Category Archives: Difficulty reading

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.

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.

Reading Problems in Children

How to Tell if Reading Problems in Children are Caused by Undetected Vision Problems

Getting to the bottom of what’s causing reading problems in children can be challenging. Parents and teachers often turn to the usual suspects: Is it a developmental disorder? Dyslexia? A learning disability? An attention deficiency?

Even reading specialists, counselors, and occupational therapists rarely suspect a vision problem to account for reading problems in children. If a student has passed a vision screening at school or with a family eye doctor, most educational professionals are trained to believe 20/20 eyesight rules out the possibility that a vision problem could be to blame for reading difficulties.

A typical eye exam only tests for clear vision at a set distance for a short period of time. But reading requires close, focused eyesight for a sustained period of time, smooth and coordinated eye movement, and the efficient processing of information through the visual system.

If this is news to you and you thought a typical eye exam eliminated the need for more testing, you’re not alone. There is simply a lack of awareness that reading problems in children are sometimes caused by undiagnosed vision disorders.

But unlike dyslexia or learning disabilities, which children can learn to cope with but cannot be cured, many learning-related vision problems can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Signs that reading problems in children are caused by a functional vision problem include:

Frequent headaches:

If your child has difficulty reading and also frequently complains of headaches from reading, the headaches could be caused by strain due to vision problems, such as convergence insufficiency, amblyopia, or poor visual processing skills.

Dizziness while reading:

If your child struggles with reading and also complains of dizziness while reading, this could be due to accommodative dysfunction, eye tracking problems, or poor convergence or divergence skills.

Reversing letters:

If your child has trouble reading and also reverses letters when writing, it might not be dyslexia. Children with visual processing problems commonly confuse their left with their right.

Messy handwriting:

If reading is a problem for your child and your child also has messy handwriting with crooked or poorly spaced letters and words and an unusual pencil grip, this might indicate an eye tracking or eye teaming problem.

Symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD):

If your child reads below grade level and also seems distracted, restless, has trouble staying on task, or causes disruption in class, it might not be what you think. These behaviors that mimic attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) may be due to frustration caused by vision deficiencies.

Difficulty copying from the board:

Does your child struggle to read and also seem to have trouble copying from the board, despite 20/20 eyesight? Copying from the board at school is particularly difficult for children with accommodative dysfunction, oculomotor deficiency, poor eye teaming, or visual processing problems.

Trouble with watching 3-D movies:

If your child can’t read well and also has trouble watching 3-D movies, this could indicate a potential vision problem.  To properly see 3D effects in movies, strong binocular vision is necessary. If your child has poor binocular vision with amblyopia or lazy eye, the effects will not be visible or may cause motion sickness.

These are only few of many possible symptoms that could indicate that a child’s reading problem is related to a vision problem

Click here for 9 signs your child may have an undiagnosed vision problem.

To learn more about how vision affects learning, watch our free pre-recorded webinar here.

The only real way to determine if reading problems in children are caused by a visual deficiency or disorder is to schedule a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

If your child is diagnosed with a learning-related vision problem, it can be treated successfully within a short period of time with an intensive individualized vision therapy program.

To schedule a vision exam and consultation with a developmental optometrist, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center. Services include vision training or vision therapy in Olney, MD, near Silver Spring.

child reading below grade level

Is Your Child Reading Below Grade Level?

Are you concerned that your child is reading below grade level? Many children find learning to read challenging, but some students struggle significantly more than others and fall behind their peers in their reading assessment scores.

Reading assessments measure factors such as vocabulary, decoding skills, and reading comprehension. The tests serve to identify reading competencies in individual students relative to a set standard.

When a student is considered to be reading at grade level, that child’s reading assessment score falls within the approximate range of the average score of a normalized standard sample of students in that grade level group.

When a student is considered to be reading below grade level, it generally means the child’s reading assessment score was lower than the average assessment score of students in the normalized standard sample for his grade level.

