Natasha Barnard-French, PanOptic Vision

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Sight and Vision are not the same

Seeing clearly depends on eye shape and health but this doesn’t always mean the two eyes work well as a team or the brain processes visual information appropriately. Good vision is an active process. Two sets of muscles control whether you see a single, clear image or a double, blurry one. Every minute your eyes are open, your brain is deciding how much attention to give to central detail compared to peripheral movement. This is task-specific and if it takes too much effort, the brain has no attention left over for more complicated processing.

Good vision needed for playing sport is very different to good vision needed for reading. Children with good sight but untreated vision problems can have trouble with their co-ordination playing sport or with their learning abilities in a classroom. Difficulties reading and having a short attention span may also be misconstrued as misbehaviour.

"I'm Natasha Barnard-French. As a Developmental and Behavioural Optometrist, I solve eye coordination function problems, treat a child’s developing skills of vision perception. For adults, I assess and manage visual issues associated with health, and neurological conditions, such as stroke and head injury, Parkinson’s disease, concussion and whiplash. These skills and treatment options mean that even if a patient doesn’t have a complex vision problem, I can provide the very best visual treatment for them. I often get told that I have solved a problem the patient didn’t even realise was related to their vision!"

Natasha's job is to analyse visual systems and design a plan to help people make changes that can lead to improved visual performance or help adapt the visual system to what each person needs.

Training to See Deeply

After completing her Optometry Degree with Honours from UNSW in 1993, Natasha went on to complete a research Masters in the neuroscience of vision development and specific learning disorders including dyslexia. In 2000 she was awarded a Fellowship from ACBO (Australasian College of Behavioural Optometry), the highest award offered by the organisation.

She was also a founding member of a well-established aid organisation called Equal Health, and has travelled to India and Zimbabwe providing vision care to remote communities.

Having a special interest in children’s vision, Natasha made a trip across the Nullabor to Perth where she worked in specialty behavioural optometry and vision therapy practices for 10 years. She is passionate about ensuring that appropriate vision solutions, including vision therapy, are available to children. This can help address any vision related learning difficulties they may have. Sometimes, a child's inability to concentrate for a sustained period or a lack of interest in something can be misunderstood as ´bad behaviour´. Some children exhibit difficulty in keeping up with their peers in school and if given the wrong diagnosis, not only does the issue not get resolved, the children also receive the added stress of an inappropriate solution. Their difficulties could be related to a problem with their vision system and when children´s problems are diagnosed correctly, they can receive the appropriate solution and be free to enjoy their lives.

A Change of Scenery

In 2009, Natasha moved from Perth, Western Australia to Laurieton in New South Wales. She had gone there on a visit to her parents who had made the Camden Haven home. This led to an unexpected decision which ended in a happy move to the area. She decided to take the bold step to establish vision therapy services in Laurieton and Lighthouse Plaza. 2015 was when Natasha established her very own Optometry practice at the Lake Cathie Health Complex where she offers the full range of optometry services for all ages.

Looking Back to the Past

Wagga was where Natasha grew up and she often looks back to her childhood days of long trips up the Hume Highway to Camden Haven during summer. She has joyful memories of spending time at a real beach and feeling the sun above and the sand below her and the blue of the water all around.

Looking Ahead into the Future

Behavioural optometry is infinite in what it can offer and Natasha never stops being curious about the study of vision development. She is now looking at researching the specific visual/auditory processes behind learning to read English and learning to read music.

Engaging all the Senses

Prior to Covid, Natasha had been very involved with the regional music community. She is an accomplished pianist and flautist. Natasha enjoys playing flute with Sinfonia MNC, as well as engagements with the Players Theatre Productions and Glasshouse lunchtime concerts.

Musicality runs in the family, and her daughter Abi is a violinist! Natasha is happy to be kept busy accompanying her daughter on the piano and ferrying her to and from her violin lessons!