Monthly Archives: August 2014

child skips words when reading

Does your child lose his place while reading? Here’s why…

One of the most frequent complaints by parents who visit the Visual Learning Center is that their child loses his place while reading. You may notice when you read with your child that he misses words and sometimes skips whole sentences.

Initially, you might suspect he is is being careless or impatient, that he isn’t paying attention closely enough, or that he is choosing to skip unfamiliar or challenging words. However, a visual processing problem such as poor eye tracking skills could be to blame for your child’s difficulty with reading.

Tracking skills are the specific eye movements a child uses as they scan a line of text. Even in a normal healthy visual system, these movements are not smooth, left-to-right shifts. Instead, the movements are a series of “jumps” and “fixations.”

To read, the eye jumps across the text and fixates on certain points; with each fixation, the child takes in either a whole word or part of a word while the eye is momentarily stationary. The child decodes and process a word, and then the eyes fixate on the next word and pause briefly to decode and process it. Eye tracking is a very complex process and involves many different areas of the brain.

Readers with normal healthy visual processing systems can control the eye tracking process well, and their eyes move mostly in a left to right manner across the page, jumping from word to word and sometimes around the page, but without skipping words or losing their place.

When a child skips words or sentences, they have to go back to re-read and work hard to grasp the meaning of a given passage. As a result, these children may score poorly in reading comprehension, not because of a low level of verbal intelligence, but simply because their visual processing system does not function as it should.

During a functional vision exam at the Visual Learning Center, we test for eye tracking ability and compare it to established normal values. For more information about eye tracking and other important visual skills, download our free guide “10 things you need to know about vision” here.

If you notice your child loses his place or skips words and sentences while reading, and you are in the Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD area, schedule a comprehensive functional vision exam today. If your child is found to have poor visual tracking skills or another learning-related vision problem, a vision therapy program can result in significant improvement quickly.

Philip Nicholson, O.D.

Q&A: How is your program different from other providers of vision therapy?

When a child struggles with vision problems, such as deficiencies in eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, or visual processing, the first step to getting help is diagnosis.

Many Montgomery County families come to the Visual Learning Center in our Olney, Maryland office because their child has been having difficulty with reading, writing, or behavioral problems in school. Often, learning disabilities, dyslexia, and attention deficit disorders have been ruled out, or traditional attempts to help the child improve in school are not working.

After an initial assessment, we encourage parents to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive visual analysis, which takes up to two hours and includes a written report and follow-up consultation, and a unique treatment plan individualized for each child.

What sets our vision therapy treatment plan apart from other approaches is that it is based in the best scientific research available in the field of vision and learning, and our methods are continually modified to incorporate new scientific data to achieve the best results.

Our vision therapy program is a highly targeted treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. Vision therapy sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to properly control the whole vision system. At the Visual Learning Center, our vision therapy exercises target and train visual skills that are most likely to have a meaningful impact on learning performance and a child’s academic abilities.

Each child is treated individually, on a one-on-one basis, to achieve significant results quickly and allow for immediate feedback. Both positive reinforcement and gentle and direct error correction encourages the child to feel greater confidence early in the process and make progressive improvements throughout the vision therapy program. One of the first things you will notice, is that your child’s self-esteem will improve as he sees the difference in his performance.

The vision therapy exercises are designed with a discouraged young student’s needs in mind. Children work through sequenced procedures that aim to challenge–not bore or frustrate them–unlike their school work, which carries negative associations for them. Instead, the activities are designed to help your child practice and develop new skills in a non-academic way that does not remind them of their difficulty with schoolwork. Because of this approach, newly developed visual skills will become habitual in a fun and safe manner, and then your child will be able to apply his new skills to his academics automatically, and with a high level of retention.

Something else that sets our program apart is that we encourage parental involvement. The program requires practice outside of in-office sessions. Practicing at home provides an opportunity for cost-effective repetitious procedures and helps your child to transfer learned skills to everyday activities. But what parents tell us they enjoy most about their participation is that it often mends the parent-student relationship. We understand that homework wars and punishments for getting in trouble at school can strain your interactions with your child, so we are delighted to play a part in making a positive impact on your relationship.

Overall, vision therapy at the Visual Learning Center produces invaluable results when considering committed effort, time, and finances. I chose to become an optometrist who specializes in developmental and functional vision care because I struggled with vision problems as a child, and I can attribute my success as a student to the results of vision therapy. Click here to read some of the vision therapy results and success stories our patients have experienced.

