Monthly Archives: August 2014

A child that sees like this can pass a vision screening [infographic]

As a parent, you’re dedicated to ensuring your children are healthy, thriving, and have access to the best available learning opportunities. So when your child undergoes an eye exam at school or with your family eye doctor and passes with “20/20 eyesight” or a prescription for corrective lenses, you’re probably confident that his or her vision is fine.

As far as common knowledge goes, you’ve done everything necessary to make sure your child is able to see clearly enough to perform well in school. If your child continues to struggle in school, it must be due to something else, right?

Unfortunately, most eye exams do not test for functional vision problems that often interfere with learning and performance. A typical eye exam with your family optometrist or ophthalmologist generally only tests to determine if your child can see clearly at a distance for a period long enough to complete the exam. It doesn’t test for eye movement and visual processing problems that may affect your child’s ability to see, learn, and complete tasks for a sustained period of time in a learning environment.

The general exam doesn’t check into how well the eyes work together as a team, how quickly the eyes focus when moving from one visual plane to another, how smoothly the eyes move across the page when reading, how efficiently the brain processes information taken in by the eyes, or a number of other areas of functional vision.

Only a functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care can diagnose learning-related vision problems such as convergence insufficiency, amblyopia, strabismus, blurred vision, double vision, and more.

Children who see like the illustrations below can still pass a typical vision test:

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Right Click + Save to Download

As you can now see, if your child sees like any of the above illustrations, learning can be challenging. Children with functional vision problems struggle more than their peers to learn, not because they are not bright and capable of learning, but because their visual system is not functioning in a healthy manner.

The good news is, once he or she receives an appropriate diagnosis, a personalized and intensive vision therapy program can lead to significant lasting improvements in a relatively short period of time.

Click here to read “9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem,” to learn more about signs and symptoms of functional vision problems that interfere with learning.

After reviewing the signs and symptoms, if you suspect your child may have a learning-related vision problem, schedule a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist today.

If you are located in Olney or Silver Spring, MD, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.

Children Diagnosed with Developmental Delays May Also Have Undetected Vision Problems

Many children diagnosed with “developmental delays” also struggle with vision problems; and often parents learn that their child has an accompanying vision problem even after their family eye doctor assured them them that the child’s eyes are normal and healthy, with no need for corrective lenses.

To better understand why your family eye doctor did not detect a vision problem, read this article.

If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and he or she is not making expected progress from working with an occupational therapist or in another type of early learning developmental therapy, it could be due to an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

Vision is so closely related to learning, that nearly every aspect of a child’s development can be slowed or affected by visual system deficiencies or delays. While a typical eye exam may find that a child sees clearly and has healthy eyes, only a thorough vision exam by a developmental optometrist trained in functional vision can properly detect the types of learning-related vision problems that could be interfering with your child’s progress.

To learn more about how vision relates to learning and child development, download this guide and watch this free webinar for parents.

Problems often attributed simply to “developmental delays” in young children that could be caused by or exacerbated by problems with the visual system include:

  • balance and clumsiness
  • gross and fine motor skills
  • poor eye contact
  • paying attention
  • hyperactivity
  • “acting out” and signs of frustration

Most learning-related vision problems are not detected until a child is older, and performance lags in reading, comprehension, writing, spelling, testing, and classroom behavior. However, younger children that have been diagnosed with developmental delays, who are working with other therapists, can benefit from early detection and early intervention. In addition to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech language therapy, for example, the child can also enter a vision therapy program and make significant progress. A multidisciplinary team approach is often an answer.

If you suspect your child may have a learning-related vision problem, talk to your child’s doctor, teacher, or therapist about your concerns. Show them our resource center for teachers and this article for Occupational Therapists. However, keep in mind that this information may be new to these professionals as well, and you will want to explore all avenues that can support your child’s growth.

The only way to know for sure if your child with developmental delays can benefit from vision therapy is to get a proper diagnoses by scheduling a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist.

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


7 Classroom Modifications to Help Students with Functional Vision Problems

No matter how bright your child is, learning can be difficult if he struggles with a functional vision problem. Once diagnosed with a learning-related vision deficiency, both classroom modifications and vision therapy will improve your child’s ability to learn and demonstrate learning.

As a parent, it is important for you to work together with your child’s teacher and school to ensure the most beneficial classroom modifications are made available to your child. Here are some examples:

Better Lighting

Many classrooms are poorly lit with flickering fluorescent bulbs. Schools often need to make the most economical choices, and fluorescent lighting is cheap. But proper lighting is particularly important for students with vision problems. We suggest providing natural lighting or full-spectrum bulbs whenever possible. On a nice day, your child could sit near the window in the sunlight or at a table with a full-spectrum lamp, especially when doing sustained close work.

Work Breaks

Sustained near-field work that requires a student to keep both eyes pointed in the same direction (a function known as teaming), follow along the text (a function known as tracking), and focus on text or numbers for an extended amount of time (a function known as “accommodation”) is challenging for children with vision problems. These functions work effortlessly for children with healthy vision systems, but children with vision deficiencies need to put forth extra effort. Allowing students to take breaks regularly gives their eyes time to rest so they can begin working again refreshed.

