accommodative dysfunction

Accommodative Dysfunction: An Often Overlooked Vision Problem That Makes Classroom Learning Difficult

The Visual Learning Center offers 
developmental optometry & vision therapy
near Silver Spring, MD in Olney.

Accommodative dysfunction is an often-overlooked functional vision problem that makes classroom learning difficult and interferes with performance in school. When parents contact us at the Visual Learning Center, they often wonder how their child could have a vision problem that interferes with learning when their family eye doctor or school vision screening did not detect anything wrong with the child’s eyesight.

We understand that, as a parent, you rely on professionals to diagnose problems and advise you on the best course of action to help your child. But the eye doctor who examined your child is probably not trained in developmental optometry, functional vision care, or vision therapy. Their job is primarily to check for eye health and prescribe eyeglasses as needed.

The visual system is complex and routine vision screenings do not mimic the classroom environment. To do their assignments and follow lessons in a classroom setting, students must sustain visual focus over extended periods of time and shift focus from one place to another throughout the day.

If your child sees the board clearly and sees the paper on their desk clearly, they may pass a typical screening with 20/20 eyesight. But everyday classroom tasks require vision skills beyond a quick glance at an eye chart. In order to complete their schoolwork, a child has to maintain focus on their books or papers long enough to read paragraphs and pages of text. And while in the classroom, students have to focus on the board long enough to follow the lesson and look back and forth between the board and their paper to copy notes.

Weak accommodative facility refers to difficulty with visual focus. In normal healthy vision, a child can sustain visual focus for an extended period and shift focus as needed from near to far and back to near again. If our visual system is functioning as it should, we don’t even think about maintaining focus or focusing our eyes as we move them. Focusing happens automatically and almost instantaneously without much effort.

But what happens automatically for most of us takes strained effort in someone with accommodative dysfunction. The “focusing” (ciliary) muscle must expand and contract efficiently to change the shape or curvature of the lense as needed to see clearly. 

If your child is struggling with accommodative facility, the focus mechanism in their visual system is either not fully developed or has been weakened. While reading, their eyes may lose focus over time, causing the text to become blurry. If so, they will have to strain to regain focus again and again, leading to fatigue and frustration. While copying from the board or from a book to a page, the focus adjustment period is slower than normal, which is also frustrating.

Signs or symptoms of accommodative dysfunction include:

  • Complaining of blurred or fuzzy vision, especially towards the end of the day
  • Rubbing, squinting eyes, or closing eyes while reading
  • Missing more questions at the end of a test
  • Copying from the board slowly or with lots of mistakes
  • Poor attention span, fidgeting, and behaviors often mistaken for ADD/ADHD
  • Bending close or bobbing and tilting head while reading
  • Headaches or aching eyes
  • Avoiding reading or near work, especially with small print

Simple tasks that come easily to their classmates are challenging and tiring for students with accommodative dysfunction. They may work slowly and become discouraged with their pace and progress in comparison to their peers.   

If you suspect your child might have trouble with visual focusing, schedule a functional vision exam with an optometrist trained in developmental vision care right away. If diagnosed, vision therapy treatment can result in significant improvement in a relatively short period of time.

If your family is located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact the Visual Learning Center today to schedule a functional vision exam with our developmental optometrist, Dr. Philip Nicholson.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

child with visual memory problem

Visual Memory Problems in Children Can Interfere With Learning

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland near Silver Spring.

Visual memory is the ability to look at an object, create a mental image for that object, and hold that picture in your mind for later recall and use. If your visual processing system is functioning as it should, this process happens automatically and without extra effort. However, some people have a visual processing disorder or deficiency that affects their visual memory and can interfere with their ability to read and learn.

Eighty percent of what we learn is visual; so being able to visually picture and remember what we see is a necessary skill.

Click here for 9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem

When a child learns to read, they are taught to look at a word, recognize letters and individual strings of letters as words, and then create mental images for the letters and words — each with its own unique shape to which they assign sounds and associate meaning. Then they hold those images in their mind to recall and retrieve for later use. This process happens continuously as a child learns.

When we read, we put words and phrases together with visual images to conceptualize meaning. Once the visual information is taken in through the eyes, the process of comprehension has only just begun. Next, the brain runs the information through the process of visual perception to extract the information and use it.

