Monthly Archives: August 2014

vision therapy for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Can vision therapy treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Many children who have displayed symptoms of attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) have experienced relief or improvement from those symptoms by undergoing an intensive and comprehensive vision therapy or vision training program.

However, that does not mean vision therapy treats or cures attention deficit disorders. It means that ADD/ADHD is often misdiagnosed, and many of the symptoms of visual processing problems or vision disorders mimic the signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD.

Click here to watch a video on how an undiagnosed vision problem could be interfering with your child’s ability to learn or stay on task.

A pediatric psychiatrist or pediatrician may have suggested a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and prescribed Adderall, Ritalin, or another medication. As a parent, if your child does have ADD/ADHD, you want to ensure he or she gets the best treatment possible to feel better and learn effectively. However, you also don’t want your child to be labeled incorrectly or medicated unnecessarily.

So it is important for you to be aware of signs that could indicate a vision problem but are often misattributed to attention or behavioral problems, including:

  • Daydreaming, appearing distracted, or staring off into space
  • Looking away from the paper or assignment often
  • Seeming to have a short attention span or quick loss of interest
  • Antsiness or fidgeting
  • Getting up from seat at inappropriate times
  • Disruptive behavior or “acting out”
  • Talking during instruction time or distracting other students
  • Losing place while reading, skipping words or lines, seemingly due to carelessness
  • Forgetting material just learned
  • Difficulty staying on task or focused
  • Starting but not completing tasks
  • Scoring better on the beginning of tests and progressively worse towards the end, seemingly due to distractedness or loss of interest
  • Social awkwardness, missing social cues about politeness and personal space, and resulting trouble getting along with peers

Each of these symptoms could indicate ADD/ADHD, but they could also point to a vision problem.

Most educators or parents never suspect vision, usually because typical vision screenings and exams only test for clear eyesight at a distance, not other problems. You may only suspect something else might be at the root of the behavior when a child does not improve with treatment for attention deficit disorder.

But what does vision have to do with attention and behavior?

If children are dealing with problems such as oculomotor dysfunction, amblyopia, visual processing disorders, convergence insufficiency, or other functional vision problems, these signs could be either direct indications or coping and avoidance behaviors.

When a student has a learning-related vision problem or weak visual processing skills, the extra effort required to keep his eyes focused, aligned, turned correctly, and visually process what he is learning is especially taxing. Tasks that are easy and come naturally for peers can cause fatigue, headaches, and frustration.

Because of the strain of functional vision problems, students may choose to rest their eyes by looking away from their paper frequently or staring into space. Because they become agitated, they may fidget or move around, preferring activities that do not require as much stress on the visual system. And because they are often unaware that the way their vision system functions is different from others’ and because they can’t articulate that they are experiencing problems, they tend to “act out” with disruptive behavior or distract fellow classmates.

Often, the child does not know that something is wrong; he is simply adapting to his environment and expectations as best he can.

Click here to download our free guide on 10 things you should know about vision.

The good news is, if a child does have a vision problem, rather than ADD/ADHD, vision therapy can help. As our vision therapy success stories illustrate, a personalized intensive vision therapy program can result in significant and lasting improvement within a relatively short period of time.

We want to emphasize that not all attention problems are related to vision. Your child may be experiencing problems that are psychological, neurological, environmental, nutritional, related to auditory processing, or any number of factors. Vision therapy only helps with attention and behavioral problems if a child has a learning-related or functional vision problem.

We encourage you to watch this video about learning-related vision problems to learn more.

If you suspect your child has a vision problem that may be affecting his or her learning, attention, or behavior, schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist today.

For a functional vision exam and vision therapy in Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.


problems copying from the board

Why Copying From The Board is So Difficult for Some Children

Does your child complain that copying from the board at school is difficult? Does he or she come home with partial notes with a lot of errors or missed assignments? Perhaps your child’s teacher regularly states that the instructions, due dates, or lessons were written clearly on the board, and your child claims to have missed important information.

As a parent or teacher, it may be hard to believe that a child is truly having difficulty copying from the board, particularly if that child has 20/20 eyesight, wears corrective lenses, or has been moved closer to the board for a clear line of sight. You may attribute the child’s behavior to carelessness, laziness, or an excuse.  However, certain functional vision problems that often go undiagnosed can make copying from the board extremely challenging for some students.

Vision disorders that interfere with a child’s ability to easily copy from the board at school include:

Poor eye teaming:

Binocular vision skills include the ability for two eyes to work together as a team. When a visual deficiency prevents both eyes from moving precisely in the same direction at the same time, reading and copying from the board can pose a problem.

If a child has an eye teaming disorder, he may be able to fixate on the vision chart in a typical eye exam and see it clearly, but moving his eyes together from one point to another is difficult. Moving the eyes together to look up at the board, down at the desk, and then back up without getting lost should be easy. But children with eye teaming problems will experience visual fatigue and tire quickly when attempting to copy from the board.

Accommodative dysfunction:

Weak accommodative facility refers to difficulty with visual focus. In a typical vision exam, a child may have clear 20/20 eyesight, but the exam usually does not require the child to sustain focus for an extended period of time or to shift focus quickly from far to near and back to far again.

The student may see the board clearly and see his paper clearly, but looking up and down, back and forth, from the board to the paper could be where the difficulty comes into play. If the focus mechanism in a child’s visual system is weak or not fully developed, the adjustment period as he looks from one point of sight to another will be slower than average, which can be challenging and frustrating.

Oculomotor deficiency:

If a student has deficient oculomotor skills, also known as an eye tracking problem, he will strain to accurately and efficiently control eye movements. Whereas in people with healthy visual systems, eyes move somewhat smoothly, in people with poor oculomotor skills, the eyes will jump or skip around the text.

Copying from the board is difficult for students with eye tracking problems because each time they look up at the board or back down at the paper, they have to struggle to point the eyes in the intended direction again. They tend to lose their place often and fall behind or make errors.

Visual processing problems:

If a student has a visual memory problem, a deficiency in the visual system interferes with retaining information that was just learned; so recalling a line of text just read from the board long enough to write on paper is difficult. If a student has a problem with visual sequential memory, he will have trouble remembering the proper sequence of words or letters in the order just seen. A child who struggles with visual spatial skills and visual discrimination skills may process letters or words they see backwards as they copy text from the board, so you may notice letter reversals and suspect dyslexia.

Children with learning-related vision disorders struggle now more than ever, because today’s classrooms often require students to spend hours each day interacting with boards and screens. In a typical school, you might find whiteboards, large projected screens, Promethean Boards, and ActivBoards. A child may spend a significant portion of the day straining to look at boards and then back down to the paper on the desk in front of them, and then back up to the board. If that student has a functional vision problem, copying from the board will interfere with learning the lesson or keeping up with classmates.

Trouble copying from the board can contribute to slow progress, low grades, and frustration. When a child is not able to learn and participate efficiently alongside his classmates, self-esteem or behavioral problems may arise.

Many teachers, learning specialists, occupational therapists, and other education professionals are not trained to detect functional vision problems. Most learning-related vision problems even go undetected during school vision screenings or exams with your family eye doctor.

Click here to learn more about learning-related vision problems.

If you suspect a vision problem could be to blame for your child’s problems copying from the board, find an optometrist in your area who specializes in developmental or functional vision care. If you live near Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, schedule an appointment with Dr. Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center for a full visual analysis.

The good news is and intensive vision therapy program can significantly improve functional vision problems in a relatively short period of time. Within a few months, copying from the board could become much easier quickly.