer with interactive programs that the Gengenbachs have purchased.
Therapy techniques involve the use of lenses, visual exercises and even some balance exercises on a mini-trampoline and balance beam.
Gengenbach plans to use empty rooms in the building the business shares with Southwest Nebraska Community Betterment Corp., as therapy rooms.
Some of the problems that can be addressed with vision therapy are focusing and attention issues, peripheral distraction, “lazy eye” and even problems resulting from traumatic brain injury.
Symptoms to look for in someone who may benefit from vision therapy are headaches, blurred vision, hurt and tired eyes, words moving on the page, motion sickness, poor attention span and lack of coordination.
Dr. Gengenbach and head therapist Monica Poppe have attended two of a five-part series of seminars in San Diego instructed by Dr. Robert Sanet, a premier doctor in the field of vision therapy. The series will conclude this fall.
Gengenbach feels that the investment of time and the expense of the seminars as well as the new computer will pay off in the long run. She is confident that with the equipment and training they have, they can begin making a difference for patients immediately.
Initial sessions will include an eye examination, diagnostic tests, a personal history review, testing with the therapist and a meeting with parents to go over findings and determine if vision therapy will be beneficial.
Treatment requires a three-pronged approach, said Gengenbach. Cooperation between the parents, child and therapist is key.
Each individual’s needs are considered and they are treated one on one instead of in a group setting, which Gengenbach said is usually not effective.
Typically, a patient will spend 50 minutes to an hour each week for approximately six months in therapy sessions.
Parents who feel their children may benefit from vision therapy are encouraged to contact First Insight Eyecare for more information.