It is estimated that 80% of children’s classroom learning is visual (i.e. copying from the board, reading, spelling)1. Successful learning requires an individual’s eyes, brain, and body to work together as a team. When they don’t, even someone with 20/20 eyesight can have trouble gathering, processing, and responding to visual information.
Many children’s visual abilities are not strong enough for the visual demand of classroom learning. Studies show that 60% of children with literacy challenges have an undiagnosed vision problem1. As a result, many kids today struggle with school work, and fall behind due to a poor visual system. Any child who struggles with school work, reading, sports, and/ or attention may have an undiagnosed visual problem that is holding them back. As students move on to higher grades, their visual demand drastically increases (i.e. the size of print in schoolbooks becomes smaller, time spent reading and studying increases, etc.) – this makes an efficient and accurate visual system even more important.
As we discussed in the summer issue of Family Matters Magazine, vision is much more than 20/20, or the ability to see clearly. Vision is the amalgamation of many visual skills and brain processes; it is the ability to make a meaningful interpretation of what is seen. In fact, there are more than 12 visual skills that all come together to make up our vision2.
Unfortunately, many children get misdiagnosed as having a learning difficulty and/ or behavioural concern. This is not surprising, as 15 of the 18 symptoms of ADHD, and 13 of the 17 symptoms of dyslexia, can also be associated with vision disorders3. Children rarely complain of vision problems, as they don’t know that what they are seeing is not what everyone else sees.
This is why it is so important to be on the lookout for symptoms of a vision problem, such as:
- Sore or tired eyes
- A short attention span
- Avoidance of reading
- Holding a book closely
- Skipping or rereading lines or words
- Poor reading comprehension (not fully understanding what they just read)
- Better understanding of stories when someone else reads to them
- Frequent reversals of letters (i.e. ‘b’ and ‘d’) or words (i.e. ‘was’ and ‘saw’)
- Difficulty copying from the board
- Closing or covering one eye
- Taking longer to complete homework than expected
- Double vision
- Blurred vision
For a more comprehensive list of symptoms related to vision problems please visit www.indepthvision.ca
The ‘Quality of Life’ questionnaire at www.COVD.org is a great resource which shows the likelihood that a vision dysfunction is present. If there are concerns, a visual skills and information processing assessment with a behavioural optometrist can determine the extent to which a student’s vision is affecting their learning. The behavioural optometrist will also develop a treatment plan, which may include optometric vision therapy (OVT).
OVT re-trains the brain’s control of the eyes and visual system to improve the visual skills necessary for effective learning, reading, writing, and sports. By optimizing these visual skills, the child will be able to perform to their full potential without their vision interfering. Learning related vision problems are treatable and can be overcome, so don’t let your child struggle any longer. Visit our clinic for an in-depth assessment if you feel your child may have a vision problem.
Ontario Association of Optometrists https://www.optom.on.ca/
Vision Therapy: Looking Beyond 20/20. Family Matters Magazine: Summer 2019 https://familymattersmagazine.ca/2019/06/visiontherapylooking-beyond-20-20/
Optometric Extension Program Foundation https://www.oepf.org/