Posted on 01 Feb 2017

Dr. Denise Smith of The Center for Vision Development is an Austin eye care expert. She recently discussed how it is crucial for children to have healthy functional vision, but noted that this can be a challenge for many families. This is simply because most parents don’t even know what “functional vision” means. We are all taught the warning signs for “normal” vision problems like being nearsighted or farsighted, but functional vision is rarely discussed. If you’ve ever wondered what functional vision is, or how to identify functional vision problems in your child, you’re in the right place.

The most simple explanation is that functional vision involves the visual skills necessary for learning. The four main skills are called tracking, focusing, eye teaming, and visual processing. Here’s a brief explanation of each, per the top-rated doctors offering vision care in Austin:


Tracking is how your eye is able to move easily to follow objects in motion, or words on a page.


Focusing is the ability to see clearly even when switching between seeing things near and far.


Eye Teaming is both of your eyes working together as one unit to see a single image.


Visual Processing is a set of skills that we use to organize visual information. It is what helps us to focus on one thing instead of the background behind it, discern similar letters from one another, read things in the proper order, recognize items when we can only see them partially, retain our memories, and so much more.


All of these aspects are vital to a child’s ability to learn, read, write, and understand the world around them. Functional vision problems, then, present a fundamental impediment to a child’s healthy development. Parents need to know what to look for, so they can help their child if any problems do occur. Otherwise they run the risk of dismissing their child’s problems as a lack of focus, or incorrectly diagnosing them as having ADHD or something simple, like motion sickness. The Austin vision center has created a checklist of symptoms that you can access and print for handy reference.


Check all symptoms that apply.

Does your child…?


  • Skip lines while reading or copying
  • Lose your place while reading or copying
  • Skip words while reading or copying
  • Substitute words while reading or copying
  • Reread words or lines
  • Reverse letters, numbers or words
  • Use a finger or marker to keep place while reading or writing
  • Read very slowly
  • Squint, or close or cover one eye while reading
  • Tilt their head in an unusual way when reading or writing
  • Have poor reading comprehension
  • Have difficulty remembering what they’ve read
  • Headaches after intense visual activities such as reading or computer work
  • Have pained or tired eyes after close work
  • Feel unusually tired after completing a visual task
  • Experience double vision
  • Say that vision blurs at a distance when looking up from near work
  • Have crooked or poorly spaced writing
  • Say that print moves or goes in and out of focus when reading
  • Have poor spelling skills
  • Say that letters or lines “run together” when reading
  • Say that words appear to jump on the page when reading
  • Misalign letters or numbers
  • Make errors when copying
  • Have difficulty tracking moving objects such as balls
  • Demonstrate clumsiness or poor coordination
  • Have difficulty with eye‐hand coordination sports such as baseball
  • Have an eye that turns in or out
  • Have one eye that sees more clearly than the other, even with glasses
  • Feel sleepy while reading
  • Lose awareness of surroundings when concentrating
  • Dislike tasks requiring sustained concentration
  • Confuse right and left directions
  • Act restless when working at a desk
  • Say that they must feel things to “see” them
  • Get car sickness or motion sickness
  • Have to lean close (within 7-8 inches) to reading and/or writing material
  • Demonstrate excessive blinking or eye rubbing
  • Experience dry or red eyes
  • Experience watery eyes
  • Feel sensitivity to light

Download the checklist and see the evaluation scale by clicking below:

The Center for Vision Development’s Functional Vision Symptom Checklist.


If you find that your child meets a significant number of these criteria, you can have them evaluated for functional vision problems. Visit The Center for Vision Development for top-rated Austin eye care by Dr. Denise Smith. Call 512-351-7288 or click here to request an appointment online.