VISION & LEARNING
"It is estimated that 80% of children with a learning disability have an undiagnosed vision problem" - Vision Council of America
THE MYTH OF 20/20
Very often the first question I get asked by parents is "Does my child see 20/20?". The ability to see 20/20 is based on the length of our eyeball and is only a measure of whether our distance vision is clear without glasses, or requires corrective lenses to be clear. Unfortunately having 20/20 vision does not indicate that our visual system is set up to allow us to succeed in school. This means that your child may see 20/20 but can still have significant problems with reading, writing, spelling and learning due to other visual skills being deficient. There are many different visual skills that are required for a successful learning experience. If your child is struggling in school please ensure you get a comprehensive eye exam with a Doctor of Optometry skilled in Binocular Vision Testing. Binocular vision is the ability to team our eyes together, focus them, move them in a coordinated fashion, decode the information they relay to the brain, and allow them to guide a correct and precise motor movement. When one or more of these skills are lacking there can be large impacts on learning, causing significant delays in school. I hope you can now see that seeing 20/20 is not a measure of your child's ability to succeed in school, and a comprehensive eye exam that includes testing for the skills below is necessary to ensure success in school.
5 COMMON SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD HAS A VISION DISORDER THAT COULD INTERFERE WITH YOUR CHILD'S LEARNING
1. Skipping words or lines, rereading words or lines
2. Reversing "b" and "d", "q" and "p"
3. Taking a long time to complete homework
4. Poor reading comprehension
5. Short attention span while doing homework
WHAT VISUAL SKILLS ARE NEEDED FOR LEARNING?
Accommodation is our ability to make our near vision clear and maintain it clear and in focus for an extended amount of time. Deficiencies in this skill will cause blurry vision, poor reading comprehension, holding things very close, tired eyes, headaches and difficulty reading for long periods of time.
Eye teaming is the ability to point both eyes at the same spot in space. This involves crossing and uncrossing our eyes. Deficiencies in this skill will cause double vision, headaches, closing one eye, eye rubbing, and difficulty reading for long periods of time.
Tracking involves small and large eye movements. These eye movements must be precise to guide the eyes to relay information in the correct sequence to the brain. Deficiencies in this skill will cause poor reading comprehension, skipping words or lines, moving head while reading, using finger to keep your place and frequent loss of place while reading.
VISUAL INFORMATION PROCESSING
Visual information processing encompasses many different skills that allow us to decode visual information. Deficiencies in this skill causes poor reading comprehension, poor spelling, difficulty with math, poor recall of visual information, and poor copying skills.
VISUAL MOTOR INTEGRATION
This skill pertains to our ability to recreate a piece of visual information through writing or drawing. Deficiencies in this skill will cause sloppy writing, poor copying skills and difficulty staying on the line.
Laterality and directionality is our ability to be aware of left and right. Deficiencies in this skill will cause reversals of letters, trouble remembering right and left, and trouble writing and remember letters and numbers.
WHAT IS VISION THERAPY?
Vision therapy is a customized program of exercises supported by evidence-based scientific research, with the goal of remediating any visual skills that are not functioning optimally. Therapy involves weekly in-office therapy sessions with adjunct at home exercises. Repetition of the exercises allow the visual system to integrate the proper skills for clear, comfortable vision for successful learning. Depending on the condition therapy can take weeks or may be months. Vision is the basic building block of learning, and when visual skills are poor or deficient learning becomes very difficult and frustrating for the individual. Therapy allows vision to work efficiently to allow for improved reading skills, writing skills, and overall learning. Therapy works on rewiring the way the brain moves or engages the eyes, so if therapy is done properly regression of the skills acquired is unlikely.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS FOR VISION THERAPY FOR A CHILD WITH A LEARNING DIFFICULTY?
For a child who is struggling with school the goal of vision therapy is to rehabilitate any visual skills that are working inefficiently. Our assessments are geared towards addressing the specific concerns that your child has at school with learning and how any deficient visual skills may be attributing to those challenges. Some children may have a learning disability outside of vision that may also be attributing to difficulties with reading, writing and math. Certain learning disabilities can also cause visual deficits. Visual deficits though can mimic the same symptoms of a learning disability and it is important to try decipher which is contributing to your child's learning challenges. Our goal is to rehabilitate any visual deficits and remove vision as a barrier to your child's learning.
WHAT CAN WE TREAT WITH VISION THERAPY
Vision therapy is recommended for a variety of conditions such as:
Accommodative disorders: Accommodative insufficiency or excess
Binocular vision disorders (such as Convergence Insufficiency)
Oculomotor Dysfuction (Tracking Disorders)
Visual Processing Disorder
Visual Motor Integration
HOW DOES AN ASSESSMENT WORK?
COMPREHENSIVE EYE EXAM
A comprehensive eye exam is a critical first step. Here we check if all of the anatomy of the eye is healthy. In addition we check if a prescription is needed to provide clear vision. We also do screening tests for binocular vision disorders and strabismus.
IN DEPTH BINOCULAR VISION ASSESSMENT
A binocular vision examination is a more in-depth examination of the eye focusing, eye teaming, and eye tracking system. Specialized prescriptions are tested that may include prism, reading prescriptions, or modified patching techniques. This examination allows us to assess if vision therapy may be helpful.
VISUAL INFORMATION PROCESSING, PRIMITIVE REFLEXES, VISUAL MOTOR INTEGRATION ASSESSMENT
Should further testing in the area of visual processing and visual-motor integration be required, we generally do it on a separate day as the testing can be long and tiring. This allows us to better customize our treatment and therapy plan for each individual patient.
REPORT, CUSTOMIZED TREATMENT PLAN AND VISION THERAPY
After all testing is completed a report is sent to the patient and referring doctor. A treatment plan is formulated with the patient and their to ensure all their goals are met. The treatment plan may include a glasses prescription, prism prescription, modified patching, and/or vision therapy.