Fighting a Hidden Disability
Keeping an eye out for undetected vision problems
Can a bright child struggle in reading, writing, spelling and math? Can a bright child spend hours attempting to complete school assignments? Can a bright child feel he/she is “stupid” and have low self-esteem? Can a child be smart in everything but school? The unfortunate truth is that the answer to these questions is often “Yes” when a child has an undetected vision problem.
A traditional vision screening only assessed distance vision, which is a small subset of functional vision. Passing a vision screening gives very little insight on how well a child’s vision is functioning at near, where the majority of school tasks and reading take place. Approximately 80% of learning is derived through vision, and it is estimated that up to 20% of school age children have vision problems significant enough to affect their learning. Vision is much more than simply being able to see 20/20 on an eye chart, in fact there are seventeen visual skills needed to be successful in school, sports and life, and seeing the eye chart is just one of those.
Glasses and contact lenses only correct the clarity of vision, they do not specifically address many other facets of functional efficient vision. Visual difficulties that are not addressed through glasses can be successfully treated through optometric vision therapy. Vision therapy is an individualized program designed to help improve visual deficiencies of eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, depth perception, visual perception, and visual sensory integration. Deficiencies in any of these areas can lead to difficulties with learning, reading, sports and other areas of life. By the time vision therapy is concluded, these newly gained and refined visual skills become automatic, and the benefits to those who previously struggled with learning related vision problems are lifelong.
Signs and symptoms of a vision problem to recognize in your child:
Blurry or double vision
Losing place or skipping lines while reading
Frequent head movement while reading
Avoiding close work
Holding reading material closer than normal
Tendency to rub eyes
Crossing or wandering of one or both eyes
Headaches, especially after close work
Difficulty copying from the board at school
Turning or tilting head to use only one eye
Making frequent reversals when reading or writing
Using finger to maintain place when reading
Omitting or confusing small words when reading
Consistently performing below potential
In general, children do not outgrow vision problems. A child with a vision problem becomes an adult with a vision problem. Whenever a learning problem is suspected or identified, a comprehensive vision exam needs to be performed in order to rule out a possible vision problem. The American Optrometric Association recommends kids have their first eye exam at 6 months, then at age three, before starting school, and every one to two years thereafter. Not all eye exams are equal. Make sure to check if your optometrist will assess for deficits that can cause learning related vision problems. Reading or learning difficulties experienced by your child should be brought to the doctor’s attention.