Dyslexia or Learning Disability Diagnosis? Get a Second Opinion from a Developmental Optometrist

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

Has your child been diagnosed with dyslexia or a learning disability? You may want to get a second opinion from a developmental optometrist.

When a child has trouble with reading, learning, or test performance, teachers and parents often suspect a learning disability or dyslexia. However, what appears to be a learning disability might actually be an undiagnosed learning-related functional vision problem that can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Although parents would rather their child not have to face the challenges of living with a learning disability, sometimes a diagnosis can come as a relief. Now that you’ve identified the problem, you can begin working with specialists who can help your child develop healthy and productive coping strategies.

But if your child’s diagnosis is not correct, they could be struggling unnecessarily with a condition that is treatable with vision therapy.

Here’s why so many children are misdiagnosed:

  • Standard eye exams and vision screenings will not detect learning-related vision problems. So, unfortunately, many children are misdiagnosed with learning challenges without ever undergoing a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist trained in functional vision care.

  • The signs and symptoms learning-related vision problems practically mimic dyslexia and other learning disabilities, sometimes with only subtle differences.

  • Most teachers, educational specialists, and occupational therapists have never been trained to recognize the symptoms of learning-related vision problems. They receive training in detecting possible learning disabilities and other special needs. However, the majority of education professionals are unaware of how common learning-related vision problems are.

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that indicates a person’s brain is “wired” differently. Children with learning disabilities are no less intelligent than their classmates, but they may have difficulty learning through conventional teaching methods. A child with a learning disability may struggle with reading, writing, math, organizing information, memory, or with reasoning skills.

Examples of learning disabilities include auditory processing disorders (difficulty understanding spoken language), dysgraphia (difficulty with writing), dyslexia (difficulty understanding written language), dyscalculia (difficulty with math problems and concepts), and nonverbal disabilities (difficulty with spatial and facial cues).

Learning-related vision problems may present almost identically to some learning disorders. But many vision deficiencies and disorders can be significantly improved or even eliminated permanently with vision therapy.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may:

  • Transpose, omit, substitute, and reverse words and letters when reading and writing.
  • Appear restless, fidgety, or distracted in a classroom setting or while doing homework
  • Have difficulty staying on task, paying attention, zoning out, and daydreaming
  • Have poor coordination or fine motor skills
  • Struggle with reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, and memory
  • Seem bright, articulate, and may have a high IQ, but they are unable to read, write, spell, or perform as well as expected on exams and standardized tests 
  • Learn well through hands-on experiences; dyslexics tend to be helped by being able to observe and use visual aids, but those with visual deficiencies do better with oral coaching.
  • Have difficulty with time; dyslexics have trouble with sequences and time management; those with vision problems have trouble telling time on a clock dial.

But your child might not need to learn differently. Instead, your child may need to undergo a treatment program to train and reinforce vision skills, with lasting results.

To be clear, vision therapy does not cure dyslexia, developmental delays,  or learning disabilities unrelated to vision. A child with an undetected vision disorder may be misdiagnosed with a learning disability; but a learning disability such as an auditory or language processing disorder, cannot be treated with vision therapy.

Additionally, it is important to note that many children who have learning disabilities and developmental delays also struggle with vision problems. If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and they are not making expected progress from working with an occupational therapist or in another type of learning developmental therapy, it could be due to an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

The only way to rule out a vision problem is with a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

For a comprehensive exam and vision therapy in Olney, Maryland or Silver Spring, schedule an appointment with Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

Common Childhood Physical Symptoms That Could Be Signs of Undetected Vision Problems

7 Common Physical Symptoms in Children That Could Caused by a Vision Problem

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

As a parent or caregiver, when a child complains that they don’t feel well or that something hurts, you want to ensure you do what you can to get to the bottom of whatever is ailing them and help them feel better.

You may be concerned that their physical symptoms are caused by an illness, injury, food sensitivity, or environmental factors, but what you may not know is some common childhood physical complaints could be caused by an undetected vision problem that is treatable with vision therapy.

Montgomery County Parents: Don’t miss Dr. Nicholson’s upcoming webinar. Click here to register and learn about how undetected vision problems could be interfering with your child’s performance in school.


Headaches in children can stem from a wide range of causes, including cold, flu, sinus or ear infections, allergies, food sensitivities, emotional factors, or head trauma. Headaches can also be caused by vision problems, even if your child has 20/20 eyesight.

They could be experiencing tension headaches caused by eyestrain or eye fatigue, exacerbated by underlying functional vision problems, such as convergence insufficiency, accommodative dysfunction, or amblyopia. If your pediatrician has ruled out other possible causes for headaches, a comprehensive vision exam may detect a vision problem.

Exhaustion or Fatigue

If your child complains of exhaustion, fatigue, or unexplained tiredness, first see your pediatrician to rule out problems such as asthma, allergies, infections, or more serious illnesses.   

