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:
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.
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.
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.