Some critics challenge the fairness of grade-level standards, arguing that the results only reflect how students performed relative to other students, rather than measuring the achievement of a certain proficiency. The relative nature of a grade-level standard does not take into account environmental factors and various advantages or disadvantages.

However, if a student is not doing as well as his peers or performing up to expectations on reading assessments, you will want to look into all possible causes.      

One common, but often overlooked, problem that may be hindering your child’s ability to read at grade level could be a functional vision problem that interferes with learning. A vision problem can cause a student to read below grade level, even with “20/20” eyesight.

Unlike typical eye exams, school standardized tests and reading assessments may require activities that are challenging for a child with a learning-related vision problem.

Routine vision screenings involve little more than testing to see if the child can see clearly at a distance for a few moments. Reading assessments and standardized tests often require intense and sustained focusing of the eyes for a prolonged period time, looking from the problem to the answer sheet repeatedly, and the ability to bubble-in answers without losing his place.

Undergoing assessments and testing for hours can intensify a problem that was not otherwise apparent during classroom or other reading activities, because the child’s eyes can become even more strained and tired than usual.

Poor visual skills that interfere with reading assessment performance include visual processing speed and accuracy, visual memory, selective concentration, visual-motor integration and speed, and visualization.

A few examples of learning-related vision problems that may cause a child to read below grade level include:

Eye tracking problems

Eye tracking skills are the eye movements we use to scan a line of text. Even in a normal healthy visual system, these movements are not smooth, left-to-right shifts. Instead, the movements are a series of “jumps” and “fixations.”

Reading requires the eye to jump across text and fixate on certain points; with each fixation, we take in either a whole word or part of a word while the eye is momentarily stationary. We decode and process each word, and then our eyes fixate on the next word and pause briefly to decode and process it.

Eye tracking problems can contribute to below grade level scores on a reading assessment.

Accommodative dysfunction:

An accommodative (eye focusing) disorder causes a person to have trouble using eye muscles efficiently to bring an object into focus clearly or to maintain focus for a sustained period of time. The muscles that focus the lenses in our eyes need to adjust often and quickly to see various visual points and planes clearly, or to sustain that clear focus over a period of time without vision becoming fuzzy or blurred.

If a child is struggling to focus his eyes during a reading assessment, he will see blurred text and slow down, contributing to a possible lower score.

Amblyopia (lazy eye)

Amblyopia causes reduced vision in one eye due to an abnormal or unhealthy connection between the child’s eyes and brain, which occurred during developmental stages. This common deficiency causes the brain to favor one eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye. Strabismus, for example, is a condition in which the eye is either constantly or intermittently turned, usually inward or outward, and the eye that points straight becomes dominant.

When a child’s brain preferences one eye over the other, the deficiency can cause strain or headaches, which can lead to reading below grade level.

Visual Processing Deficiencies

Many bright children lack good visual processing skills. Normal visual processing requires a complex system of neurological activity to develop and function properly. Because of a visual disorder or visual system developmental delay, a child may have trouble computing visual input, which can lead to difficulties with visual memory, visual-motor integration and speed, visualization, or other problems.

For example, visualization is the ability to create a mental image in one’s mind, which is important for processing and remembering information for comprehension. Visual memory is the ability to retain information that you have learned–to recognize and remember a word from one page to the next, and one day to the next. Reading requires the ability to create images of words and to recall words or set of words as needed.

Poor visual processing skills may cause a child to read below grade level.

To learn more about how important vision is to your child’s ability to read, download our free guide here and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

If a vision problem is what’s preventing your child from reading at grade level, the good news is vision therapy can help.

The first step is to schedule an evaluation with a functional or developmental optometrist, trained to detect and treat learning-related vision problems, as soon as possible.

For a functional vision exam and vision therapy in Olney, Maryland or the Silver Spring area, contact the Visual Learning Center today to schedule a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Philip Nicholson and his staff.

