Undetected vision problems in children are known to directly affect a child’s ability to progress confidently in learning environments. The extra effort that is exerted towards concentrating and gathering information visually, at the same time will diminish the mental resources left for understanding and making intuitive connections with that information.
Dyslexia is a widely known syndrome that makes reading or interpreting letter relationships difficult – but dyslexia generally does not affect intelligence and vision is not the primary factor for this vision-based difficulty. Dyslexia has a neurological base, and the secondary symptoms are demonstrated in slow or difficult reading skills. Still, it will manifest differently in each child’s learning ability, as some students adjust and become very creative and quick thinkers, while others will exhibit learning disabilities.
Signs of Vision-Based Learning Problems
In order to learn effectively in a public or home-school setting, good visual skills are necessary. These will include sharpness of sight, coordinated eye movements, and the ability to quickly change focus from near to distant line-of-sight. Since learning requires the coordination of multiple and complex visual and mental processes, when a child fails to effectively visualize information, the learning process is disrupted. Some signs of vision-related learning problems (aside from nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism) can be displayed in the following visual symptoms while reading:
- Eye Tracking Difficulties – can be exhibited in skipping reading lines or losing one’s place while reading, moving the head constantly, a short attention span, and poor reading comprehension.
- Eye Coordination Problems – when a child occasionally has double vision, covers or closes one eye while reading, and eyes may tire easily while reading.
- Visual Memory Deficiency – a child may have difficulty remembering visual information or trouble visualizing written material, and may be a poor speller or have difficulty with math.
- Trouble Maintaining Visual Focus – if your child complains of tired eyes or poor vision, they may hold reading material close to face and are able to read only for a short period of time.
- Faulty Visual to Motor Skill Ability – these children may have poor drawing or handwriting skills and difficulty copying information in an exacting manner, and communicates better orally rather than confidently writing ideas and facts.
The above weak visual skills can also cause eye strain, headaches, and contribute to a shortened attention span, all of which can compromise your child’s learning process. Once the parent has discussed the child’s learning difficulties with teachers and observed the child’s vision and motor skills at home and at play, they may find what they thought was a learning disability or attention deficit disorder proves to be weak visual skills.
How Your Optometrist Can Help
If weak visual skills are suspected of causing learning difficulties, contact St. Lucy’s Vision Center for a comprehensive vision exam and the possibility of enlisting vision therapy to strengthen your child’s eyes and improve their vision skills. Since 80 percent of a child’s ability to learn is determined by the visual processing of information, correcting weak visual skills can cause a significant improvement.
A Vision Therapy program may include visual exercises and eye strengthening practices specifically designed to reduce or eliminate vision problems. When the child is exhibiting learning disabilities, specific protocols are aimed at reducing the child’s learning and reading challenges. For each patient, the therapy should be individualized and may also include at-home procedures to supplement treatments in the office. Vision therapy can be a highly effective ‘physical therapy’ for the brain and eyes, and can directly improve learning ability.