an exam, all eye doctors check the physical condition and
health of their patients’ eyes, as well as their
refractive status—in other words, what lens prescription
best corrects nearsightedness, farsightedness, or
astigmatism for clear vision.
Development optometrists do this as well. However,
besides making sure their patients are healthy and see
clearly, developmental optometrists are also concerned with
how efficiently their patients’ vision allows them to function.
In addition to providing a routine eye exam, developmental
optometrists run additional tests to determine if their
patients have developed the visual skills they need to
adequately perform tasks required in their daily lives,
especially at work or school.
Developmental optometrists are also specialists in the field
of lazy eyes and crossed or wandering eyes.
optometrists must complete two to three years of post-graduate training after
their optometric degree. They are also required to complete
extensive clinicals and submit case studies before they can
sit for their national boards.
Once developmental optometrists finish their
additional education and successfully pass both the written
and oral examinations on their boards, they are credentialed
as Fellows in the College of Optometrists in Vision
Development, with the certification of F.C.O.V.D. added to
their professional title.
(Note: Sometimes developmental optometrists are
called behavioral optometrists because of their role
in evaluating how vision affects behavior and performance.
They are also referred to as pediatric optometrists
because of their frequent work with children.)
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:
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Please see the page on "Vision
and Reading" for a more complete discussion
of the above areas.
can have healthy eyes and clear vision and still have
problems in these other areas.
However, because this is a specialized area of care,
most eye doctors do not run the additional tests to identify
problems. Therefore, many functional vision disorders are
not identified during most standard eye exam.
Patients often attribute their symptoms to other
problems, such as learning disabilities or attention deficit
disorders, when the real source of their functional decline
is an undiagnosed vision problem. (Please see the symptoms
checklist for common signs of “hidden” vision
your child is struggling to visually process information,
especially in reading, or has trouble paying attention with
visually demanding work, you may want to consider asking
your family eye doctor to refer you to a colleague who
specializes in this area of care.
You can also locate a developmental optometrist in
your area by contacting the national certifying board at www.covd.org.