Category Archives: Learning-related vision problems

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.

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.

Eye Movement Recordings Demonstrate Learning-Related Vision Problems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Appears to be a Learning Disability Could Be Cured With Vision Therapy

Learning disabilities and vision disorders or visual deficiencies share common signs, symptoms and behaviors. While a learning disability cannot be cured or fixed, common vision problems in children that are often mistaken for learning disabilities, can be successfully treated and cured with vision therapy.

Having 20/20 eyesight does not rule out vision problems that interfere with learning. Watch this video to learn more about the relationship between vision and learning.

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).

Each type of learning disability presents unique challenges; and if the disability is identified early enough, children can be taught using different approaches and taught specific skills to cope and even thrive.

Learning-related vision problems may present almost identically to some learning disorders that 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 reverse, transpose, invert, or mix up letters or words when reading and writing.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may appear restless, fidgety, or distracted in a classroom setting or while doing homework.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may have poor coordination or fine motor skills.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may struggle with reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, and memory.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may perform below grade level on standardized tests or perform more poorly than expected on exams.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may be exceptionally bright or gifted but also struggle in school.

If you or child’s teacher suspect a learning disability, you’ll want to rule out a treatable vision problem. 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.

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 functional 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.

vision therapy for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Can vision therapy treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Many children who have displayed symptoms of attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) have experienced relief or improvement from those symptoms by undergoing an intensive and comprehensive vision therapy or vision training program.

However, that does not mean vision therapy treats or cures attention deficit disorders. It means that ADD/ADHD is often misdiagnosed, and many of the symptoms of visual processing problems or vision disorders mimic the signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD.

Click here to watch a video on how an undiagnosed vision problem could be interfering with your child’s ability to learn or stay on task.

A pediatric psychiatrist or pediatrician may have suggested a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and prescribed Adderall, Ritalin, or another medication. As a parent, if your child does have ADD/ADHD, you want to ensure he or she gets the best treatment possible to feel better and learn effectively. However, you also don’t want your child to be labeled incorrectly or medicated unnecessarily.

So it is important for you to be aware of signs that could indicate a vision problem but are often misattributed to attention or behavioral problems, including:

  • Daydreaming, appearing distracted, or staring off into space
  • Looking away from the paper or assignment often
  • Seeming to have a short attention span or quick loss of interest
  • Antsiness or fidgeting
  • Getting up from seat at inappropriate times
  • Disruptive behavior or “acting out”
  • Talking during instruction time or distracting other students
  • Losing place while reading, skipping words or lines, seemingly due to carelessness
  • Forgetting material just learned
  • Difficulty staying on task or focused
  • Starting but not completing tasks
  • Scoring better on the beginning of tests and progressively worse towards the end, seemingly due to distractedness or loss of interest
  • Social awkwardness, missing social cues about politeness and personal space, and resulting trouble getting along with peers

Each of these symptoms could indicate ADD/ADHD, but they could also point to a vision problem.

Most educators or parents never suspect vision, usually because typical vision screenings and exams only test for clear eyesight at a distance, not other problems. You may only suspect something else might be at the root of the behavior when a child does not improve with treatment for attention deficit disorder.

But what does vision have to do with attention and behavior?

If children are dealing with problems such as oculomotor dysfunction, amblyopia, visual processing disorders, convergence insufficiency, or other functional vision problems, these signs could be either direct indications or coping and avoidance behaviors.

When a student has a learning-related vision problem or weak visual processing skills, the extra effort required to keep his eyes focused, aligned, turned correctly, and visually process what he is learning is especially taxing. Tasks that are easy and come naturally for peers can cause fatigue, headaches, and frustration.

Because of the strain of functional vision problems, students may choose to rest their eyes by looking away from their paper frequently or staring into space. Because they become agitated, they may fidget or move around, preferring activities that do not require as much stress on the visual system. And because they are often unaware that the way their vision system functions is different from others’ and because they can’t articulate that they are experiencing problems, they tend to “act out” with disruptive behavior or distract fellow classmates.

Often, the child does not know that something is wrong; he is simply adapting to his environment and expectations as best he can.

Click here to download our free guide on 10 things you should know about vision.

The good news is, if a child does have a vision problem, rather than ADD/ADHD, vision therapy can help. As our vision therapy success stories illustrate, a personalized intensive vision therapy program can result in significant and lasting improvement within a relatively short period of time.