If we can see pictures in our mind and form a clear mental image of what’s taking place in the text as we’re reading, it enables us to instantaneously recognize words, imagine a sequence visually, and then comprehend it all.

Imagine how difficult it would be for a child to learn and understand if they lacked the ability to store and recall mental images efficiently. If a child has difficulty processing and storing visual information in their short-term memory, they will have to learn the same information repeatedly and they will progress slowly.

For example, if a child was not able to properly input and store the mental image of his spelling words, that child will struggle to recall the correct string of letters to spell it correctly on a quiz. If a child studies for a test and seems to be prepared the night before, they may not be able to recall the information and recognize the answers at test time.

Signs that your child may have a visual memory problem include:

  • Studying for a test, seeming prepared the night before, and performing much lower than expected.
  • Learning a new word and not recognizing the word a short while later.
  • Difficulty remembering their own phone number or address.
  • Trouble recalling details in a story or the order of events.
  • Struggling to use a keyboard or calculator. Kids these days are whizzes at typing and texting, but your child slowly hunts for each letter, number, and character.
  • Reversing letters, such as b and d or p and q, because they may recall the shape but not the correct laterality or directionality.

A student with a healthy visual memory function has the ability to learn and recall a new word after being exposed to that word only one time or a few times. However, if a student has a visual memory disorder they may need to see the word many times repeatedly before they can possibly retain it.

This does not mean the child is less intelligent than their peers. It simply means they are lacking in the ability to create and retain a mental image. It is a skills deficiency that can be improved significantly with vision therapy.

A typical routine eye exam will not detect a deficiency in visual memory. So if you suspect that your child has a visual memory problem, schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care and vision therapy.

Without training in visual memory skills, the child will continue to have difficulty learning. The good news is, with an individualized vision therapy program visual memory skills can be improved. By undergoing vision therapy, the child will complete activities that are created to enhance their memory and develop their ability to recall the visual information they take in more readily.

Click here for vision therapy success stories.

For a comprehensive vision exam and vision therapy in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr, Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.
Register for an upcoming webinar here.

The Little-Known Reason Some Families Dread Summer Reading Lists

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland, near Silver Spring.

Summer reading lists are meant to reinforce reading skills learned during the school year and inspire kids to become avid readers —  discover great stories, increase their knowledge, and expand their creativity and empathy. Reading for fun can help to set your child up for academic success, and summer can be a wonderful time for children to spend pleasurable hours curled up with a few good books.

But if a child struggles with reading, summer reading is anything but pleasurable. For some families, tackling a summer reading list is a tough battle. You may assume children who struggle to read have dyslexia, a learning disability, attention problems, or they’d simply rather be playing video games. However, many parents instinctively know something is wrong.

Click here for 9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem

Perhaps the child is bright, imaginative, and has a strong vocabulary, but reading still stumps them. Maybe the child learned to read in Kindergarten without a problem and then fell behind their classmates as they advanced to third or fourth grade. If any of this rings true for you or someone you know, there’s a little-known reason that could be causing the reading list summertime blues — but there could be a cure.

If your child has difficulty reading, it could be due to an undiagnosed but treatable functional vision problem. Typical vision exams by your family eye doctor and school vision screenings only test for clear vision at a distance. They do not test for visual processing problems and eye movement deficiencies that can interfere with reading and learning.

Some signs that reading problems in children might be caused by a functional vision problem include:

  • Reversing letters
  • Skipping words, lines, or letters
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • Frequent headaches
  • Dizziness while reading
  • Messy handwriting
  • Trouble watching 3-D movies
  • Behavior or attention problems
  • Poor memory and comprehension

Children with learning-related vision problems may struggle to read due to a disorder or deficiency. Examples include problems with eye tracking, eye teaming, visual processing, focusing, or memory.

Vision is comprised of three main components — reception, processing, and output; and each component of vision contains its own complex system.

  • Reception is the input function comparable to entering data into a computer. It’s the ability to see singularly, clearly, and comfortably.
  • Visual Processing is the brain’s ability to compute the information that the eyes receive. After the computer gets the data, it categorizes, manipulates, and runs it through thinking processes.
  • Output is the result of visual processing.

If any aspect of the complex system of vision doesn’t function in a normal and healthy way, it will interfere with a child’s ability to read and learn.

The good news is vision therapy can be the cure for the summertime reading blues and lead to a lifetime as a strong and confident reader.

Vision therapy (also known as vision training) quickly improves visual processing problems and eye disorders by facilitating exercises and activities that strengthen existing deficiencies within the visual processing system.

The only way to determine if a child’s reading challenges stem from a learning-related vision problem is with a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

Many children who participate in our vision therapy programs in Olney, Maryland come to us having tested below their current grade levels in reading. Upon completing therapy, they experience impressive results and reading improves significantly.

Read some of our vision training success stories to learn more about how vision therapy can help your child in reading.  

Contact us to schedule an appointment and discover how vision therapy can improve speed and accuracy of eye movements, visual concentration, letter reversals and other skills, making reading easier, faster, and more enjoyable any time of year.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

Post-concussion functional vision problems in children can disrupt learning

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland,  near Silver Spring.

Many youth sports-related head injuries, such as concussions, interfere temporarily with how the brain works. Often, the interference is mild and the child makes a complete recovery, but sometimes there are lasting problems. You may be aware that concussions in children can pose serious health risks; but did you know that even a minor concussion can cause long-term functional vision problems that often go undetected?

Studies have found that the number of youth concussion diagnoses have risen sharply in recent years and we have seen growing awareness and concern about the dangers of brain injuries in youth sports. Research has also revealed that a high percentage of youth diagnosed with concussions struggle with resulting functional vision problems.

Concussion-related symptoms of functional vision problems include:

  • Double vision
  • Blurred near vision
  • Trouble focusing the eyes
  • Light sensitivity
  • Headaches
  • Eye strain and fatigue
  • Loss of eye alignment
  • Memory loss
  • Balance problems
  • Poor depth perception and spatial orientation

Post-concussion complications can include lasting functional vision problems that disrupt learning. The good news is functional vision problems–even those caused by injury–can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Functional vision refers to how we see information and how we process that information through our brains in order to help us interact with our environment. Your child needs strong functional vision skills to focus and move their eyes accurately and efficiently, including eye teaming, eye tracking, and accommodative (focusing) skills. A concussion-related functional vision problem occurs when these functional vision skills are impaired as a result of a head injury.

Eye teaming problems:

Eye teaming, or binocular vision skills, refers to the ability for two eyes to work together as a team. When a head injury causes damage that prevents both eyes from moving precisely in the same direction at the same time, reading, writing, and activities such as copying from the board at school can become difficult. Children with eye teaming problems experience visual fatigue and tire quickly, which also interferes with learning and school performance.

Accommodative dysfunction:

Weak accommodative facility refers to difficulty with visual focus. If the focusing mechanism in a child’s visual system has been damaged by a head injury, it will slow down their ability to adjust as they look from one point of sight to another. This can be challenging and frustrating when reading pages of text, copying from the board, or completing assignments out of a workbook.

Oculomotor dysfunction:

A child with oculomotor dysfunction, also referred to as an eye tracking problem, caused by a head injury will strain to accurately and efficiently control their eye movements. Whereas in people with healthy visual systems, eyes move somewhat smoothly, in people with damaged oculomotor skills, the eyes will jump or skip around the text. They have to struggle to point the eyes in the intended direction. Children with eye tracking problems tend to lose their place often and fall behind or make errors.

If you suspect that your child has a concussion or traumatic brain injury, seek emergency medical care immediately. After your child has rested and recovered from the immediate effects of concussion, you may notice lasting symptoms. The only way to diagnose functional vision problems resulting from a concussion is to schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

The goal of vision therapy for children with a brain injury is to restore visual function with intensive rehabilitative vision care. At Dr. Philip Nicolson’s Visual Learning Center, we have a strong track record of successfully restoring or significantly improving visual function among our brain injury patients. Contact us to schedule an appointment in our Olney, Maryland office, convenient to Silver Spring.

children with visual discrimination problems

Poor visual discrimination skills are often mistaken for symptoms of dyslexia

The Visual Learning Center offers 
developmental optometry & vision therapy
near Silver Spring, Maryland in Olney.

Does your child struggle with reading? Have you noticed your child reversing letters? If so, you and your child’s teachers may suspect dyslexia. However, an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy could actually be to blame for letter reversals and other common learning problems.

Download our free guide: “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision” here.

Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability that causes difficulty with reading, writing, and spelling. Reversing letters is one of the most familiar tell-tale signs of dyslexia, but letter reversals are common among children with treatable vision problems too.

People with dyslexia learn differently, and while they are often able to adapt and overcome the challenges they face, it is a condition that can’t be reversed.

Visual discrimination is a perceptual process involving our ability to correctly identify distinctive features of a visual stimulus, such as text. Visual discrimination skills enable a child to see and identify size, color, shape, and orientation.

Poor visual discrimination skills cause a child to have difficulty with directionality or laterality. With poor directionality or laterality skills, a child is unable to distinguish left from right on themselves, which causes them to have trouble distinguishing left from right on other objects, including letters and numbers.

For example, they will confuse b with d or q with p. They may also confuse b with p or d with q.

You will notice young children having trouble determining left from right, which is a normal phase of learning; but by the time a child reaches second grade, this skill should be fully developed. For those of us with a normal healthy visual processing system, this skill develops early and naturally. So if the child continues to confuse directions and reverse letters beyond second grade, they may need to undergo vision therapy to further develop the skill.

When visual discrimination isn’t functioning properly, similar letters and words will continue to be confused. In addition to directionality, they may confuse words that appear similar, such as “want” and “what.”

Without addressing this problem, deficient visual discrimination functions can be a lifelong challenge.

The good news is, unlike dyslexia and other learning disabilities, poor visual discrimination skills can be treated and improved significantly in a short period of time with vision therapy. Vision Therapy is a treatment program that includes exercises and procedures that are designed to enhance a child’s ability to control eye movement and visual processing.

View demonstrations of vision therapy exercises to improve visual discrimination skills here.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

If you suspect that your child might have a problem with visual discrimination, contact your nearest developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care for a comprehensive vision exam.

For vision therapy in Silver Spring or Olney, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule a comprehensive vision exam today.

What does it mean to have a visual processing problem?

The Visual Learning Center offers 
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland, near Silver Spring.

A visual processing problem is a type of perceptual deficiency that hinders a child’s ability to make sense of information that they take in through their eyes. Reading, writing, learning and countless important everyday activities require strong visual processing skills.

Click here to watch a video about vision problems and learning.

To be able to see clearly is just the beginning, and 20-20 vision is not enough. It is the brain, not the eyes, that interprets and applies visual data. A visual processing problem occurs when there is a disruption or inefficiency in the way the brain processes information after the eyes see something.

Vision requires healthy neurological activity and communication between the eyes and the brain within a complex set of mechanisms. A visual processing problem results when this system either hasn’t developed properly or it has been damaged in some way.

Click here to download our free guide, “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision”

When a child has a visual processing disorder, they may see clearly and their eyes may function normally, but they may not have the ability effectively and efficiently interpret, categorize, remember, or associate meaning with the images and information in their brain.

Examples of visual processing problems include difficulty with visualization, visual memory, visual processing speed and accuracy,  visual-motor integration and speed, and more.

Visualization is the process of creating a mental picture in the mind. It’s what occurs when someone says to “picture this” or when you’re reading and you imagine the characters and scene in your mind. This process is fundamental to creating and associating meaning. A child with a visualization problem struggles to create that mental picture, so they are missing an important building block of learning.

Visual memory refers to the ability to accurately remember something you see. We have to remember what letters look like, what words look like, and what letters and words mean from sentence to sentence, from page to page, and from day to day. If there is a problem with visual memory, learning of the same material has to occur again and again.

Visual processing speed and accuracy involves reading words, sentences, and numbers quickly and with few errors. Children with visual processing problems tend to work slowly and make more errors in their work.

Visual-motor integration is the ability to correctly perceive visual information, process it, and move your hands or body accordingly. Visual-motor speed is the ability to efficiently integrate visual skills and motor skills for the purpose of completing a task.

Visual sequencing is the ability to tell the correct order of words, symbols, or images.

Visual figure-ground discrimination enables a child to distinguish a shape or text from the background in which it is situated. Visual discrimination is the ability to recognize the difference between similar objects, shapes, or letters, such as p and q or b and d.

Visual closure is the ability to identify an object from its parts. For example, the child might not be able to identify a car that’s missing its wheels or a word missing letters, which interferes with learning, reading, and spelling.

