Vision rehabilitation is an essential part of maintaining and improving your overall health. A developmental optometrist is an eye doctor who has completed additional years of postgraduate training beyond what a regular optometrist has. This specialized training allows them to perform tests to determine if patients have the visual skills necessary to perform everyday tasks, especially at work or school. Developmental optometrists are experts in diagnosing and treating delays in visual abilities, amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (criss-crossing or wandering eyes).
It is essential that these patients be referred to an optometrist to identify, treat and monitor their visual health, as well as coordinate care with other providers. Optometrists may also be concerned about reimbursement rates for services for people with vision problems and the sale of devices. People with low vision issues, such as macular degeneration, glaucoma, or diabetic retinopathy, may not expect to interact with an occupational therapist in the optometrist's office. However, the model of care for patients with visual impairment follows the physical medicine and rehabilitation model of care for people of all ages with visual impairment. This model allows optometrists to maximize the function, independence, and overall health of their patients. Optometrists should look for signs that their patients' visual impairments may be causing them difficulty in performing their normal activities.
While not all optometrists specialize in low vision rehabilitation, primary ophthalmologists should be able to identify, refer, and guide patients to the low vision services they need. An optometrist can assess eye health and monitor the progression of low vision conditions, while an occupational therapist can focus on aspects related to daily functional performance. Therefore, a collaborative relationship between an optometry office and an occupational therapist can be beneficial. The American Optometric Association (AOA) is committed to promoting and providing resources so that more patients see an optometrist and receive the visual rehabilitation services they need. While all optometrists are trained to provide low vision care, not everyone decides to become a low vision specialist.
The AOA is dedicated to helping more people access the care they need.