We want to emphasize that not all attention problems are related to vision. Your child may be experiencing problems that are psychological, neurological, environmental, nutritional, related to auditory processing, or any number of factors. Vision therapy only helps with attention and behavioral problems if a child has a learning-related or functional vision problem.

We encourage you to watch this video about learning-related vision problems to learn more.

If you suspect your child has a vision problem that may be affecting his or her learning, attention, or behavior, schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist today.

For a functional vision exam and vision therapy in Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.

 

problems copying from the board

Why Copying From The Board is So Difficult for Some Children

Does your child complain that copying from the board at school is difficult? Does he or she come home with partial notes with a lot of errors or missed assignments? Perhaps your child’s teacher regularly states that the instructions, due dates, or lessons were written clearly on the board, and your child claims to have missed important information.

As a parent or teacher, it may be hard to believe that a child is truly having difficulty copying from the board, particularly if that child has 20/20 eyesight, wears corrective lenses, or has been moved closer to the board for a clear line of sight. You may attribute the child’s behavior to carelessness, laziness, or an excuse.  However, certain functional vision problems that often go undiagnosed can make copying from the board extremely challenging for some students.

Vision disorders that interfere with a child’s ability to easily copy from the board at school include:

Poor eye teaming:

Binocular vision skills include the ability for two eyes to work together as a team. When a visual deficiency prevents both eyes from moving precisely in the same direction at the same time, reading and copying from the board can pose a problem.

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, but moving his eyes together from one point to another is difficult. Moving the eyes together to look up at the board, down at the desk, and then back up without getting lost should be easy. But children with eye teaming problems will experience visual fatigue and tire quickly when attempting to copy from the board.

Accommodative dysfunction:

Weak accommodative facility refers to difficulty with visual focus. In a typical vision exam, a child may have clear 20/20 eyesight, but the exam usually does not require the child to sustain focus for an extended period of time or to shift focus quickly from far to near and back to far again.

The student may see the board clearly and see his paper clearly, but looking up and down, back and forth, from the board to the paper could be where the difficulty comes into play. If the focus mechanism in a child’s visual system is weak or not fully developed, the adjustment period as he looks from one point of sight to another will be slower than average, which can be challenging and frustrating.

Oculomotor deficiency:

If a student has deficient oculomotor skills, also known as an eye tracking problem, he will strain to accurately and efficiently control eye movements. Whereas in people with healthy visual systems, eyes move somewhat smoothly, in people with poor oculomotor skills, the eyes will jump or skip around the text.

Copying from the board is difficult for students with eye tracking problems because each time they look up at the board or back down at the paper, they have to struggle to point the eyes in the intended direction again. They tend to lose their place often and fall behind or make errors.

Visual processing problems:

If a student has a visual memory problem, a deficiency in the visual system interferes with retaining information that was just learned; so recalling a line of text just read from the board long enough to write on paper is difficult. If a student has a problem with visual sequential memory, he will have trouble remembering the proper sequence of words or letters in the order just seen. A child who struggles with visual spatial skills and visual discrimination skills may process letters or words they see backwards as they copy text from the board, so you may notice letter reversals and suspect dyslexia.

Children with learning-related vision disorders struggle now more than ever, because today’s classrooms often require students to spend hours each day interacting with boards and screens. In a typical school, you might find whiteboards, large projected screens, Promethean Boards, and ActivBoards. A child may spend a significant portion of the day straining to look at boards and then back down to the paper on the desk in front of them, and then back up to the board. If that student has a functional vision problem, copying from the board will interfere with learning the lesson or keeping up with classmates.

Trouble copying from the board can contribute to slow progress, low grades, and frustration. When a child is not able to learn and participate efficiently alongside his classmates, self-esteem or behavioral problems may arise.

Many teachers, learning specialists, occupational therapists, and other education professionals are not trained to detect functional vision problems. Most learning-related vision problems even go undetected during school vision screenings or exams with your family eye doctor.

Click here to learn more about learning-related vision problems.

If you suspect a vision problem could be to blame for your child’s problems copying from the board, find an optometrist in your area who specializes in developmental or functional vision care. If you live near Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, schedule an appointment with Dr. Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center for a full visual analysis.

