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How are “Visual Skills” related to learning?

Discovering that your child is struggling to learn, not because of a learning disability or lack of classroom skills, but instead a problem with their “visual skills” can be confusing for parents.

If a school screening or an eye doctor’s exam indicates that your child has no trouble with her eyesight, it can be even more confusing. You might ask yourself, “If my child can see just fine, how can there be something wrong with her vision?”

You might wonder how a child with 20/20 eyesight can also have a vision problem that is so significant that her learning is delayed or disrupted.

Most people think that vision is the same as sight. So if that’s what you thought too, you’re not alone.

However, sight simply provides the input for a child’s learning, while vision represents a complex system. When a child’s vision system is working efficiently, that child can process, understand, and relate new information to knowledge he or she already has.

On the other hand, when a child’s visual system is not working as it should, visual skills deficiencies can contribute to learning problems. If children experience a lag in their ability to recognize what they see, and relate it to what they already know, and then use this information as a basis for future understanding, the learning process can become frustrating.

For the learning process to work as it should, your child must first be able to see, then use what he sees to understand. The ability to see letters on a chart for an eye exam is not enough — 20/20 vision is not enough.

What developmental optometrists know is that there is a very important relationship between vision and the brain. The two work together so closely that vision and intelligence and understanding are almost synonymous

Sound complicated? It is. But the good news is, many children with low visual skills are often quite bright, or they may have little enduring learning problems with proper vision therapy. Also known as vision training, vision therapy can improve visual skills significantly and quickly.

A child’s ability to perform visual tasks (such as reading and studying) depends on the ability to synchronize thinking and seeing. The processes of thinking and seeing work together to give a perceptual and conceptual understanding of the material. The full spectrum of seeing and thinking needs to run smoothly for a child to gain meaning from what is taught.

Vision therapy exercises improve the integration of seeing and thinking.

Visual skills such as focusing, following moving objects, aiming, turning the eyes together as a team, visual processing and other abilities can be inefficient or poorly integrated, which can put great strain on a child.

Vision training allows a child to practice and strengthen vision skills, lessening the strain and effort they will have to put forth.

Experts have found that when anyone’s attention is spread between a number of tasks, it reduces the efficiency of the tasks. Think of the last time you tried to do two things at once. Was it easy? Did you do both as well as you wanted to? Or did one (or both) tasks suffer

When a child’s attention and efforts are spread between trying to make the visual system work physically and understanding the material, attempting to learn anything new that requires visual skills can be discouraging. A child who does not have deficiencies in visual processing can simply focus on understanding the material, without the interference of trying to get their system to function as it should.

Vision therapy serves to help children strengthen the link between vision and intelligence. Once visual skills are improved through vision therapy, it frees up energy and focus for actual learning. The less stressed mind is freed to focus on the task at hand.

Vision therapy in Olney, MD, and convenient to Silver Spring, MD, is provided by Dr. Philip Nicholson, O.D. and his staff at the Visual Learning Center. Call 301-570-4611 for a comprehensive assessment and to see if your child might significantly benefit from vision training.

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