Visual-spatial processing refers to the ability to tell space or distance of an object, either on paper or physically. It also enables understanding of time and narrative, which factors into comprehension levels.

If your child has a visual processing problem, school, athletics, and even social interaction can be challenging. The good news is visual processing therapy with one-on-one vision training can effectively improve visual processing skills.

Signs of visual processing problems include:

  • Difficulty reading
  • Complaints of tiredness while reading
  • Losing place or skipping words while reading
  • Trouble with math or inability to make progress in math
  • Messy handwriting
  • Difficulty buttoning or zipping clothes or trouble cutting food or using scissors

Read 9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem.

If you suspect your child could have a visual processing disorder, schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

For visual processing therapy in Silver Spring or Olney Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule a comprehensive vision exam today.

Eye Movement Recordings Demonstrate Learning-Related Vision Problems

Is your child having trouble reading? Have you noticed them skipping letters, words, or entire lines of text? Perhaps they start off strong and then seem to get tired or lose interest quickly.

Getting to the bottom of what’s causing reading problems in children can be challenging. You may wonder if their difficulties are caused by dyslexia, a learning disability, or Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD). What you may not have considered is that a learning-related vision problem could be to blame.

If a student has passed a typical vision screening, the child’s teacher or reading specialist will rarely suspect a vision problem to account for their reading difficulties. Most educational professionals are trained to believe 20/20 eyesight rules out the possibility that vision deficiencies could cause reading difficulties.

A typical eye exam only tests for clear vision at a distance for as long as it takes to look at a chart. But reading requires close, focused, sustained vision, smooth and coordinated eye movement, and the efficient processing of information through the visual system.

Normal oculomotor movement while reading occurs as a series of “fixations” and “jumps”– the eye fixates on certain points within the text and then jumps to another point. When we read, we take in either part of a word or a whole word each time we fixate or pause. Next, that word processes through the visual system. And then our eyes fixate briefly on the next word or word fragment, just long enough to see and process it.

In a healthy visual system, this process of fixating and jumping occurs without disruption or weakness. But a child with an eye tracking or eye teaming problem strains to accurately and efficiently control eye movements. While their classmates’ eyes move along a line of text smoothly with little effort, oculomotor dysfunction causes the eyes to jump erratically.

You may not be able to detect the irregular eye movement upon observation because even subtle problems can interfere with learning and performance. Slight eye movement deviations can make it challenging to read and write without becoming fatigued, skipping text, or losing one’s place.

Eye tracking is a complex function that involves our ocular muscles as well as many different areas of the brain. When someone with a healthy visual system reads or writes, eye tracking movements are not smooth as they scan along the text from left to right; however the movements are controlled, efficient, and unconsciously effortless.

For a child with oculomotor dysfunction, reading requires strained effort that becomes especially apparent as paragraphs and reading assignments grow longer. So you may notice a child who reads “on level” in Kindergarten begins to fall behind by second or third grade.

Because the eye muscles are not functioning in a normal healthy way, the child will often lose their place while reading or copying from the board, reread words or lines repeatedly, or try to cope by sliding a finger or pencil across the page as they read.

The video below is an actual eye movement recording using state-of-the-art technology to analyze for the presence of teaming and tracking problems.

As you will see in the recording, the child noticeably slows down as she gets to the last few sentences. This suggests that she grew tired of the strained effort required to follow the text. Imagine what this would look like after reading a chapter.

The video demonstrates one aspect of a comprehensive functional vision exam conducted in our office by an optometrist who specializes in developmental vision care to diagnose or rule out a learning-related vision problem.

If you suspect your child may have a learning-related vision problem, contact your local developmental optometrist as soon as possible. To schedule a comprehensive vision exam and access vision therapy in Olney, MD near Silver Spring, contact us at Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center.

visual-motor problems

Signs That Your Child Could Have a Visual-Motor Problem

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland,  convenient to Silver Spring.

Vision plays a significant role in guiding our movements. If your child is having problems with movement — whether they are struggling with fine motor skills or gross motor skills — the difficulty could be caused by visual-motor dysfunction, which is treatable with vision therapy.

Fine motor function is what we think of as eye-hand coordination, and it requires translating abstract visual information into the equivalent fine motor activity. Fine motor skills include handwriting, cutting with scissors, coloring, drawing, typing, texting, and other small movement hand functions.

