In Michigan, school officially begins the first day after Labor Day. Students are eagerly coming into the classroom and teachers are ready with their lesson plans. The parents have high hopes for their children.
However, some children will be entering the classroom with a hidden vision disability. These are bright children who are smart enough to catch on quickly particularly with verbal teaching presentation yet when given visually demanding reading or written tasks they will begin to have problems. Yes, studies show that about 5-15% of childrenåÊin the classroom will have performance problemsåÊcaused by an underlying vision-related learning problem. Teachers need to be on the look out for these signs and symptoms.
What does it mean when a child has a vision-related learning problem?
A vision-related learning problem describes the signs, symptoms and behaviors of a bright child who under-performs in reading and learning due to one or more deficiencies in vision development. These deficiencies in vision development have a medical diagnosis and are treatable with office-based vision therapy.
Even though a child may have normal eye sight (20/20 visual acuity), to be visually ready, a child must enter the classroom with over 15 visual skills essential for reading and learning. These visual skills encompass eye-coordination, visual perception and visual-motor integration (eye hand coordination).
Below are examples of the essential ÛÏeye-coordinationÛ visual skills necessary for reading and learning:
Eye teaming skill ÛÒ the ability to coordinate the two eyes together is called Binocular Vision. A child who lacks Binocular Vision skill will often experience eye strain, fatigue, poor attention and avoidance of reading activities. The child will often experience words over lapping with extended reading, yet will rarely tell their parents that they are seeing double. Imagine how strenuous is would be if while reading you were seeing double.
A common medical diagnosis is Convergence Insufficiency.
Eye focusing skill ÛÒ the ability to focus our eyes for sustained reading as well as shift focus from near to far when copying from the chalkboard requires good eye focusing known as Accommodation. A child who lacks Accommodation skill will often miscall easy words, complain of headaches with reading, tire easily and have poor attention and concentration for reading. The child may complain of blurred vision while reading or will just give up quickly when reading.
A common medical diagnosis is Accommodative Dysfunction.
Eye tracking skill ÛÒ the ability to ÛÏpointÛ our eyes on the printed material as well as skillfully move our eyes from word to word and through rows of sentences is known as Oculomotor function. A child who lacks Oculomotor function will typically lose their place easily when reading. They often require the use of their finger to keep their place on the page. The child with poor eye tracking will be much slower in their reading and have poor fluency and comprehension. They will lose attention easily and have difficulty coping from book to paper. It is hard to pay attention what the meaning is when words seem to jump around on the page.
A common medical diagnosis is Oculomotor Dysfunction.
When a child has a medical diagnosis in one or more these essential “eye coordination” vision skills, your doctor may prescribe treatment involving office-based vision therapy which may also include prescription reading glasses. With treatment a child can acquire the necessary ÛÏeye coordinationÛ visual skills essential for better performance in reading, learning and attention in the classroom.
It is important for teachers to be on the look-out for these signs and symptoms. It is equally important, however to be sure to recommend a doctor in your area who looks for these problems in children and will prescribe office-based vision therapy (if necessary) or refer to a doctor who provides office-based vision therapy. One good source to find a doctor is the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. Click on Doctor locator.
Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD