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Faces of Kelowna: Okanagan Vision Therapy

We don’t see with our eyes, we see with our brain.

“Vision is learned,” says Dr. Paul Rollett of Okanagan Vision Therapy. “20/20 vision is not enough. It is only one component of visual Performance.”

In fact, there are at least 17 systems that need to function in consort for vision to be optimally operating - and nearly all of these systems are trainable.

As the head of the Okanagan’s first and only dedicated centre for optometric vision therapy and rehabilitation, Dr. Rollett knows of which he speaks.

For the past 10 years, he has designed and supervised programs for three main groups of patients – children with vision-related learning difficulties, those with brain injuries from concussion, whiplash and stroke and athletes looking to optimize vision for sports.

Okanagan Vision Therapy is a special niche in optometry, and one many people may not have heard of.

However, awareness is growing, and with the intensity of sports and the amount of near work we do as a society, an increasing number of people would benefit from vision therapy. Receiving the right treatment at the right time is life-changing for patients, particularly when it comes to the developing visual systems of children, and rehabilitation after head injury. Dr. Rollett loves his profession and career.

“Watching and experiencing the lives of people change for the better, each and every day, is why I enjoy it so much,” he says.

“I couldn’t do what I do without my incredible team. They are just as passionate about helping our clients as I am, and the reward of seeing our clients' success doesn’t get old.”

Dr. Rollett’s path to being a vision therapy specialist is a very personal one. After sustaining a concussion, he had difficulty reading for any length of time.

While at optometry school, he took matters into his own hands and solved the problem with a vision therapy program he designed for himself based on his learnings.

“It changed my life,” he says.

Okanagan Vision Therapy’s services can be covered partially by BC Medical, private insurance, ICBC and WorkSafeBC claims, funding from Autism organizations and private pay.

“We utilize glasses and contact lenses, of course,” says Dr. Rollett. “But glasses and contacts are static, while vision is dynamic.”

That is why for children with vision-related learning difficulties, glasses may only be part of the solution.

“One in four children have trouble with eye tracking and focusing and they lose their place on the page when learning how to read,” he explains. “We help them develop skills by working muscles in and around the eye to keep images stable.”

“The exercises aren’t there to make the muscles stronger per say,” explains Rollett. “Instead they create a feedback scenario, so that you can do things more effectively.”

Kids with vision-related learning difficulties quickly lose confidence, suffer headaches while trying to read, avoid doing classwork and homework and disengage from the classroom. However if that same child receives vision therapy, they can become skilled readers, participate in the classroom, and are less likely to dread school work and homework.

Similarly, vision therapy helps those with a brain injury overcome dizziness, light sensitivity, balance challenges and reading, phone and computer intolerance.

Sports vision training can also improve an athlete’s reaction time, hand-eye and dynamic depth perception.

If you or someone you know struggles with any of the issues discussed, contact Okanagan Vision Therapy for more information.

It could be the first step toward a clearer future.

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