To schedule an appointment for a comprehensive vision assessment and learn more about our vision therapy program in Olney, MD, call 301-570-4611, or complete this form.

child reverses letters while writing at a desk

Common Causes When a Child Reverses Letters

When parents notice a child reversing letters, they often assume that what they are observing is a sign or symptom of dyslexia.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes difficulty in writing, reading, and spelling. Children with dyslexia often reverse letters; however, while letter reversal in writing can be a symptom of dyslexia, this does not mean that every child who reverses letters has dyslexia.

A child may reverse letters in the early stages of learning. As a child begins to practice writing, they will make mistakes or their motor skills might not be well developed yet. Parents and teachers should continue to observe and see if the child makes improvement with guidance and practice.

Children who do not improve letter reversals within the first two years of schooling should be watched more closely and evaluated by a professional. The child could be dyslexic or have another learning disability.

But there is also a another lesser-known cause that could explain the child’s tendency to reverse letters, such as ‘p’ and ‘q’ or ‘b’ and ‘d’ when writing. Learning-related vision problems interfere with the visual processing system and cause affected children to reverse letters. Without detection, diagnosis, and vision therapy, the child will continue to reverse letters and struggle with reading, writing, and spelling.

Research indicates the major causes of letter reversals include the following:

  • Poor visual memory:  the ability to recall a visual image
  • Poor visualization: the ability to create a mental image
  • Poor visual-motor integrations:  the ability of the visual and muscular system to reinforce each other
  • Poor visual association: the ability to link what you see with something you saw, heard, or felt in the past.

If a child is lacking ability or skills in the areas of visual association, integration, visual-motor, and recall skills, he will be more likely than his peers to continue reversing letters when writing. Intensive vision therapy will strengthen visual skills, and with training and practice, letter reversals can be eliminated.

“Parents are often told the child will outgrow it. And this can be true. Continued exposure to letters and numbers will reduce reversals; but if the underlying causes are left untreated, learning will still be slow and school performance will suffer.” – Dr. Philip Nicholson

Without knowing and addressing the cause of letter reversals beyond the initial stages of learning development, a child will not automatically improve.

Assuming the child is dyslexic may not help, unfortunately, because the methods used for helping a dyslexic child learn are different from the methods used to improve visual processing in a child who has learning-related vision problems.

If your child is reversing letters beyond second grade or 8 years of age, we recommend screening for dyslexia and vision problems. Learn more about learning-related vision problems by downloading our free guide here and watching our webinar here.

If you live near Olney, MD, schedule an appointment with the Visual Learning Center for a thorough vision assessment.

Do the improvements achieved in vision therapy last?

When a patient undergoes vision therapy, families often recognize remarkable improvement in a rather short period of time. Within a matter of a few weeks or months, many children are able to make significant progress.

Noticeable improvement early in the vision therapy program instills confidence in patients and provides hope for families that their child will overcome the learning-related vision problems that have caused so much frustration and struggle. Because the child’s vision skills develop through vision therapy exercises, activities, and practice, parents often wonder if the effects will last beyond time spent in the program.

Because your child has not undergone surgery and was not prescribed new corrective lenses or medication, you may suspect that vision therapy is not a permanent solution. Often parents wonder if the effects are a quick fix that will fade away with time. You may question whether your child will require vision therapy throughout his lifetime, become dependent on a lifelong costly treatment, or risk reverting to the problems experienced prior to participating in the vision therapy program.

Not only do we expect the results your child experiences from vision therapy to last, we also expect improvements to continue.

Your child will continue to use the new skills learned on a daily basis. Just like fitness and exercise, as long as she continues to use skills regularly, those skills will continue to function and even develop further.

When your child learns new visual processing skills, these new skills will be used repeatedly, become habitual, and the visual system will begin to work correctly and more efficiently.

In vision therapy, also known as vision training, your child will learn meaningful skills that are used in daily activities, so there is a high level of retention. You should notice continued improvement in your child as he or she progresses throughout the school year.  Many of the skills we work on in-office during vision therapy will continue to strengthen as they are put to the test in a school environment.

At the Visual Learning Center in Olney. MD, we stress the importance of having progress checks at 6 or 12 months after a child has completed a therapy program. This will ensure that the gains we made while in therapy are still holding strong, and we will make recommendations for continued improvement. Schedule an assessment appointment today.