Category Archives: Functional vision problems

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

skipping letters when reading

Skipping Letters When Writing and Reading

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

Is your child skipping letters when writing or skipping letters when reading? Perhaps they are even skipping words or entire lines of text. This is a common symptom for patients who come into our office, and it may indicate a vision disorder or deficiency, even if the child has 20/20 eyesight.

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

When a child skips letters or words, parents and teachers often initially blame carelessness. They encourage the child to try harder and to concentrate and mistakenly believe the child is simply distracted. At first, adults tend to attribute skipping letters, words, and lines to too much screen time, lack of interest, or laziness.

But when they observe over time that the child is trying yet still struggling to read or write, skipping words and letters may seem to be a sign of impatience or sheer frustration.

However, children with eye tracking problems– an oculomotor dysfunction–may actually be experiencing difficulty with eye muscle coordination.

A child with an eye tracking problem strains to accurately and efficiently control eye movements. Oculomotor dysfunction causes their eyes to jump erratically, rather than move along a line of text smoothly. The irregular eye movement may be subtle enough not to detect by observation. But even slight eye movement deviations can make it challenging to read and write without skipping text.

Without the eye muscles functioning in a normal healthy way, you may notice your child losing their place while reading or copying from the board, rereading words or lines, or using a finger, pencil or some other tool in an attempt to maintain his place while reading or writing.

Eye tracking is a complex function that involves both muscles and 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.

Normal oculomotor movements occur as a series of “jumps” and “fixations” on certain points across the text. Readers take in either a whole word or part of a word with each these pauses and fixations. Next, they process the word through the visual system. And then their eyes fixate on the next set of text, just long enough to see and process it.

All of this has to happen in a healthy manner without disruption or dysfunction. If your child is struggling with oculomotor weakness, reading is challenging and requires strained effort, especially as the paragraphs and reading or assignments grow longer.

If oculomotor dysfunction causes a child to continues to skipping letters, words or lines by third or fourth grade, they will likely fall below expected grade level performance. Fortunately, if your child is diagnosed with an oculomotor problem, vision therapy can treat and even cure the deficiency.

See our vision therapy success stories.

Only a functional vision exam by an optometrist who specializes in developmental vision care can diagnose or rule out a learning-related vision problem.

To schedule a comprehensive vision exam and access vision therapy in Olney, MD near SIlver Spring, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

Does Your Child Need to see a Developmental Optometrist or is a Routine Eye Exam Good Enough?

 

Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center
provides developmental optometry and vision
therapy in Olney, Maryland near Silver Spring.

Has your child been screened for vision problems that may interfere with learning? Typical eye exams only test for clarity and sharpness of eyesight at a distance. However, most parents and teachers are not aware that many children with common vision disorders and visual processing deficiencies need to be assessed by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

Most states around the U.S. have some regulations requiring access to vision screening for children, typically through schools. The state of Maryland requires each county school board to provide vision screenings to all students entering first grade and again when entering eighth or ninth grade. These requirements are in place to prevent students with poor eyesight from falling through the cracks.

By getting annual exams with your family eye doctor, you likely believe your child is being tested for common problems and that you’re ensuring the best care for their child. Annual exams are important–if a child doesn’t have 20/20 eyesight, corrective lenses can make a world of difference. But 20/20 eyesight isn’t enough.

For children to be able to learn effectively and perform at their best, they must have a fully functional and healthy visual system. They must be able to coordinate their eye movements effectively and efficiently, and they must be able to process information quickly through their visual system.

Unfortunately, routine eye exams do not screen for learning-related vision problems. Your family eye doctor is most likely not trained in developmental optometry or functional vision care and vision therapy.

Even if your child has 20/20 eyesight, you may notice some of the following problems that could be attributed to a vision disorder or deficiency:

  • Skipping words, letters or lines while reading or writing
  • Reversing or substituting letters or numbers
  • Performing below grade level or below average on standardized tests
  • Poor handwriting
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • Attention problems similar to ADHD
  • Complaining of headaches, eye aches, or tiredness while reading
  • Clumsiness, awkwardness, and poor coordination

Many children diagnosed with developmental delays, learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorder and behavior problems, actually have treatable vision problems that can be improved or cured with vision therapy.

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

The only way to diagnose a learning-related vision problem is with a comprehensive eye exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

Here is a helpful list of questions to ask your family eye doctor:

  • How do you test for and correct accommodation facility (focusing) and lateral vergence facility (lateral eye alignment and speed), vertical vergence ranges (vertical eye alignment) ?
  • Do you test for and correct eye movement while the child is reading or answering questions that require comprehension?
  • Do you use equipment such as prisms and Visigraph infrared monitoring devices?
  • How do you test for visual perceptual or visual processing skills such as visual discrimination, visualization, and visual memory?

Here’s a handy PDF guide you can use for screening your eye doctor:

vlc-screen-your-eye-doctor

A child with a normal healthy visual system does not need to see a developmental optometrist–routine vision screenings and an annual visit to the family eye doctor will suffice.

But if a child is having trouble in school–academic, behavioral, social, or physical–you may discover that an undetected vision problem is to blame.

This vision checklist and questionnaire will help you determine if your child needs to see a developmental optometrist.

To schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist in Olney, Maryland or Silver Spring, contact us at Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today.

Oculomotor Dysfunction: Does your child skip words or lines while reading?

Have you noticed that your child often skips words, sentences, or even several lines of text when reading? Parents often assume this happens because the child isn’t interested or trying hard enough–that they are distracted, lazy, or rushing through their work. When a child struggles to read, you might suspect skipping words is a sign of impatience or frustration with challenging and unfamiliar words.

However, in some cases, if a child is skipping words or losing his place when trying to read, this could point to oculomotor dysfunction–specifically, poor eye tracking skills–which can be treated with vision therapy.

Learn more about how vision affects learning by watching this pre-recorded webinar for parents.

A child with an eye tracking problem strains to efficiently and accurately control eye movements. Oculomotor dysfunction causes the eyes to jump or skip erratically, rather than move along a line of text smoothly. You may not notice the irregular eye movement upon observation, but even subtle eye movement deviations can make it difficult to read and write without strained effort.

Eye tracking is a very complex process and involves many different areas of the brain. Even with a normal healthy visual system, when we read,  eye tracking movements are not smooth scans of the text from left to right. Properly functioning oculomotor movements occur as a series of “jumps” and “fixations” on certain points across the text.

With each pause and fixation, we take in either a whole word or part of a word during the brief moment our eyes are stationary. We then decode and send the word through our visual processing system. Then our eyes fixate on the next word, briefly, to decode and process it.

If we have normal oculomotor abilities, we’re able to control the eye tracking process without concentrated effort, moving our eyes mostly in a left to right manner across the page, jumping from word to word, sentence to sentence, and around the text as needed. We rarely skip words or lose our place.

But if your child is struggling with oculomotor dysfunction, he or she need to use a finger, ruler, or pencil to avoid losing his place. Reading becomes challenging and tiring, because it requires strained effort to simply follow along the text.

An eye tracking problem tends to become more pronounced as reading requirements progress and paragraphs get longer, usually in third or fourth grade. If a child is continuing to skip words or sentences, he may have to read and then re-read a paragraph repeatedly before absorbing it in its entirety; so reading comprehension performance slows.

Additional signs of oculomotor dysfunction or poor tracking skills include:

  • Transposing words or letters when reading and writing
  • Using a finger or guiding device to avoid losing place
  • Complaining that text moves or jumps on the page
  • Difficulty accurately catching, throwing, or hitting a ball when playing sports
  • Becoming disoriented when eyes move from the end of one line of text to the beginning of the next line of text
  • Excessively moving the head or paper to follow the text while reading

To learn more about signs and symptoms of functional vision problems, download our free guide 10 Things You Need to Know About Vision here.

If you suspect that your child may be struggling to read due to oculomotor dysfunction, also known as poor eye tracking skills, get a comprehensive functional vision exam by a developmental optometrist.

The good news is, eye tracking skills can improve significantly in a relatively short period of time with vision therapy.

Click here to read vision therapy success stories.

For vision therapy in Silver Spring or Olney, Maryland, click here to schedule a functional vision exam with developmental optometrist, Dr. Philip Nicholson.

Does your child complain of dizziness while reading?

Has your child ever complained of feeling dizzy while reading? Dizziness can have many causes, and it’s a symptom that should be taken seriously. But if you’ve noticed that your child tends to complain of mild dizziness, queasiness, malaise, or nausea, specifically when reading or doing homework, it could be due to an undiagnosed functional vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

If your child says, “I don’t feel well,” too often at homework time, you may assume it’s an excuse to avoid work in favor of play time. However, most parents and teachers would not know to associate complaints of dizziness while reading with a vision disorder, particularly because learning-related vision deficiencies almost always go undetected in typical vision screenings or eye doctor exams.

Click here to read 9 signs that your child could have a learning-related vision problem that may cause headaches.

Click here to watch a pre-recorded webinar to learn more about vision problems in children.

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 his ear or a problem in the vestibular system when complaining of dizziness.

In a healthy visual system, our brain and eyes also work together to maintain a stable and even visual plane, which we need in order to read efficiently. When we point our eyes at text, we need to be able to fix and maintain our gaze so that the page and the text remains steady and still. If you have a properly functioning visual system, you can do this without extra effort. But for someone with a functional vision problem, the text may be misaligned or blurry, or it may 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 while reading.

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.

Children with an eye tracking problem strain to accurately control eye movements. Instead of their eyes moving smoothly across a line of text while reading, their eyes skip or jump, which makes it challenging to read without feeling disoriented and sometimes dizzy.

Children with accommodative dysfunction, or trouble focusing, have difficulty sustaining focus on text or maintaining a clear image for a reasonable length of time. Reading is challenging because the texts grows fuzzy or blurred, and straining to keep the text in focus can contribute to dizziness.

The only way to know if your child’s dizziness while reading is caused by an underlying vision problem is by scheduling a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

The good news is, learning-related vision problems that cause dizziness when reading can be treated effectively with vision therapy. Students often experience remarkable improvement in a short period of time.

If you are looking for vision therapy in Silver Spring or vision therapy in Olney, Maryland, and you suspect your child’s complaints of dizziness could be related to a functional vision problem, make an appointment with developmental optometrist Dr. Philip Nicholson at The Visual Learning Center today.