Vision problems are often initially suspected when a child performs poorly in school or below grade level on standardized tests; however, there is another population of children that can be easily overlooked if we focus primarily low grades and test scores as indicators of possible vision deficiencies. Because abilities are individual and measurements in school are typically relative, gifted and talented students with vision problems may still be able to get better grades and scores than their classmates.
When a student earns relatively good grades and scores well on assessments, parents and educators may be less likely to notice a vision problem. Instead, when the child doesn’t perform quite as well as expected, he is perhaps even more likely than his classmates to be accused of laziness or not applying himself.
Gifted students with vision problems are often adept at compensating for their deficiencies. They use strong abstract reasoning skills to develop strategies to work around their problems. They tend to catch on quickly, figure out how something should be done, verbally express well-reasoned answers easily, and offer up quick-witted ideas and thoughts to illustrate that they obviously understand the material.
Compensating for a learning-related vision problem, however, can be just as troublesome for a gifted student as other children with learning-related vision problems. Attempting to always perform up to their parents’ and teachers’ elevated expectations can lead to fatigue, headaches, emotional, and behavioral problems. Their self-esteem can be affected, because they are aware of their intelligence level, recognize that they grasp concepts more easily than their classmates, and are cognizant of their tendency to think in complex ways; however, they may not understand why they are not able to consistently outperform or compete with their peers.
To cope, gifted students with vision problems may use sarcasm, physically display exaggerated boredom, and play off of the idea that they are “smarter” than the other students in order to avoid work. Parents and teachers often suspect attention deficit disorder, because the child appears to have trouble paying attention and may exhibit what they perceive as tell-tale ADHD behavioral problems.
It is important for parents to understand that while giftedness is recognized early as a form of developmental advancement associated with certain intellectual strengths, bright students face learning challenges too. When a child is not performing at his expected potential, it is time to pay attention, get the appropriate assessments, and find the help he or she needs.
For a better understanding of how vision is related to learning, click here.
For a list of signs and symptoms associated with learning-related vision problems, click here.
If you suspect that your gifted child may have a learning-related vision problem, contact a developmental optometrist and schedule a functional vision exam right away. Unfortunately, gifted students often fall through the cracks of the education system, as attention and resources are directed towards students who are unable to perform on level.
The good news is, with an individualized vision therapy program, significant progress can be made within a relatively short period of time, and your gifted child can begin achieving at a rate aligned with her potential.
If you are in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center for a comprehensive assessment today.