Oral Testing Options

For children with vision problems, reading and writing causes strain and even headaches; so sometimes these students get distracted or give up while taking a test. If you’ve ever studied with your child for an exam, certain he would ace it, only to find out later that he failed, a functional vision problem could be interfering with his test-taking performance. Bubbling in answer sheets can be a particular challenge. Allowing students to demonstrate knowledge through oral quizzes and tests when possible is often a helpful solution.

Grant More Time

Often, classroom exams and assignments are either intentionally timed or students are hurried on to the next task due to schedules and general time constraints of the school day. A child with a learning-related vision problem may need more time to learn, complete assignments, and take tests. This has nothing to do with intelligence; it’s simply a matter of the way their vision system functions. Granting extra time can boost their performance.

Use Highlighters

When you were in school, did you ever use highlighter markers or pencils to underline important text? When you’re reading, do you ever slide your finger or pen along text as a guide, especially when you’re getting tired or trying to concentrate on challenging material? Allowing a child with an eye tracking deficiency to use highlighters as they read is a simple but effective classroom modification. Readers with normal healthy visual processing systems can easily move their eyes in a left to right manner across the page without skipping words or losing their place. Highlighters can make it easier for your child to stay on track.

Make Larger Text Available

Children with learning-related vision problems strain to read standard-sized text more so than their classmates with healthy vision systems. Larger print is easier to read, focus on, and follow along, smoothly and efficiently. Text on worksheets and exams can be enlarged simply by using larger font or blowing up the copy size. The school may be required to accommodate your child’s needs by ordering large-print textbooks when available. You can also buy large-print books for your child to read at home or check them out from the library.

Limit Copying From Board

Copying from the board or screen can be difficult for a student with a vision problem, even if he has 20/20 eyesight or wears eyeglasses. When a child has trouble focusing, he may see clearly while looking down at his paper, and clearly while looking up at the board. However, looking up and down, back and forth, from the board to the paper might be where the challenge comes into play. The focus mechanism in your child’s eyes might be weak, slowing down the adjustment period as he looks from one point to the other. Arrange for seating closer to the board for some relief, or preferably provide the child with printed materials from which to copy.

If your child has a learning-related functional vision problem, simple classroom and learning environment modifications can provide much-needed relief as he tries to cope. The first step is for you to get a diagnoses by scheduling a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist. Then work with the school teacher and school to ensure appropriate modifications are made available.

These classroom modifications may be temporary, because an individualized vision therapy program can improve functional vision significantly.

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

child in occupational therapy session

3 Vision Problems Occupational Therapists Can Recognize When Working with Patients

At the Visual Learning Center, we often receive referrals from Occupational Therapists who notice that a child in their care may be struggling with vision problems. OTs are trained to work with children to improve and strengthen specific skills and abilities, and deficiencies in the visual processing system can interfere with a child’s ability to make progress.

However, many skilled and experienced Occupational Therapists simply are not trained on how to detect vision problems. Further, many OTs are unaware that Vision Therapy can supplement or enhance the work they are doing with a child.

If you are an Occupational Therapist who works with children, here are 3 main types of functional vision problems you may notice during your assessments or sessions:

1. Accommodation Skills

If you work work with a child who often gets frontal headaches or eye aches, squints, blinks, or rubs his eyes excessively, or often complains that his eyes sting or itch, these may be signs of an eye focusing problem.

Children with poor accommodation skills, or trouble focusing, are unable to easily sustain focus on an object or text or maintain a clear image for a reasonable length of time. Reading and writing are difficult because objects become fuzzy or blurred, and the child will strain to perform well on assignments or tests, compared to his peers.

2. Convergence Skills

If you notice that a child tries to avoid reading, looks away from the text often, shows fatigue easily while reading, or indicates that the words are moving around on the page, this could be due to an eye teaming problem.

If a child has poor convergence or divergence skills, or an eye teaming problem, this means he has trouble using his eyes together as a team. His eyes move somewhat independently of one another, causing blurry or double vision, difficulty with depth perception, and fatigue. Performance and reading comprehension suffer because the child has to work harder than his classmates just to properly see and efficiently process the text.

3. Ocular Motor Skills

If you are working with a child who reads slowly, struggles with reading comprehension, has difficulty copying from the board at school, or loses his place or skips words while reading or writing, this could be due to an eye tracking problem.

If a child has poor ocular motor skills, or an eye tracking problem, he strains to accurately control the movements of his eyes. Instead of moving smoothly, his eyes will skip or jump, making it difficult to read, write, or look up at something in the distance and then back down to the page in front of him. What should be simple tasks prove challenging.

To learn more about signs and symptoms of functional vision problems, download our free guide “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision” here and watch our recorded webinar on vision here.

If you suspect that a child may have a functional vision problem, the next step is to refer him or her to a developmental optometrist for a comprehensive functional vision exam.

For occupational therapists in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson at The Visual Learning Center to speak to our staff.