The good news is and intensive vision therapy program can significantly improve functional vision problems in a relatively short period of time. Within a few months, copying from the board could become much easier quickly.

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.

Vision Therapy Helps Children Who Struggle With Visual Motor Integration

Visual-motor integration (VMI) is the function that ensures our eyes and the movement of our hands work together efficiently and smoothly. Healthy VMI coordinates and assimilates visual perception (input), visual processing (decoding), and visual output through the fine motor skill of writing.

Click here to watch a video about how vision affects learning.

When you think of hand-eye or eye-hand coordination and learning, you might think it’s only challenging for early learners fumbling to grasp and control jumbo-sized markers and crayons. Once your child seems to have the hang of holding his pencil, you may not expect visual-motor integration to significantly affect learning; but undetected deficiencies in your child’s visual-motor skills can interfere with paper-pencil work in elementary school and beyond.

Even if a child is working with an Occupational Therapist (OT) to improve motor skills, this may not address possible problems with visual perception. 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.

Visual-motor integration includes the ability to first correctly perceive visual information as a form, such as a letter, and then correctly replicate it. In early elementary years, children with delayed or disordered VMI have trouble with seemingly simple tasks such as copying their name or even copying basic shapes–what they write or draw does not look like the word or shape they are using for a guide.

Other signs of visual-motor dysfunction include:

  • Messy handwriting
  • Poor test taking, despite knowing the material
  • Trouble gripping or repeatedly re-gripping pencil
  • Difficulty writing within lines
  • Excessive erasing
  • Slow to complete assignments
  • Leaning close to paper
  • Lots of omissions and errors in work

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

While we tend to appreciate the importance of high-functioning visual-motor integration for activities such as sports, art, or music, research findings demonstrate a notable correlation between visual-motor integration skills and academic performance in writing, spelling, reading, and math. Even when taking learning disabilities and overall cognitive abilities into account, poor visual-motor integration has been shown to impact standardized test scores. Low VMI skills in Kindergarten have also been shown to predict reading abilities in middle school.

For students with visual motor deficiencies, coordinating their visual perception, visual processing, and fine motor output is so challenging that they have significant difficulty with tasks such as copying information from the board or from a book onto paper. Because of this, learning occurs more slowly and overall performance is affected. They have trouble following instructions, completing worksheets and other written assignments, and writing answers on tests. They know the material being covered, but putting pencil to paper is not as easy for them as it is for their peers.

If you suspect your child may be struggling with visual motor integration, 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.

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

visual memory disorder

Visual Memory: Why Do Some Children Struggle to Remember Something They Just Learned?

Do any of the following scenarios sound familiar?

  • Your son studied for his spelling test. You drilled and quizzed him the night before, and he seemed to know his words; but his grade was much lower than you expected. He’s a smart kid, but his poor spelling is an ongoing challenge.
  • Your daughter learned to read a new word on page 5 of her book; but by page 25, she doesn’t even recognize the same word and struggles to read it all over again.
  • Your child can’t seem to remember his own phone number or address. He forgets details he’s read and can’t recall the order of events. You’re frustrated that he keeps forgetting things, and you’re starting to wonder if he’s ignoring important information out of carelessness.
  • Your kid has difficulty using a keyboard or calculator. Kids these days are whizzes at typing and texting, but she slowly hunts for each letter, number, and character.

Each of these behaviors could possibly indicate that your child has a visual processing problem — specifically, a visual memory disorder.

Visual memory is the ability to look at something, create a mental image for that thing, and hold that picture in your mind for later recall and use. In learning to read, a child must look at a word, recognize and recall individual letters and strings of letters, create a mental image for that word and associate it with a meaning, and hold that word picture in mind to see and retrieve later.

For children with strong visual memory skills, this process happens efficiently and without strained effort. If a child has a visual memory deficiency, however, the process is a struggle and affects the ability to learn easily.

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

Discover more about how vision affects learning by watching this video for parents.

If a child has difficulty processing and storing visual information in his short-term memory, he will not be able to recall that information in his longer-term memory for later use. If he wasn’t able to properly input and store the mental image of his spelling word the night before, he is not going to recall and spell it correctly on his test the following day.

Strong visual memory is a critical skill for word recognition and reading comprehension. You may not have considered this before, but each word has its own unique shape — its own form, which we capture in a mental image — that we must instantaneously recognize while reading.