What Your Child’s Handwriting Could Reveal About Struggles With Reading

Many children struggle to read because of an undiagnosed vision problem. These children are often bright and may have passed a vision screening with 20/20 eyesight; so it is not always readily apparent that a vision deficiency is to blame for difficulty reading. Most parents and educators are simply unaware that vision is so critical to learning and that healthy vision is comprised of so much more than being able to pass a typical eye exam.

Sometimes parents and teachers attribute reading and learning difficulties to laziness, behavior problems, or attention deficits. You may notice that your child is skipping words or lines or seeming to bounce around the text; so you might assume that he or she is distracted, being careless, or not trying hard enough.

The truth is, a child with learning-related vision problems often becomes frustrated. Every effort to complete tasks, such as reading and writing that comes more naturally and easily to their classmates with healthy normal vision systems requires extra effort and strain. Because they are young and unaware that a problem exists, they are unable to articulate what they are experience and their self-esteem often suffers.

More often than not, your child will not be able to tell you that he’s experiencing a vision problem, because he has no way of knowing his experience isn’t normal. Your family eye doctor doesn’t usually detect a problem, because he is only trained to test for specific eye conditions. Teachers, occupational therapists, and other professionals are all-too-often simply uninformed about learning-related vision deficiencies.

So how can you know if a vision problem could be to blame for your child’s reading and learning difficulties and trouble in school?

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

Poor handwriting skills could be a sign that your child is struggling with a functional vision problem.

Exceptionally messy handwriting with crooked or poorly-spaced letters or words could indicate an undetected functional vision deficiency that is interfering with your child’s ability to read and learn.

Misaligned words or letters in your child’s handwriting could be a clue that your child is struggling with poor eye teaming or eye tracking — functions crucial to following text on a page without strain.

If your child’s letters are big and sloppy, this might be due to avoiding using the visual system as much as possible while writing. They may avoid looking directly at the paper and scribble words on the page while barely looking.

Conversely, a child with vision problem may have tiny handwriting. If they struggle with visual-motor function, they may make an extra-concentrated effort to control their hand using minimal movement, and the result is unusually small handwriting.

Another indication way handwriting may indicate a learning-related vision problem is that your child’s handwriting may become increasingly messy over time. She may start off her homework with relatively neat writing, but 15 minutes later, you can barely make out what she’s written. This is because a child with a functional vision deficiency is constantly struggling to keep the eyes turned, focused, and moving smoothly from left to right. So the strain quickly leads to fatigue that becomes apparent in declining handwriting.

You may also notice that your child reverses letters, such as ‘p’ and ‘q’ or ‘b’ and ‘d’ when writing. Often confused with dyslexia, a learning-related vision problem may be interfering with the visual processing system and cause affected children to reverse letters.

To be clear, messy handwriting or writing errors are not always a sign that a child has a vision problem. But if your bright child is struggling with reading and you’re not sure why, it’s time to start looking for some answers. If you’re aware and you look carefully enough, you may start to see some of the telltale signs, such as the handwriting clues we’ve outlined here.

Handwriting problems may arise if a child has a problem with visual dominance due to amblyopia (lazy eye), deficient eye movement skills, or poor visualization skills, among other possible problems — all of which affect reading and learning as well.

The good news is, vision therapy can help, and your child can experience a significant improvement in a relatively short period of time. A child can learn to strengthen eye movement skills, look ahead to where the pencil is going, point and focus eyes in the right place, incorporate peripheral vision, and more.  Vision therapy that improves handwriting will also improve learning. 

If you suspect your child has a learning-related vision problem, schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

To learn more about how vision affects learning, download our free guide here, and watch our webinar for parents here.

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

Click here to learn more about why your child loses his place while reading. To learn more about how vision problems interfere with reading comprehension, click here. To find more information about how vision therapy will help your child with reading, go here.

How Vision Problems Interfere with Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension refers to a child’s ability to not only read the text on a page, but also process it and understand its meaning.

