Vision And Learning

Is A Vision Problem Standing In The Way Of Your Child's Learning?

by Cassandria Warr // July - August - September 2017

Vision is much more than being able to see 20/20.  In order for the visual system to work properly, the eyes must work well together as a team and the brain must be able to correctly process the visual information that it receives. Dysfunction in either of these skills can cause learning delays and/or eyestrain and usually cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Vision therapy is a highly individualized, supervised program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual cognitive difficulties.

Vision is the prerequisite for reading. Poor visual skills can lead to poor reading skills and a significant handicap in learning disabilities. The five most common signs that a vision problem may be interfering with reading and learning are:

   – Skipping lines, re-reading lines;
   – Poor reading comprehension;
   – Homework takes much longer than it should;
   – Reversals of letters like “b” and “d” in reading and writing;
   – Short attention span with reading and schoolwork.

Imagine sitting in a classroom taking notes and fighting a focusing problem that won’t allow you to change your focus from near to far and back again quickly enough to keep up with the instructor. Or imagine starting the day being able to easily read this paragraph, but experiencing double vision as the day goes on. Many people block the vision in one eye to avoid seeing double. Imagine reading a paragraph and having the letters or words appear to move and jump as you are trying to comprehend what you are reading. 

In any of these cases, the person having the vision problem more than likely has good eyesight, seeing 20/20 either with or without corrective lenses. Most school screenings check for visual acuity alone and do not screen for visual skills including tracking, focusing, eye teaming, or perceptual skills. Many children and adults do not realize that their struggles in the classroom and/or workplace are in no way linked to intelligence or how hard they are trying; instead, they are not able to visually process the information put before them.

Not knowing the cause of classroom and later adult life skills prob-lems can have a detrimental effect on self-esteem and behavior. Many children who begin to be labeled as classroom problems can grow into troubled teens, and eventually struggling adults, if their visual problems are not diagnosed and treated. 

Approximately 10% of the population with symptoms of blurred vision and eyestrain have vision problems that cannot be treated successfully using eyeglasses alone. It is this group of people who need vision therapy. Vision therapy has been shown to benefit children and adults with problems of eye teaming, focusing, tracking, amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eye), and visual perception. Individuals with these problems experience eyestrain when reading or doing other close work, inability to work quickly, sleepiness, inability to attend and concentrate, double vision, or reduced vision. Children with vision problems can face significant problems at school and work and have difficulty with sports.

With proper diagnosis and treatment, reading levels and comprehension – and thus, school or work performances – can improve significantly. 

If you answer “yes” or “sometimes” to any of the following questions, a binocular vision issue may be standing in the way of your child’s academic success.

– Do you have concerns about your child’s reading abilities?
– Does your child skip lines/words when reading?
– Does your child struggle to keep attention centered on reading?
– Does your child have better comprehension when someone reads to him or her?
– Is homework a struggle?
– Does your child have difficulty completing assignments in a reasonable amount of time?
– Do you have concerns with your child’s reversals of letters/numbers?
– Do you have concerns about your child’s handwriting skills?
– Does your child have frequent headaches or eye discomfort while reading or doing homework?
– Does your child have trouble with motion sickness during trips in the car?

An individualized vision therapy program designed by a developmental optometrist can help to correct vision dysfunctions that lend to poor reading and learning abilities. A typical treatment plan includes:

– Visual processing development;
– Oculomotor therapy (“tracking”);
– Accommodation “focusing” development;
– Binocular vision therapy;
– Visual imagery therapy;
– Dynamic visual based reading program.

Cassandria Warr

Developmental optometrist with McPherson Family Eye Care in Wake Forest.