A student with a healthy visual memory function will be able to learn and recall a new word after being exposed to that word one time, or a few times. A student with a visual memory disorder has to be exposed to a word repeatedly, many times, before retaining it. They’re no less intelligent than their peers; they simply aren’t creating and retaining the mental image due to a skills deficiency.

When we read, we put words and phrases together with visual images to conceptualize meaning. 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 comprehend.

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.

Visual memory is what enables a child to recognize and remember letters, words, and their meaning. Recognizing, remembering, and applying information quickly and easily is critical for performance in reading comprehension, and student must have a healthy visual memory for ease of comprehension.

Poor visual memory is also a common cause for letter reversals. A student with a visual memory problem will be more likely than his peers to continue 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 typical routine eye exam will not detect a deficiency in visual memory. If you suspect a visual memory problem, schedule a comprehensive functional vision exam with an optometrist who specializes in functional or developmental vision care is trained to test for a visual memory.

Without well-developed visual memory skills children will struggle to learn. The good news is an individualized vision therapy program can improve visual memory skills significantly. In vision therapy, children complete activities created to enhance their memory so they can recall the visual information they take in more readily. Click here for vision therapy success stories.

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

learning-related vision problems

My Child Learned to Read in Kindergarten But Now Reads Below Grade Level: What Happened?

One of the biggest points of concern and confusion that parents have when they come to us is that they know their child is bright, but he or she is struggling in school. We often hear from parents who say their child had no trouble at all learning to read in Kindergarten, but by third or fourth grade the child has fallen far behind grade level performance expectations.

One common, but often-overlooked, cause for reading problems that develop later in development could be a learning-related vision problem.

When your child first learns basic reading skills, they learn ABCs one letter at a time, often in large, bold, colorful, and even tactile forms. Then they begin reading simple sentences in picture books with large spacious text. Their school books and worksheets all contain large text with lots of space, both to accommodate children’s fine motor skills and to ease them into the reading process.

But by third or fourth grade, reading and close work takes up a significantly greater amount of time in the classroom and during homework; and the text print on book pages and worksheets is much smaller than when they were first introduced to reading. Students in third grade and beyond are also required to copy from the board throughout the day. And all of these seemingly reasonable requirements can be extremely challenging for a child with a vision problem.

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

Large text and space is easy on the eyes. Reading one letter at a time, or a short sentence surrounded by lots of white space is not difficult for children with learning-related vision problems. Likewise, these children can pass a typical eye exam or school vision screening, one letter or short word at a time.

But most eye exams do not test for functional vision problems that interfere with reading. A typical eye exam only tests to determine if your child can see clearly at a distance for a period long enough to complete the exam, not eye movement and visual processing problems that may affect your child’s ability to read for a sustained period of time.

A typical vision screening doesn’t check into how well the eyes work together as a team, how quickly the eyes focus when moving from one visual plane to another, how smoothly the eyes move across the page when reading, how efficiently the brain processes information taken in by the eyes, or a number of other areas of functional vision.

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Reading requires the coordination of hundreds of eye muscles and steady oculomotor control. It also requires visualization, visual memory, and other skills for reading comprehension. If your child has an undeveloped vision skill, weakness, or deficiency, this can affect their ability to read.

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.

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So, while reading large-print individual words and short sentences for a few minutes in Kindergarten or first grade was easy for your child, reading small-print paragraphs throughout the day can be overwhelming.

Initially, you and your child’s teacher might suspect he is is being careless, distracted, or choosing not to pay attention You might assume he’s skipping unfamiliar or challenging words, because he’s lazy or uninterested.

However, children with learning-related vision problems don’t understand that their vision is to blame. They often grow frustrated, their self-esteem suffers, and they fall behind.

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That’s why it’s important that if your child is struggling with reading — particularly if they did not have trouble learning to read initially — that you find a developmental optometrist in your area who specializes in functional vision care. Schedule a comprehensive vision exam right away.

If your child’s reading troubles are related to vision, that’s actually good news. Because once he or she receives a proper diagnosis, a personalized and intensive vision therapy program can lead to significant lasting improvements in a relatively short period of time.

Click here for “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision”

If your family is located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philp Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule a functional vision exam today.