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Reading Problems: An Often Overlooked Solution

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Working with a child who is having difficulty with reading and learning can be initially challenging. Yet, with each failure it becomes more and more frustrating, and emotionally draining.

You are sitting in your dining room, working with your child, watching him trying to read the same paragraph for the third time. But, this time you notice that something doesn’t look right with the way his eyes are moving, so you quickly call your eye doctor to schedule an appointment.

You anxiously await your visit to the eye doctor, only to find out that “everything is fine.” Now what? Maybe it’s something else…. but what could it be? Is he just an auditory learner?

According to the American Public Health Association, “25% of students in grades K-6 have visual problems that are serious enough to impede learning.” In addition, the American Optometric Association has found that over 60% of children with learning difficulties have undiagnosed vision problems.

This does not just refer to people who have never had an eye exam. Many vision problems go undetected because most people think that “20/20” means you have perfect vision. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, it does mean you can see the size of letter you are supposed to be able to see from 20 feet away, but that’s all it means. In addition, most eye doctors don’t test how well a child can see up close for the length of time required to read and learn.

There are more than 15 visual skills, in addition to being able to see 20/20, that are required to read and learn. So how do you know if your child has a vision problem or not?

Regular eye exams typically evaluate only eye health, acuity (how clearly you can see the eye chart) and the need for glasses. In order to determine if your child has a vision-based learning problem you need to see a Functional or Developmental Optometrist who will provide a Developmental Vision Evaluation to test: eye movement control, focusing near to far, sustaining clear focus, eye teaming ability, depth perception, visual motor integration, form perception, visual memory and visual perceptual skills.

It is also vital that parents know the signs of a vision problem. If your child struggles with reading and school, please ask yourself the following questions. Does your child:

  • Read below grade level?
  • Have a short attention span with reading and school work?
  • Have sloppy handwriting?
  • Have poor spelling?
  • Have trouble focusing on schoolwork?
  • Take hours to do homework?
  • Reverse letters and words?
  • Skip words or repeat lines when reading?
  • Has poor comprehension?
  • Have they been labeled as ADD/ADHD, slow learner, or lazy?

Even one of these signs is an indication that an eye coordination or eye movement problem is contributing to your child’s challenges.

How do you treat vision problems of this nature? Sometimes they can be corrected with glasses, but the majority of the time you need vision therapy. Functional or Developmental Optometrists provide vision therapy in their offices. Research published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities, demonstrated that sixth graders with below-average reading skills improved their test scores by up two grade levels after vision therapy.

Vision therapy, similar to speech therapy and physical therapy, is therapy for the eyes and brain. It involves a combination of supervised in-office therapeutic activities, along with activities that are done at home. The length of the program varies, depending on the diagnosis. Students throughout the country have found success with vision therapy.

If your child is struggling with reading or avoids reading, we have a free test on our website to help you determine if a vision problem could be at the root of your child’s struggles. Click below and take the vision quiz.


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For more information on Developmental Optometry, Vision Therapy and the critical link between vision and learning, please visit our website.

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