Summer vacation is coming to an end and the new school year is just a few weeks away. Your child may have survived last school year, but if you want them to thrive this upcoming year you might ask yourself the following questions…
- Is reading/writing a struggle?
- Does your child skip lines or lose his/her place when reading?
- Does your child avoid reading or writing?
- Do you find yourself battling to get your child to do his/her work?
- Does your child seem tired, get headaches or complain about their eyes when reading?
- Does your child have a short attention span for reading or writing?
- Does your child struggle to complete the expected amount of reading minutes per day?
- Are they unable to comprehend what is being read?
- Is your child having difficulty transitioning into chapter books?
- Does your child have 20/20 vision, but complain that he/she can’t see well?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your child might be suffering from a learning-related vision problem. Many children with learning-related vision problems have 20/20 eyesight and will pass a traditional eye exam or vision screening. Parents are given a false sense of security that everything is fine; when in reality their child may have significant vision coordination problems that are interfering with their ability to sustain accurate, clear and comfortable vision for near tasks such as reading, writing and math.
There are 17 visual skills that make up “good vision” and only one of those skills include eyesight or the ability to see 20/20. It is estimated that as much as 80% of all learning during a child’s first 12 years comes through vision. The three most common causes of vision and learning problems are poor eye tracking, teaming and focusing skills. Below we’ll take a closer look at these three visual skills and how they impact learning.
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Eye Tracking Skills
Eye movement or tracking skills are the ability to accurately track and follow with our eyes. Inaccurate tracking skills can cause loss of place when reading, skipping over words/lines, poor reading fluency and “careless” errors.
Eye Focusing Skills
When we look far away, the focusing muscles in our eyes relax, when we look up-close they constrict. The accurate and efficient use of these muscles allow us to focus on near-print for a sustained period of time and easily switch our focus from near to far and back again. Inefficient focusing skills may cause blurred vision, visual fatigue, trouble copying from the board, reduced reading comprehension and avoidance of near-point activities.
Eye Teaming Skills
Eye teaming is the ability of the eyes to work together as an efficient, coordinated team to create a clear and single picture. Small eye teaming problems cannot easily be detected by the untrained observer; however, they do significantly interfere with the ability to efficiently process visual information, especially at near when reading and writing. Difficulties with eye teaming skills can cause numerous symptoms and adaptations including: eyestrain, headaches, blurred or double vision, words run together or moving around the page, difficulty with handwriting/spacing, covering or closing of an eye and decreased reading comprehension. These symptoms make it very difficult to maintain attention on reading and writing, especially for children.
Many times, difficulty will exist in all three of these visual skills areas. These children are labeled as learning disabled, attention deficit or just plain lazy. The good news is that these conditions are easily treated with vision therapy. The bad news is that even though they are fairly common (1 out of every 4 children), they are frequently misdiagnosed or overlooked completely in routine vision screenings.
Many eye doctors (ophthalmologists and optometrists) fail to include the battery of tests needed to identify teaming, tracking and focusing problems. Specialized doctors of optometry who are board-certified in vision therapy have the credentials FCOVD. This designates that the doctor has the training and experience to diagnose and treat vision and learning problems.
You can find more information throughout our website or to find a FCOVD optometrist in your area check out www.covd.org.