If other possible causes are ruled out and if you notice your child often complains of being tired soon after reading or writing, their fatigue could be caused by a vision problem.  Children with vision problems are constantly overcompensating for their deficiencies and straining or working harder, which can be draining.

Eye Irritation

Your child may complain that their eyes hurt or ache, or that they’re dry, itchy, watery, or red. You may also notice them blinking excessively or rubbing their eyes. While you might assume this eye irritation is caused by allergies, it could be caused by strain from eye tracking, eye teaming, or some other functional vision problem.

Double Vision or Blurred Vision

Complaints of double vision or blurred vision can be alarming because this symptom could be caused by brain trauma or nerve damage from a serious illness or injury. But double vision or blurred vision can also be caused by a misalignment, eye focusing, or eye muscle movement problem that can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Dizziness or Nausea

We often think of dizziness as something that stems from an inner-ear problem. Many people are aware that the inner-ear and brain work together to control balance. So you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find that your child has fluid or an infection in their ear or a problem in the vestibular system when complaining of dizziness.

Our brain and eyes also work together to maintain a stable and even visual plane. We need to be able to fix and maintain our gaze so what we’re looking at remains steady and still. If your child’s visual system is not functioning properly, text or images may be misaligned or blurry, or seem to move, jump, go in and out of focus, appear wavy, or slide down the page. Experiencing any of these effects can cause dizziness or nausea while reading.

Motion Sickness

If a child has a functional vision problem, it can make them especially motion sensitive. When scenery moves by fast, our brains receive information that conflicts with our senses. The vestibular system in our brains integrates information received from the visual system with information received from what we hear and touch and from our muscle movement and awareness, creating balance and calm from the stimuli we take in.

If your child already struggles with visual processing, focusing (accommodative dysfunction), eye tracking (ocular motor dysfunction), or eye teaming (binocular dysfunction), their symptoms may become exacerbated by added or conflicting stimulation.

Clumsiness or Slowness

A child with an untreated vision problem may by clumsy, accident-prone, or awkward. You may wonder if the child has a developmental or physical problem with movement or balance, or you might suspect they’re adapting to a growth spurt. But they could be coping with poor visual-motor integration, a visual processing disorder, inability to focus or efficiently control their eye movement, or skewed depth perception.

The only way to determine whether or not any of these common childhood physical symptoms could be associated with a vision problem is with a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care and vision therapy.

Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center treats functional vision problems with individualized vision therapy programs in our Olney, MD office, convenient to Silver Spring. Contact us today to schedule a comprehensive exam and consultation.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

can vision therapy be done at home

Can vision therapy be done at home?

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

Vision therapy is a treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and visual perceptual-cognitive deficiencies that interfere with learning. You can think of vision therapy (sometimes called vision training) as something akin to physical therapy for the visual system. Vision therapy helps children with learning-related vision problems develop or improve visual skills, abilities, and efficiencies.

The only way to properly diagnose a learning-related vision problem is by undergoing a comprehensive vision screening by a developmental optometrist trained in functional vision care. 

In a comprehensive vision screening, the doctor will use equipment such as prisms and Visigraph infrared monitoring devices that are not used in routine eye exams. During the exam, they will test for visual skills including:

  • visual perceptual or visual processing skills such as visual discrimination, visualization, and visual memory
  • accommodation facility (focusing)
  • lateral vergence facility (lateral eye alignment and speed)
  • vertical vergence ranges (vertical eye alignment)
  • eye movement while the child is reading or answering questions that require comprehension

If your child is diagnosed with a vision problem, an individualized vision therapy treatment program, under the supervision of a specially trained optometrist, can significantly improve or correct the visual deficiency.

At the Visual Learning Center, which offers vision therapy in Olney, Maryland, patients are prescribed an intensive program to treat their specific diagnosis. Each individualized program includes sets of exercises and activities to be done under the guidance of a trained vision therapist who monitors and tracks progress.

In-office sessions provide a controlled environment in which adjustments are made as needed. Some vision therapy exercises can be done at home; however, relying only on self-prescribed eye exercises can lead to eye-strain, discomfort, irritability, nausea, and exacerbation or regression of symptoms. So use caution, be patient, and monitor the child closely.

We strongly encourage patients who are under the care of a trained optometrist to supplement a personalized program or in-office treatment with additional practice at home.

The following vision therapy exercises can be done at home:

Discrimination Orientation Arrows (DOA) is a vision therapy exercise that develops visual discrimination — a skill essential in determining correct letter orientation.  

Children with poor visual discrimination skills tend to reverse letters, so this exercise mimics the process of selecting a direction for each letter while writing.  With practice, they will begin to catch mistakes faster and more easily, reduce the frequency of errors, and dramatically boost their self-esteem.

Watch the video below for a demonstration of the Discrimination Orientation Arrows activity in progress. Download your own activity board here.


The Stickman Activity aims to improve eye movement skills and visual processing skills.

