To do well in school, children need a few different things. Along with family support, self-discipline, and resilience, you may be surprised to learn that good vision is a vital part of students’ success. Good vision crosses all subjects – reading, writing, and using computers are just some of the many tasks kids perform at school that require vision.
Good vision is key in that our brains rely on visual information to understand and process our surroundings; this is known as visual processing. Unfortunately, if the brain is receiving faulty information from poor vision, a child’s visual processing can cause a number of problems not necessarily associated with vision, including negatively affecting her memory or visual-spatial understanding, or causing letter and symbol reversal issues.
The International Dyslexia Association defines dyslexia as a “language-based learning disability [and] refers to a cluster of symptoms that result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading.” Although dyslexia is not technically a vision issue, it’s been shown that many people with dyslexia tend to have vision problems more often than those who do not have the learning disability.
In a study that was published by The Journal of the American Medical Association this summer, it was found that school-aged children with developmental dyslexia typically had more vision problems than children without the disability. These issues, including eye tracking (movement), focus problems, and the inability of eyes to move in tandem, showed to be significantly more prevalent in children with dyslexia. While the clinical relevance and possible cause of the higher rate of these issues are still not certain, the findings of this study suggest that these vision problems contribute to reading success, or lack thereof, in children with developmental dyslexia.
Pediatrician and Parent Advocate for the National Center for Learning Disabilities, Dr. Debra Walhof, says that “It is important to remember that normal sight may not necessarily be synonymous with normal vision… That being said, if there is a vision problem, it could be preventing the best tutoring and learning methods from working. Now that certainly doesn’t mean every dyslexic child needs vision therapy, however in my opinion, skills such as focusing, tracking, and others are essential foundational tools for reading. In general, if your child has trouble with reading or learning to read, getting a vision evaluation to assess these skills from a qualified Developmental Optometrist would be a smart move.”
If your child struggles with reading and learning, it’s important to first determine if she has a problem with her vision. Learning can be greatly impacted by deficits in any area of vision through visual processing, including the initial acquisition (sight), interpretation, and the actions resulting from this interpretation. Many eye screenings, particularly those done at schools, do not test vision; instead, they simply test sight, or visual acuity.
To ensure your child is being tested for those variables that may dramatically affect learning, it’s important to see a provider who specializes in visual processing and efficiency testing and treatment. To test vision, a provider may look at:
- Visual acuity (sight)
- Visual memory
- Hand-eye coordination
- Speed and ability in focusing near and far
- Tracking (eye movement)
- Stereopsis (depth perception)
- Convergence (the ability of eyes to coordinate and focus inward)
- Visual discrimination (ability to see detail)
Because vision affects so many parts of our lives, good vision is necessary for young learners, but it can be difficult for parents to know where to turn. Psychiatrist Katherine Donovan watched her daughter, Lily, struggle with reading. Dr. Donovan couldn’t find satisfactory answers even after seeing many learning specialists, who said that her daughter, who couldn’t write legibly or read well at age 12, had fine vision and was simply dyslexic. After success with vision therapy, Dr. Donovan shares that “it absolutely corrected a vision problem which was blocking Lily from being able to learn.” After treating this issue with vision therapy, Lily now considers reading her favorite hobby and no longer needs help with her homework, let alone her prior extensive tutoring.
It is critical that vision tests are comprehensive to ensure children are set up for a lifetime of learning. At Omni Vision & Learning, we are able to provide comprehensive vision testing and vision rehabilitation for those who have vision problems that interfere with learning. Contact us today to set up an appointment and learn more.