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:


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.

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