Monthly Archives: August 2014

Going to See a 3D Movie Could Reveal a Vision Problem

The Peanuts Movie is set to hit theaters next week, and some of your favorite childhood characters will be making their big screen debut. Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and the gang will be coming to you in state-of-the art 3D animation in a brand new adventure that has parents and kids alike buzzing in anticipation.

But what’s sure to be an entertaining afternoon at the theater for some could be far less fun for your child if he or she has a vision problem. Unfortunately, 3D effects affect people with certain vision deficiencies, causing dizzy spells, queasiness, and nausea.

People with a healthy visual  system see 3D effects as they are meant to be seen — popping from the screen, almost as if you can reach out and touch the characters. These effects are created by projecting two moving images simultaneously, but with different colors or polarization of colors for each image. The 3D glasses we wear allow most people to see these two overlaid moving flat images as one three dimensional moving image.

When we look at a movie screen (or anything else) each of our eyes sees the object from a particular perspective. The image is processed through our visual system, and our brain does the work of taking the two separate images and combining them into one image that we see. This process is enabled by binocular vision skills.

Binocular vision skills – How well your child’s eyes can blend visual images from both eyes into a single, three-dimensional image.

To properly see 3D effects in movies, strong binocular vision is necessary. If your child has poor binocular vision with amblyopia or lazy eye, the brain and eye are not working together in a healthy correctly functioning manner. One eye may be favored by the brain while the other is suppressed. The problem encountered is that 3D glasses and the special effects may cause the brain to favor the suppressed eye, which causes a lot of strain. Your child might not see the 3D effects at all, or he may complain of headaches, dizziness, or nausea.

If your child has complained during Minions or another 3D movie in past or if the complaints arise while watching the upcoming release of The Peanuts Movie, this is a sign of a possible vision problem. In fact, in many cases, uneasiness during a 3D movie is the first obvious sign that something is wrong.

The same vision problem that causes headaches, dizziness, or nausea during a 3D movie will affect your child’s ability to learn as well.

If you suspect your child has a vision problem, based on his or her experience while watching a 3D movie, schedule a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist right away. Vision therapy can improve the problem significantly.

If you are in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact The Visual Learning Center to make an appointment today.

Functional vision problems: What happens if your child’s eyes fail to work as a team?

When your child is doing close work, such as reading, writing, or using a mobile device or computer, he or she needs to be able to keep both eyes turned in to point at the same position. The ability to move, turn, and point the eyes together, is called eye teaming.

Eye teaming is a function that people with normal healthy visual systems do naturally, without thinking about it. However, if your child has a functional vision problem known as Convergence Insufficiency, eye teaming is a challenge.

Convergence insufficiency  is a common two-eyed (binocular) disorder affecting a child’s near vision. It interferes with a person’s ability to see clearly at close distances, making it challenging to read, learn, and complete tasks. People with Convergence Insufficiency find it difficult to keep their eyes working together smoothly as a team, and their eyes tend to drift outwardly when attempting to focus on text or other items at a near distance.

Unfortunately, this problem often goes undetected in children because standard eye exams and school vision screenings do not test for convergence insufficiency. Your child could have passed a typical eye exam with 20/20 eyesight and still have convergence insufficiency.

Additionally, you may not readily notice your child’s uncoordinated or drifting eye movements. Even subtle differences in eye teaming, that are not easily observed by parents or teachers, can cause a significant hindrance to learning.

Symptoms of convergence insufficiency, or poor eye teaming skills, include:

  • double vision
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • eye fatigue

Here is an image that demonstrates how text appears to a child with convergence insufficiency:


Signs your child could be struggling with convergence insufficiency include:

  • covering or closing one eye while reading
  • rubbing eyes excessively
  • attempting to avoid reading or homework
  • seeming to have a short attention span
  • fatigue quickly while doing close work
  • losing place while reading

You may notice that while your child did not have trouble reading initially, he struggles with reading speed, fluency, and comprehension, which appears to get worse with prolonged attempts to read.

If you suspect your child may have a learning-related vision problem such as poor eye teaming skills, schedule a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist right away.

If you are in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today.

5 Tips to Help Your Child Ease Eye Strain

We all experience eye strain from time to time. Whether we’re avid readers or our work keeps us glued to a computer screen all day, modern work and play taxes our eyes and our entire visual system now more than ever before in history.

Think about the number of images, emails, text messages, television shows, social media updates, books, and more that we consume each day of our lives today compared to our own childhood, or consider stark difference between the way we use our eyes each day and the way our great grandparents used their visual systems. It should come as no surprise that modern work, school, and entertainment can cause our eyes can become overworked if we are not careful.

For a child who is still in developmental stages of growth, eye strain can be particularly taxing. If that child has an functional vision problem, the effects of eye strain can severely interfere with learning. Even when well-rested, children with learning-related vision problems struggle more than their classmates to read, write, and perform in the classroom; so additional stress to the visual system can be particularly detrimental.

We suggest that all parents work with children to help them avoid and alleviate eye strain whenever possible. If your child has a vision problem, this is especially important.

Here are 5 tips to help your child ease eye strain:

1. Limit Screen Time

While there is nothing wrong with allowing your child to use smartphones, video games, computers, or tablets for fun and to develop comfort with technology, it’s important that you limit their screen time to protect their eyes. We understand that kids love their devices and this can cause fits or tantrums, so we suggest gradually replacing their screen time with other enjoyable activities.

2. Use Adequate Lighting

If you were the kid who tried to read under the covers with a flashlight despite your parents saying you’ll “ruin your eyes,” this tip might ring a bell. Keep in mind that if what you’re reading is brighter than the rest of the room, it will cause a strain on your eyes. This goes for back-lit screens or working in a dark room with a small desk lamp. So remember that your child will incur less eye strain if he works in a well-lit room, with preferably natural or full-spectrum lighting.

3. Work at a Proper Distance

Does your child sometimes try to write with his head down on his desk or read with his chin propped up on a book? It’s best to sit up straight and work with slightly more than a foot or an arm’s length distance away from the text. Your child may mistakenly believe reading closer is helping to ease the strain, but it is only making matters worse.

4. Take Breaks

Our eyes need an occasional break in order to avoid strain. Encourage your child to take a short break every 15 to 20 minutes.  Put the book or pencil down and step away from the screen every so often. Ask her to get up and stretch, close her eyes tightly for a few moments, or focus on objects in the distance for awhile. Pushing a child to keep working, especially if she is already struggling with a vision problem, will only cause more eye strain and greater difficulty learning and performing.

5. Get Active

Children with functional vision problems sometimes not only struggle with learning, but they have difficulty with coordination, sports, and social interaction as well. For this reason, they may avoid outdoor and physical activities in favor of video games and television. Encourage your child to play outside when possible — go for walks and look around at the environment, play in the yard with the dog — activities that will give the eyes a break from working and stimulate the visual system in a different way.

If  you suspect your child has a functional vision problem that is exacerbated by eye strain, help him or her to follow these tips. Then schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist immediately. In addition to properly resting the eyes, an intensive vision therapy program will provide relief of unnecessary strain and improvement to vision.

If you are in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today.