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Afraid to Take That Leap Into Niche Optometry? Let This Functional Vision Specialist Inspire You

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IN 2011 DR. JULIE Steinhauer made the bold decision to close her successful general practice, relocate and open a new business focusing on an area she had become passionate about — developmental optometry, or as she calls it, “functional vision.” Her new practice, Vision for Life in Glen Carbon, IL, has gone on to make a name for itself in the field.

THE IDEA

Dr. Steinhauer (right) became attracted to developmental optometry due to her own functional vision issues. At school, she had difficulties with her studies that she later realized were vision-related. This left her with a strong desire to help others who face the same issues.

After nine years of general practice in Jerseyville, IL, she decided it was time to focus on functional vision care and therapy. She moved to Glen Carbon near St. Louis to be near a population with more potential for younger patients and referrals, and opened Vision for Life.

THE EXECUTION

Vision For Life Dr. Julie Steinhauer Vision For Life Dr. Julie Steinhauer Vision For Life Dr. Julie Steinhauer

Vision For Life Dr. Julie Steinhauer

Vision for Life’s standout service is photo-syntonic therapy. Patients wear a specific prescribed colored filter for a certain amount of time daily while looking at a light. The process positively alters the brain’s electrical patterns to aid vision processing. “We have had great success in utilizing it to treat amblyopia and conditions like optic atrophy. It’s amazing how it improves vision and reduces lens related prescriptions,” she says.

One of Vision for Life’s specialties is working with children with learning-related vision problems. Steinhauer says 10 months of vision therapy can yield an improvement of three to seven grade levels in reading comprehension.

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Vision issues often resemble more commonly diagnosed learning disabilities, she says, which can lead to misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment. “About 80 percent of children have undiagnosed vision problems affecting their performance in school. 90 percent of kids diagnosed with ADHD are misdiagnosed and have a condition called convergence insufficiency,” says Steinhauer.

Vision for Life has embraced YouTube as both a marketing and educational tool, putting out multiple videos weekly on a channel with more than 3,000 subscribers. Steinhauer also has a Facebook training group, “Next Level Vision Therapy,” that helps doctors who practice functional VT learn how to be more efficient, generate more patients, and become better business owners.

THE REWARDS

Vision for Life draws clients from all over the U.S. It grew 42 percent in 2018 and net grew 1,000 percent on-year. But for Steinhauer, no reward rivals the ability to help kids jump multiple reading levels, improve eye alignment without surgery or reduce lens prescriptions. “Personally it gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing I can make a difference in someone’s life.”

PHOTO GALLERY (7 IMAGES)

Do It Yourself: Build a ‘Functional Vision’ Practice

  • ASK THE PROS. Steinhauer recommends hiring a coach or mentor for both functional vision and business. “This way you can have the practice of your dreams and not take 20 plus years to get there.”
  • MEDIA MAP. Create a strong marketing and advertising game plan and include social media, she says. “We recommend video, video and more video.”
  • FUN QUOTIENT. Make your office kid-friendly. Vision for Life holds competitions between therapists that the kids can get involved in. “Young patients and their families really appreciate it.”
  • HIRE RIGHT. Especially in marketing and advertising, accounting, PR etc., advises Steinhauer. “Don’t think you can be a jack of all trades and have what you want in your practice — it’s just not wise.”
  • TAKE RISKS. Says Steinhauer, “Doctors who always play it safe never end up having the practice of their dreams.” Rather, they “end up chasing what they want, but never achieving it.”

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]

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