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Learning-Related Vision Problems

Does Your Child Have One?

A Guide to the Signs of Vision Problems That Interfere With School Performance

A Parents/Teachers Resolution Reported the Following Facts:

  • Vision problems in school-age children very frequently lead to learning problems.
  • 80% of what a child learns in the classroom depends on the efficiency of the visual system.
  • It is estimated that over 10 million children suffer from undetected vision problems due to the lack of appropriate evaluation.

A large part of learning is done visually. Reading, spelling, writing, chalkboard work and, in many schools, computers, are among the tasks students tackle all day long, day after day.  Each involves the visual abilities of seeing quickly and understanding visual information frequently less than arm’s length from the eyes. Many students’ visual abilities just aren’t up to the level of the demands of these types of learning situations in the classroom.

Clear eyesight isn’t all that’s required for these close vision tasks. Youngsters must have a variety of scanning, focusing and visual coordination skills for learning and for getting meaning from reading. If these visual skills have not been developed, or are poorly developed, learning is difficult and stressful, and youngsters typically react in one or a combination of ways:

  • They avoid near visual work entirely, or as much as possible.
  • They attempt to do the work anyway, but with lowered understanding.
  • They often experience discomfort, fatigue and short attention span.
  • They adapt by becoming nearsighted, or by suppressing the vision of one eye.

Visual stress reactions can help explain the discomfort, fatigue, changes in behavior, altered eyesight and declining academic performance that often indicate a learning-related vision problem. (Vision problems do not “cause” learning disabilities. However, poor visual skills, by interfering with the process, can impede remedial efforts. It’s like trying to build a house on sand. Good vision skills, on the other hand, can provide a solid foundation for learning.)

Behavioral optometrists may help their patients deal with visual stress by prescribing “stress-relieving lenses.” These make it much easier for a child or adult to benefit from near vision work. Another fundamental approach is visual training.  This is a sequence of activities prescribed by an optometrist in which the child builds visual skills and the ability to efficiently take in, understand and use visual information.

Many Have 20/20 Eyesight

Behavioral optometrists find that many children with learning-related vision problems have 20/20 distance eyesight, but have great difficulty doing vision tasks less than arm’s length away.  Most school screenings test just the sharpness of distance eyesight, so many vision problems that affect learning go undetected. But parents and teachers can learn to spot learning-related visual problems. Some of these signs are on the following checklist. If a child is continually exhibiting any of these signs, it’s time to arrange for a behavioral vision evaluation.

Signs of Vision Problems

  • Holding a book very close (only 7 or 8 inches away).
  • Child holds head at an extreme angle to the book when reading.
  • Child covers one eye when reading.
  • Child squints when doing near vision work.
  • Constant poor posture when working close.
  • The child moves his or her head back and forth while reading instead of moving only eyes.
  • Poor attention span, drowsiness after prolonged work less than arm’s length away
  • Homework requiring reading takes longer than it should.
  • Child occasionally or persistently reports seeing blurring or double while reading or writing.
  • Child reports blurring or doubling only when work is hard.
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