Doing this activity can improve laterality and directionality, which are skills required for reading, writing and recognizing direction and orientation of words and letters. This activity can also improve figure-ground perception, which is necessary to distinguish an image or text relative to its context or background. Additionally, the activity can enhance visual concentration, which is a skill that allows the eyes to fixate attention for a long enough period of time to read and comprehend.

Watch the video below for a demonstration. Download your Stickman Activity packet here.


Letter Tracking Activities are designed to improve eye movement skills and visual processing skills.

Visual discrimination is a perceptual process that involves the ability to correctly identify basic features of a visual stimulus, such as text. Discrimination enables a child to see and identify shape, size, orientation, and color.

Poor visual discrimination skills cause a child to skip letters or words when reading and have problems with laterality and directionality.

Watch the video below for a demonstration. Download a Letter Tracking Activity packet here.


The letter tracking activity is useful to reduce writing and common reading problems caused by poor visual discrimination.

For vision therapy in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us for an appointment.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

VLC - What is a learning-related vision problem-

What is a Learning-Related Vision Problem?

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

Did you know that approximately 80% of what a child learns in school is learned visually? Acquiring knowledge from the page, the board, the screen, and interactions with teachers and classmates requires continual use of the visual system.

You may think that if your child can see clearly, you’re in the clear; however, vision is much more than clear eyesight. It’s the ability to take in information, process and understand it, and act on it.

Learning-related vision problems result from deficits in visual information processing and visual efficiency.

Vision involves three main components — reception, processing, and output.

  • Reception is the ability to see things clearly, singularly, and comfortably. It’s the input function of the visual system, which can be compared to entering data into a computer.
  • Visual Processing is your brain’s ability to identify and compute the information received through your eyes. After the computer (your brain) gets the data, it manipulates it, categorizes it, and runs it through processes, such as meaning making and comprehension.
  • Output is the result of visual processing. It’s a response or action. For example, output may be the creation of a mental image, an oral or written response, or a gesture.

The visual system is a complex system that functions smoothly in most cases, and most people take it for granted. However, if any element of the visual system is not functioning as it should, learning can be challenging.

We cannot take in information efficiently and comfortably if we struggle to move or control our eyes in the ways in which they were meant to move. We cannot make sense of what we see with our eyes without the accompanying healthy functioning of the brain and healthy communication between the eyes and brain.

Learning-related vision problems are a big problem. Studies have shown that:

  • 58% of children with trouble learning have difficulty copying or following instructions from the board, even with 20/20 eyesight.
  • 80% of children who are reading disabled have vision problems.
  • 78% of children with reading or learning problems have difficulty tracking their eyes properly, meaning their eyes do not move smoothly and efficiently across the text on the page.
  • 63% of children with reading and learning problems have difficulty moving and pointing both eyes together as a team.

Vision problems that affect learning are all-too-often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Vision screening conducted at your child’s school or by your family eye doctor typically only screens for the ability to see clearly at a distance; so it is possible for the results to show 20/20 eyesight without detecting an eye movement problem or visual processing deficiency.

To diagnose a learning-related vision problem, your child would need to undergo a thorough functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care.

Signs your child may have an undetected vision problem include:

  • Reversing letters when reading or writing
  • Confusing similar looking words
  • Skipping letters, words, or lines when reading or writing
  • Trouble copying from the board even with 20/20 eyesight
  • Reading below grade level or low reading comprehension skills
  • Messy handwriting
  • Physical problems when reading, such as dizziness and nausea, tiredness, or eye strain
  • Double vision or blurred vision even with 20/20 eyesight
  • Attention or behavior problems that resemble ADD/ADHD
  • Squinting or bending close to the paper to read, covering or closing one eye, or tilting head to an unusual angle while reading
  • Clumsiness, social awkwardness, lack of coordination when playing sports

A few examples of learning-related vision problems include:

  • Accommodative dysfunction: trouble using eye muscles appropriately to bring an object into focus clearly or to maintain focus for a sustained period of time. Vision becomes fuzzy or blurred.
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye): reduced vision in one eye, causing the brain to favor the unobstructed eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye.
  • Convergence insufficiency: the brain has trouble accurately, efficiently, and comfortably coordinating the eye muscles to see properly for a prolonged period of time.
  • Visual processing deficiencies: the vision system has trouble computing visual input, leading to problems with visual-motor integration and speed, visualization, visual memory, and more.

Unfortunately, many children struggle with learning due to undetected vision problems that can be improved successfully with vision therapy. Learning-related vision problems often resemble similar problems that cannot be treated with vision therapy.

When your child is having trouble in school or difficulty learning, it can be confusing and troubling for you as a parent. Fortunately, vision therapy addresses and treats learning-related vision problems that might be holding your child back. But the first step is always to determine if your child does indeed have a vision problem.

So check for these 9 signs; and if you suspect a problem, schedule a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care and vision therapy right away.

For vision therapy in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us for an appointment.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

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.