When Andrew was in second grade, he quickly fell behind in reading. Andrew skipped words, lost his place and could not remember what he had just read. His teacher suggested he may have a learning disability. His mother Suzanne believed that something else was going on. “Andrew is bright, and I knew in my heart as his mother and as a teacher that it wasn’t a learning disability,” she said.
A vision screening test using an eye chart revealed that Andrew had 20/20 eyesight, and a private evaluation indicated Andrew had no other apparent academic or learning disabilities, despite his challenges with reading. His mother remained convinced that her son’s vision needed a more thorough investigation, so she sought the help of a developmental (also known as behavioral) optometrist who specializes in vision as it relates to development and learning. As it turned out, it was just as his mother had suspected; Andrew was diagnosed with an eye coordination problem, which was at the root of his reading struggles. Vision therapy is an effective method for treating problems such as Andrew’s.
At The Center for Vision Development, we know that it is not uncommon for parents to have searched far and wide to pinpoint the cause of a child’s learning challenges. New patients often come with a pile of reports from professionals including psychologists, neurologists, and occupational therapists because parents have been trying to figure out what’s been going on. More often than not, these children have 20/20 eyesight and as a result, vision is an overlooked factor when it comes to learning problems. In fact, the American Optometric Association reports that 60 percent of students identified as “problem learners” have undetected vision problems. Many of these children have passed traditional school screenings because the results are based solely on the ability to read the eye chart and do not address eye-teaming skills and the brain-eye connection/visual processing. According to the Optometric Extension Program Foundation (OEPF), vision disorders are one of the most under diagnosed yet common conditions in the world today. And since 80% of how we learn is through the visual system, it is easy to see that well-developed visual skills are crucial to academic success.
Just like Andrew, a child with good eyesight (20/20) may have trouble with things like reading, writing, sustained attention and academic success. It’s so important for parents to know that there’s much more to vision than ’20/20′. In fact, there are more than 17 different skills that make up the visual system, and if these skills haven’t developed properly, it can greatly affect learning ability which can lead to problems with self-esteem, irritability, family relations, and sports performance.
We are experts when it comes to pediatric eye care and know that we should never assume that a child’s visual skills will develop normally. Similar to motor or speech development, the process can get off-track. And when these skills aren’t flourishing, many classroom requirements like reading, writing and copying from blackboard to paper and back again can be endlessly frustrating for a child who we know is bright and capable.
Signs that your child might have a hidden vision problem include, but are not limited to: covering/closing one eye while reading, taking longer than expected to complete reading and homework assignments, poor handwriting, irregular letter or word spacing, skipping lines when reading, unable to remember what was just read and excessive blinking when doing close work. For a more comprehensive list and to learn how we can address your Austin Eye Care needs, take our Functional Vision Symptom Checklist test at www.austinvisiontherapycenter.com or call us and book your evaluation today.