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Behavioural Optometry, where visual interpretation is more than just clear eyesight

Updated: Oct 22, 2022

Panoptic Vision is the only accredited behavioural optometry practice in the Mid North Coast.

What is Behavioural Optometry?

Behavioural Optometry is a holistic approach to vision which includes eyesight and eye health but is then specifically interested in the many individual aspects of vision each person may have. These include:

  • Treatment to improve the way both eyes work

  • Assessing adaption to different visual tasks

  • Investigating muscle tension, eye position, movement, awareness of space and co-ordination with other senses.

Behavioural Optometry is a holistic approach to eyesight and eye health at Panoptic Vision Lake Cathie and Bellingen
Behavioural Optometry is a holistic approach to eyesight and eye health

How is a Behavioural Optometrist Different?

For some of us, the term behavioural optometrist is quite a mouthful, and we may not even be familiar with what they really do.

A behavioural optometrist is interested in how your brain interprets what you see. So there is a whole world of whys and hows in behavioural optometry which is a comprehensive and holistic approach to how our eyes work. See it as a multidisciplinary approach. You need to consider all aspects of vision e.g. physical, neurological, developmental.

So what is interesting is a person may have nothing wrong with their eyes, but they actually do not have enough control or skills to use their visual system effectively. That is when you notice people having a hard time with regular tasks such as reading, writing, driving, using a computer etc. These problems often go undetected.

Did you know that vision is the most dominant sense out of our five senses? "Research estimates that eighty to eighty-five percent of our perception, learning, cognition, and activities are mediated through vision." (Source:

This is why behavioural optometry is so important because even tiny issues which we may not pay attention to could have an impact on our learning and our ability to perform tasks.

At Panoptic Vision, our behavioural optometrists can help identify which parts of your visual system need more support, and to provide the therapy or treatment required to improve the situation.

Vision and learning

As an example of how behavioural optometry can be beneficial to us, just think about how you learn.

Learning is a complex process. Your eyes and your vision system grow and develop from the brain, making vision a fundamental factor in thinking and learning. Clear eyesight is not all that is required for close vision tasks. When you are learning something, you must have a variety of scanning, focussing, and visual coordination skills to accomplish that and for getting meaning from reading.

When the visual system is not working efficiently, it can interfere with this process and impede remedial efforts. Problems in identifying and treating people with learning-related vision problems arise if the definition of vision is limited to clarity of sight and healthy eyes.

Prompt treatment of learning related vision problems enhances the ability of children and adults to perform to their full potential. Vision is a foundation skill. Good vision skills are essential to support learning including those with a specific learning disability.

If you experience discomfort, fatigue, changes in behaviour, altered eyesight and reduced academic ability, these are common visual stress reactions and could be an indication of a vision-related learning problem. It's your eyes telling you they need help. Some people may dismiss these and not even consider mentioning them. These are all actually important information to share with our behavioural optometrists so they can fully investigate your vision system to help identify which areas require support.

Qualifications to be a Behavioural Optometrist

Considering how holistic, comprehensive and multidisciplinary this area is, it is no surprise that the studies leading up to a professional certification is lengthy.

Behavioural Optometrists spend years in post graduate and continuing education to master the complex visual programs that are prescribed to prevent or eliminate visual problems and enhance visual performance. Behavioural optometry also includes neuro-developmental and functional optometry.

The mode of practice typically reflects the knowledge base of the practitioner. Those more experienced tend to provide in–office or guided home vision therapy. Fellows of ACBO are also more likely to do so, having completed a rigorous program involving private study, open and closed book examinations, clinical research and oral assessment.

ACBO (Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists) is the peak body for Behavioural Optometry in Australasia. Members are recognised globally as committed professionals.

Fellows are the most experienced and skilled members of ACBO. They are identified by a gold star and highlighted priority on the ACBO website.

Craig Butler is one of Panoptic Vision's Behavioural Optometrists who has completed his Fellowship training and accreditation in Behavioural Optometry with both the Australasian College of Behavioural Optometrists (ACBO) and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) in the USA. He has 35 years experience prescribing advanced lens designs and developing innovative vision therapy programmes to enhance the vision performance of infants, children and adults. Craig is always incorporating the newly emerging scientific principles of brain neuro-plasticity for improving vision-related brain functions.

Panoptic Vision Behavioural Optometrist Natasha Barnard-French completed a research masters in vision and learning in 1995 and was awarded a Fellowship from ACBO (Australasian College of Behavioural Optometry) in 2002, the highest award offered by the organisation. Natasha is passionate about ensuring that appropriate vision solutions, including vision therapy, are available to children to address any vision-related learning difficulties they may have.

Who would benefit from Behavioural Optometry?

Behavioural optometry can be of benefit to all patients, but is especially suited to those with turned eyes (strabismus), lazy eyes (amblyopia), developmental or learning delays, neurological damage or elite visual needs such as professional sports people.

Behavioural optometry can be of benefit to all patients at Panoptic Vision Lake Cathie and Bellingen
Behavioural optometry can be of benefit to all patients

Is Behavioural Optometry covered by Medicare or Private Health Insurance?

Most initial consultation fees fall under the scope of Medicare. More specific services and Vision Therapy may or may not. It is best to discuss this with your optometrist prior to commencing a program.

Spectacles attract a health fund rebate and Panoptic Vision is able to claim through all health funds.


Contact Panoptic Vision

Panoptic Vision Lake Cathie

1459 Ocean Drive, Lake Cathie, NSW 2445

Tel: (02) 6584 8900

Opening Hours:

Monday to Friday 8:30 am - 5:30 pm

Saturday By appointment only


Panoptic Vision Bellingen

2/58-60 Hyde St, Bellingen, NSW 2454

Tel: (02) 6655 2768

Opening Hours:

Monday - Thursday 9:30 am - 5:30 pm


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