When a child struggles in school, the biggest question for a parent to answer is “why?” While setting up study plans and establishing goals can be effective, many parents discover that their child’s avoidance behaviors cannot simply be corrected by rules and expectations. The child is frustrated with reading, and grades continue to drop, despite their best efforts to improve. Tensions rise within the family when a child cannot overcome their study struggles.
At this point, parents usually consider alternative reasons for their child’s learning block, and start to look for answers. What if their vision is the problem? A standard eye exam checks eyesight and for ocular diseases, but doesn’t always test the efficiency of the visual system — specifically binocular vision. According to the American Academy of Optometry, one in twelve children suffers from a condition called Convergence Insufficiency, or what could also be described as “near-double vision.” That means that two to three children in every classroom experience near-double vision on a daily basis, and their parents don’t even know.
Double vision is the sensation of your entire visual field splitting into two duplicate images — each eye producing its own, separate picture. A person experiencing normal double vision would know immediately that there was problem. On the other hand, near-double vision is, by comparison, inconspicuous. It presents as a blurring and splitting of letters and words while reading. Numbers and letters float around the page, because the eyes cannot effectively turn inward to look at the same near target. As a result, the child sees moving and overlapping letters, making the task of reading unbearably challenging.
The child often complains of headaches or tiredness when trying to read, but is unable to explain why. To unknowing teachers and parents, it looks like avoidance or laziness. Because near-double vision usually starts in early development, children don’t know that how they see is different from other people. How would they know that their vision is flawed or unusual? After passing a routine eye exam, “blurry vision” sounds like just another excuse to avoid and fail at reading and schoolwork.
The consequences of undetected near-double vision can reach far beyond declining grades. In addition to being easily distracted, the child quickly realizes that their reading speed and level is below that of their peers. When asked to read aloud in class, they stumble over basic words, and struggle to understand and retain what they read. They look at the same sentence over and over, trying to decode a blur of letters into something with meaning. They are scolded for not paying attention, or mocked by other kids. They feel dumb or inadequate, and their confidence suffers. They start to define themselves by their limitations, instead of their strengths. What started as just a visual problem grows into an attitude of “I can’t,” as the child abandons hope in their own potential.
But there is a solution. If your child struggles with reading or learning or suffers from any of the symptoms of near-double vision, office-based optometric vision therapy is the proven solution. A comprehensive evaluation with a developmental vision specialist will help identify if there is a visual cause for your child’s learning challenges. The sooner you can understand why your child struggles, the sooner you can help them make real strides toward improvement, and a brighter future.