For a child to develop reading comprehension, the entire visual processing system must work efficiently. Seeing the text clearly is only the first step in the process. Your child must know how to sound out a word or remember a word on sight, understand each word’s meaning, and then make sense of sentences and paragraphs.

Intelligence is one factor in reading comprehension, but there are many more factors that come into play in a child’s ability to both read and comprehend. Some bright children have difficulty with reading comprehension due to problems with their visual processing system.

In order to read, we take in visual information in the form of text and then decode it into mental images to which we assign meaning, and then retain and use those images to categorize and recall for future use.

Taking in visual information efficiently requires the coordination of hundreds of eye muscles and strong oculomotor control. If there is a weakness or deficiency, this can affect a child’s ability to focus both eyes on the same spot simultaneously or to move their eyes smoothly as a team across a line of text. Poor eye tracking,  eye teaming, or focus leads to difficulty and frustration for a child, and the extra effort to take in visual information may cause fatigue, headaches, or the inability to maintain attention.

Once the visual information is taken in through the eyes, the process of comprehension has only just begun.  Next up, a child’s brain will have to run the information through the process of visual perception, meaning they will have to be able to extract the information they see and use it appropriately.

Efficient visual perception is needed for a child to recognize and remember letters, words, and their meaning. If a child has a deficiency related to visual perception, he will struggle with minor differences in similar words or letters. This may lead to confusing p with q or d with b, for example; or it may also mean conflating words with similar beginnings, reading words backwards, or having difficulty distinguishing the main idea of a story from a minor detail. Recognizing, remembering, and applying information quickly and easily is critical for performance in reading comprehension, and student must have a healthy vision system to do so.

The following are specific ways visual perceptual processing may interfere with reading comprehension:

Visual Spatial Skills and Visual Discrimination are required to organize visual space and understand directional concepts and orientation. A child with poor visual spatial and discrimination skills may process a letter or word backwards.

Visualization is the ability to create a mental image in one’s mind, which is important for processing and remembering information for comprehension. When someone says, “I see what you mean,” we think of this a an idiom, but when it comes to reading and visual processing, we really are creating mental images that help us to comprehend. We’re essentially seeing something in our mind.

Visual Memory is the ability to retain information that you have learned. A child must be able to recognize and remember a word from one page, assignment, and day to the next. He must create an image of that word or set of words in his mind and recall it as needed.

Visual Sequential Memory refers to the ability to remember the proper sequence of words, letters, or story narrative, in the same order it was seen originally. Keeping the images of what they recall in order is of course critical to comprehension.

So, as you can see, the ability to comprehend is not simply a function of intelligence.

If a child is having difficulty moving and coordinating his eye muscles properly and then the child also has difficulty processing that information visually in his brain, he is going to perform poorly in the area of reading comprehension as a result.

If a student has a visual processing problem, reading comprehension can be improved significantly and relatively quickly with an individualized comprehensive vision therapy plan. If you suspect your child has a learning-related vision problem that interferes with reading comprehension, contact a developmental optometrist for a functional vision exam and vision therapy program.

If you are in the Olney. Maryland area, convenient to Silver Spring, schedule an appointment with Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today.

The Real Reason Your Smart Child Might Be Testing “Below Grade Level”

Standardized tests have long been part of the education system in the United States; but over the past decade mandated standardized testing has increased significantly to become a core component of schooling and a critical measure of your child’s success as a student.

Proponents of standardized tests claim that they are a fair, effective, and efficient way to measure students’ progress and hold schools accountable to goals and expectations. On the other hand, critics argue that standardized tests distract from deeper learning, and that they are unfair because some children do not test well, despite knowing the material.

As a parent, no matter where you stand on this controversial issue, if your child is testing below grade level, it is important for you to find out why.

If your child seems bright, but does not perform well on standardized tests, your first response might be that the teacher is not doing a good job, or that the school is not offering an optimal learning environment, or that the test is unfair. You may have performed well in school and on standardized tests yourself, and feel that someone must be failing your child.  You know that your child is smart, so something must be wrong.

