When you have a child with learning difficulties, there are several areas that need to be evaluated: hearing, speech, motor skills, speech/language, psychology, nutrition, etc. Unfortunately vision is frequently overlooked. Some parents assume that when the child passes the vision screening at school or well-child visits, their vision is fine. These screenings typically only check for clarity of eyesight in the distance, which is only one small aspect of the entire visual process.
Approximately 70 to 80 percent of what is learned takes place via the visual system. As the philosopher Alan Watts once said: “…that is why it takes us so long to get educated in school: we have to scan and organize miles and miles of print and that takes us twenty years or more to get through it.” Now try to imagine that you have a visual system that isn’t working efficiently. This puts you at a tremendous disadvantage. Homework, tests, and reading assignments (which require a lot of visual scanning and organizing) take much more effort and time than they should. Frustration sets in and you may develop a negative attitude toward school and learning, despite your intelligence.
If your child is having learning and/or reading difficulties, it is important to have a developmental vision evaluation.
The following are a few examples of vision problems we commonly see that negatively impact learning and won’t typically show up in vision screenings.
This is a difficulty in pulling the eyes inward to look at objects up close (such as books.) This can cause difficulty sustaining near-point tasks (such as reading,) double vision, headaches, reduced reading comprehension, etc.
Ocular Motility Deficits (a.k.a. tracking problems)
This is a deficiency in the accuracy of eye movements. Most of the eye movements we use are rapid, jumping eye movements known as saccades. When these eye movements are not accurate, keeping your place while reading becomes much more difficult. People with this frequently skip lines or words. Much more attention must be put into keeping their place, which slows down reading and reduces comprehension. They often have to re-read text for it to make sense.
This is a difficulty in adjusting the focus of the eyes between objects in the distance and objects that are close. This can cause near vision to become blurry, headaches (typically in the forehead area,) difficulty sustaining near-point tasks (such as reading,) difficulty copying from the board, etc.