Gross motor function, which is eye-body coordination, requires translating visual information into the equivalent gross motor activity. Gross motor skills include walking, running, sports, and general physical agility and coordination.

Visual-motor integration is comprised of the ability to correctly perceive visual information, process it, and move your hands or body accordingly. Visual-motor speed refers to the ability to efficiently integrate visual skills and motor skills for the purpose of completing a task.

Research shows a significant correlation between visual-motor integration skills and academic performance in writing, spelling, reading, and math. Even when taking overall cognitive abilities and learning disabilities into account, visual-motor dysfunction negatively impacts performance and standardized test scores.

To learn more how vision can affect learning, download our free guide here and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

Early signs of visual-motor problems in children can include missed milestones and delays in gross motor skills, such as crawling, standing, and walking or fine motor skills, such as grasping and manipulating objects or gripping crayons.

In early elementary years, children with delayed or disordered visual-motor skills may have trouble with tasks such as copying their name or even copying basic shapes. Low visual-motor skills in Kindergarten have been shown to predict reading difficulties in later years.

Other signs of visual-motor dysfunction include:

  • Messy handwriting and sloppy drawing
  • Poor grades on written tests despite being able to give answers orally
  • Trouble gripping or repeatedly re-gripping pencil
  • Difficulty coloring inside the lines or writing within lines
  • Misaligning numbers in columns for math problems
  • Excessive errors and erasing
  • Slow to complete written assignments
  • Frustration with pencil and paper activities
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • General clumsiness or trouble with coordination
  • Poor performance in sports, such as hitting, catching, or kicking a ball

Coordinating visual perception, visual processing, and fine or gross motor output can be so challenging for children that learning occurs more slowly and overall performance is affected. Students with visual-motor problems often know the material being covered, but putting pencil to paper is not as easy for them as it is for their peers.

It’s possible that in a child with a visual-motor problem, visual perception is intact and that there may not be a problem with body movement and coordination. The issue could be with the mechanism that enables motor and visual systems to communicate well and work together efficiently.  

Even if a child is working with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to improve motor skills, this may not address problems with visual perception, visual-motor integration, and visual-motor speed. OTs are trained to work with children to improve and strengthen specific skills and abilities, but deficiencies in the visual processing system can interfere with a child’s ability to make progress.

If you suspect your child may be struggling with a visual-motor problem, the first step is to schedule a functional vision exam with an optometrist trained in developmental vision care. Once diagnosed, the good news is, an individualized vision therapy program can result in noticeable improvement in a relatively short period of time.

At the Visual Learning Center in Olney, Maryland, we provide vision therapy that regularly results in improved visual motor speed, better legibility with written tasks, accelerated development of visual-motor integration skills, and improved coordination and sports performance.

daughter struggling with reading

7 Reasons Children With Undiagnosed Vision Problems Struggle to Read

The Visual Learning Center offers 
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland,  convenient to Silver Spring.

Is your child struggling to read, and you don’t know why? One of the most frequent complaints by parents who visit the Visual Learning Center is that their child is having difficulty reading or reading below grade level.

This can be particularly disheartening for parents who love to read or remember fondly curling up with a good book as a child. You may have even noticed that your child seemed to read easily in Kindergarten, but then fell behind as time went on.

You sense something is wrong, but assessments and interventions for learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorders haven’t helped.

One commonly overlooked type of condition that might be interfering with your child’s ability to read could be a learning-related functional vision problem, even with “20/20” eyesight. An undiagnosed vision disorder or deficiency can make reading incredibly difficult.

To learn more how vision can affect learning, download our free guidehere and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

When parents first learn that their child may potentially have a learning-related vision problem that’s interfering with their ability to read well, they usually wonder why the school’s vision screening or family eye doctor didn’t detect a problem.

The problem is routine vision screenings typically only test for the child’s ability to see clearly at a distance for a few moments. Reading requires intense and sustained focusing of the eyes for a prolonged period time, moving the eyes smoothly along lines of text, and processing of the information through the entire visual system for comprehension.

Here are 7 Reasons Children With Undiagnosed Vision Problems Struggle to Read (even with 20/20 eyesight):

They lose their place when reading.

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. If your child has trouble with eye tracking, they will often lose their place in the text, making reading difficult.

They see letters in reverse.