Teachers and counselors will probably suggest testing for a learning disability, or they might suspect dyslexia or attention deficit disorder. The teacher’s performance review and the school’s performance goals are often dependent on students meeting grade level expectations; so it is in everyone’s best interest to get your child the help he needs.

However, there is a common, but often overlooked, problem that may be hindering your child’s test-taking ability. The real reason your child might be testing below grade level could be due to a learning-related vision problem. A vision problem could be to blame for your child’s “below average” reading comprehension or slow test taking, even with “20/20” eyesight.

Vision problems that affect eye muscles and coordination may cause your child to see double or blurry, lose his place often, or experience fatigue and distracting headaches. A visual processing problem related to memory or visualization could be the reason behind delayed reading comprehension.

Unlike a routine vision screening or typical eye exams, school standardized tests require prolonged reading, intense focusing of the eyes for hours at a time, looking from the problem to the answer sheet repeatedly, the ability to follow straight lines to bubble-in answers, and more activities seemingly simple for a child with a normally functioning vision system.

Testing for hours may exacerbate a problem that has not yet surfaced during normal classroom activities, because the child’s eyes may become even more tired than usual.

Poor visual skills that interfere with standardized testing include processing speed and accuracy, selective concentration, visual memory, letter reversals, visual-motor integration and speed, and visualization.

If there is any possibility that a vision problem could be to blame for your child scoring “below grade level” on standardized tests, the first step is to schedule a comprehensive vision exam by a doctor of optometry who specializes in functional and developmental vision care.

If diagnosed with a learning-related vision problem, an individualized vision therapy program can significantly, and relatively quickly, improve your child’s performance. With proper treatment and practice, these vision problems can be overcome.

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

Does homework in your household drag on for hours? Convergence insufficiency could be the cause

If your child spends hours completing homework each evening, your initial frustration might be with his teacher. You may complain that too much homework is being assigned and worry that the school is to blame for interfering with family time, play time, or outdoor and extracurricular activities; but over time, you eventually realize that your child is taking much longer to complete his homework than his peers.

You know that your child is bright, so why is he struggling to complete homework in a timely manner? You could suspect a learning disability or attention deficit disorder, but your child could actually have a vision disorder, even if he was found to have “20/20” eyesight during a vision screening at school or an exam by your family’s eye doctor.

Vision disorders and poor visual processing skills are sometimes to blame for “homework wars” and poor performance in the classroom.

As a parent, it is important to pay close attention to your child’s symptoms. You might be tempted to dismiss complaints as excuses and urge your child to push forward and try harder. However, if your child has a vision problem such as convergence insufficiency, his symptoms could be presenting significant challenges to performing well on school assignments.

Convergence–the ability to aim ones eyes at a near distance–is a required skill for reading and other schoolwork. Children with a healthy visual system are able to aim their eyes naturally and easily.

Convergence insufficiency is a medical condition in which the brain has trouble accurately, efficiently, and comfortably coordinating the eye muscles to see properly for a prolonged period of time at reading distance.

If your child often complains of headaches or claims that his eyes hurt, feel like they are pulling, tired, or uncomfortable, this could be a sign of convergence insufficiency. Difficulty concentrating or remembering what he has read could be symptoms as well. A child may also complain of double vision, or say that that words float, swim, or move in and out of focus. He may read slowly, lose his place, or read the same line more than once.

If your child is having difficulty in school or completing homework, and you notice any of these red flags, schedule an evaluation with a functional or developmental optometrist, trained to detect and treat learning-related vision problems, as soon as possible. If diagnosed with a vision problem such as convergence insufficiency, the good news is vision therapy can treat and improve your child’s convergence problem significantly and quickly.

If you are in the Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD area, contact the Visual Learning Center today to schedule a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Philip Nicholson and his staff.

What’s the difference between “Instantaneous Testing” and “Performance Based Testing ”?

Any typical vision exam always includes a check for clear vision. School screenings, pediatrician screenings, and visits to an eye doctor (Optometrist or Ophthalmologist) will follow procedures necessary to check for clear eyesight.

