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Local optometrist uses vision therapy to help patients

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Daniel Nielson assists a patient with vision therapy game designed to improve vision | Rett Nelson, EastIdahoNews.com

AMMON — When you hear the word “vision” or “eye care,” what comes to mind? For many people, it is sitting in an office where you look into a device and identify a line on a chart.

But Dr. Daniel Nielson says eye care is much more than that.

“There are lots of kids struggling in school with low self-esteem who have a learning related vision problem. Kids don’t know the way they see the world is different and so parents don’t know either. There is a need in eastern Idaho for treatment of these overlooked vision problems,” Nielson tells EastIdahoNews.com.

That’s why he opened the Idaho Vision Development Center in Ammon last month. As a developmental optometrist, Nielson knows firsthand what it’s like to deal with vision problems and the impact a treatment program has on a patient’s life.

“When I was 12 years old, I struggled with vision problems myself and I saw the impact correcting your vision can have. Then in optometry school, I witnessed a child struggling in reading and having a lot of difficulties. Through a vision therapy program, she became an avid reader.”

Nielson has a growing list of clients who struggle with learning-related vision problems, accident or injury-related problems and other medical issues. Bear Lake High Sophomore McKaylee Sellers first started seeing Nielson last month after getting a concussion earlier this year.

“It messed up my eyes. When I’m reading, I have a hard time tracking. (I’ve struggled with) comprehension, blurriness, dizziness and balance,” McKaylee says. “I come and do all these exercises and they’re usually pretty fun.”

Nielson incorporates a series of games and activities in his vision therapy program designed to help patients improve their vision. One of those games is called VTS4.

“We have some 3D glasses (the client) can wear. They get to use an Xbox controller and there are different games they can play and the image ‘pops out,'” Nielson says.

McKaylee’s favorite therapy game is called Battleship, which works by finding coordinates to letters on a chart and using it to spell different words.

One of the biggest vision problems Nielson sees is nearsightedness. In 2010, Nielson says research from the National Health Institute found 40 percent of people in the U.S. were nearsighted.

“It’s really an epidemic that’s growing. Besides causing blurry vision, it can cause other eye diseases and conditions. Being able to stop (nearsightedness) in a child’s life has a huge impact on their quality of life and just on their ability to function.”

To help prevent nearsightedness or common vision problems, Nielson recommends getting a yearly eye exam. For those who stare at a screen for long periods of time, Nielson says you should take a break every 20 minutes by looking at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

“That will give your visual system a break, so your eyes aren’t tensing up and focusing too hard,” Nielson says.

Nielson held a ribbon cutting and open house of his clinic earlier this month. Idaho Vision Development Center opened nearly two months ago, but Nielson hopes the clinic and the number of people they serve continues to grow.

“We hope to be able to offer a service to people in eastern Idaho that hasn’t ever been offered to its fullest extent.”

Idaho Vision Development Center is located at 1536 Midway Ave. in Ammon. It’s open Tuesdays and Wednesdays 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call (208) 227-8822. Learn more by visiting the website.

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