Many parents assume letter reversals are always a sign of dyslexia. Letter reversals are also a common symptom of vision problems, such as eye movement disorders and visual processing deficiencies, which can make reading challenging.

Their eyes are not moving together as a team.

The ability to move, turn, and point the eyes together at the same time is called eye teaming or binocular vision skills. If a child’s eyes are not working together as a team, they may be experiencing double vision or blurry vision, which makes reading tiring.

Their eyes and brain do not work together efficiently.

Vision includes a lot more than eyesight. Vision is comprised of three main components — reception, processing, and output; and each of these main components of vision is complex. If any aspect of the complex vision system is not functioning in a normal and healthy way, this can interfere with the ability to read.

Their eyes do not stay focused.

Children with accommodative dysfunction, or trouble focusing, have difficulty maintaining a clear image for a reasonable length of time. Reading is challenging because the text grows fuzzy or blurred, and they have to strain to stay focused.

They quickly forget what they just learned or read.

Visual memory is the ability to look at something, create a mental image for that thing, and hold that picture in your mind for later recall and use. To read, a child must look at a word, recognize and recall individual letters and strings of letters, create a mental image for that word and associate it with a meaning, and hold that word picture in mind to see and retrieve later. If a child has a visual memory deficiency, the process is a struggle and it affects their ability to read.

They’re frustrated and tired.

Children with vision problems are constantly overcompensating for their deficiencies and straining, so resulting  irritability and physical symptoms are common. For this reason, the child may seem restless or “act out” with disruptive behavior. They may experience headaches or exhaustion after reading or complain that their eyes hurt, feel tired, or that their eyes are excessively dry or watery.

To detect a learning-related vision problem, your child must undergo a thorough functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care.

Once diagnosed, the good news is, an individualized vision therapy program can result in significant improvement in a relatively short period of time.

If your family is located in the Olney or Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland area, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today to schedule an appointment.

An Eye Teaming Problem Could Be The Reason Your Child Struggles to Read

The Visual Learning Center offers 
developmental optometry & vision therapy
in Olney, Maryland,  convenient to Silver Spring.

Have you noticed that your child or a child you work with tries to avoid reading? Do they look away from the text often, rub their eyes repeatedly, or claim that they are tired every time they sit down to read?

This observed behavior could be caused by an eye teaming problem that might be interfering with their ability to learn and read effectively.

When a child is doing close work, such as writing, reading, or using a tablet, mobile device or computer, they must be able to keep both eyes turned in to point at the same position long enough to complete the task. This vision function–the ability to move, turn, and point the eyes together–is called eye teaming or binocular vision skills.

To learn more how vision can affect learning, download our free guide here and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

Signs that your child may have an eye teaming problem include:

  • covering or closing one eye while reading
  • rubbing eyes excessively
  • complaining that words are blurry even with “20/20 eyesight”
  • having double vision
  • attempting to avoid reading or homework
  • declining performance over prolonged spans of close work
  • seeming to have a short attention span
  • tiring quickly while reading or doing close work
  • losing place while reading
  • frequent headaches

When a visual deficiency prevents both eyes from moving precisely in the same direction at the same time, reading can be challenging and the extra effort required to perform basic tasks can cause fatigue quickly.

Reading requires our eyes to aim in together at the same point on the page. Our vision is only clear, single and comfortable as long as both of our eyes are aiming at the same point.

Children with poor convergence or divergence skills have difficulty with eye teaming. Their eyes move somewhat independently of one another, which causes double or blurry vision, distorted depth perception, and sometimes dizziness.

They find it difficult to maintain the inward eye aim that required for reading. As their eyes get tired, they move inward or outward, pointing at different places on the page. Even a slight variation that isn’t noticeable when casually observing can cause a significant problem. The result is blurred vision that looks like double print.

vlc-eye-teaming

A typical eye exam by your family eye doctor or during a school vision screening does not test for eye teaming skills. 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 long enough to see clearly for a moment. But maintaining proper eye turn for a sustained period of time can be a problem.

If you suspect that a child might have an eye teaming problem, it’s important that they undergo a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care and vision therapy. Studies have shown that as many as 78% of kids with reading and learning problems cannot track or team their eyes properly.

The good news is intensive vision therapy can improve binocular vision skills significantly and even eliminate eye teaming problems. See our vision therapy success stories.

For vision therapy in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today.