However, if eye exam results indicate clear eyesight, it is important for you to understand that this does not mean your child has been cleared of having a vision problem that may interfere with learning. Too often, after years of struggle, we find children with serious vision problems that easily passed all prior vision testing.

According to the educators Allen and Virginia Crane, in their book Buzzards to Bluebirds (Wolf Creek Endeavors) the key is performance based testing.  The Cranes described a regular eyeglass or medical eye exam as “Instantaneous testing.” This type of testing determines if the child has “clear and single vision” right now, right here.

But if the child does have “clear and single vision” during the exam, the unanswered question is: “can they sustain that clear single vision for a sustained period of time?” To understand how a child can pass a vision screening and also have a serious vision problem that interferes with learning, it is critical that you are aware of this difference.

Viewing the letters on an eye exam chart for a few seconds is not the same as viewing text on a book’s page, the screen of an electronic device, or words on a whiteboard at school. Learning-related activities require repeated and coordinated eye movements, prolonged effort, and visual skills that require processing and associate meaning with images.

Many vision problems will remain hidden if a child with learning problems is not properly evaluated. “Performance based testing” is exactly what a functional or developmental vision exam is. It seeks to determine whether the child is ready to learn visually.

An optometrist who specializes in functional or developmental optometry is trained to test the following areas of performance in your child:

  • Processing speed and accuracy: Reading words, sentences and numbers quickly and accurately
  • Selective concentration: Staying on a visual task, even with distractions present
  • Visual memory: Accurately remembering what is seen
  • Letter reversals: Confusing letters such as b, d, p and q.
  • Visual-motor integration and speed:  Eye-hand coordination and speed
  • Visualization: Creating a mental picture in the mind that is used to solve a problem

Before you can determine whether or not your child has a vision problem, you have to rule out performance based vision problems. For more information and to download our free guide “10 things you need to know about vision” please click here.

Dr. Philip Nicholson is an Optometrist who specializes in functional and developmental vision care located in Olney, MD, convenient to Silver Spring, MD.  If you suspect your child might have a vision problem that is interfering with learning, contact us to schedule an appointment for a thorough vision assessment.  The good news is, if your child does have a learning-related vision problem, a vision therapy program can help.

child skips words when reading

Does your child lose his place while reading? Here’s why…

One of the most frequent complaints by parents who visit the Visual Learning Center is that their child loses his place while reading. You may notice when you read with your child that he misses words and sometimes skips whole sentences.

Initially, you might suspect he is is being careless or impatient, that he isn’t paying attention closely enough, or that he is choosing to skip unfamiliar or challenging words. However, a visual processing problem such as poor eye tracking skills could be to blame for your child’s difficulty with reading.

Tracking skills are the specific eye movements a child uses as they scan a line of text. Even in a normal healthy visual system, these movements are not smooth, left-to-right shifts. Instead, the movements are a series of “jumps” and “fixations.”

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. The child decodes and process a word, and then the eyes fixate on the next word and pause briefly to decode and process it. Eye tracking is a very complex process and involves many different areas of the brain.

Readers with normal healthy visual processing systems can control the eye tracking process well, and their eyes move mostly in a left to right manner across the page, jumping from word to word and sometimes around the page, but without skipping words or losing their place.

When a child skips words or sentences, they have to go back to re-read and work hard to grasp the meaning of a given passage. As a result, these children may score poorly in reading comprehension, not because of a low level of verbal intelligence, but simply because their visual processing system does not function as it should.

During a functional vision exam at the Visual Learning Center, we test for eye tracking ability and compare it to established normal values. For more information about eye tracking and other important visual skills, download our free guide “10 things you need to know about vision” here.

If you notice your child loses his place or skips words and sentences while reading, and you are in the Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD area, schedule a comprehensive functional vision exam today. If your child is found to have poor visual tracking skills or another learning-related vision problem, a vision therapy program can result in significant improvement quickly.