My child has “20/20” eyesight but still has trouble copying off the board at school. What could cause that?

You probably remember struggling from time to time to see the blackboard in school when you were a child. Maybe you sat in the back of the classroom, behind the tall kid, or someone with big hair sat in front of you. Perhaps you needed your first pair of glasses before you could easily make out the letters and numbers on the board without squinting.

If you remember those brief periods of frustration, you understand how some children with certain vision problems feel throughout the day while struggling to copy from the board, even with 20/20 eyesight.

Modern classrooms include whiteboards, ActivBoards, and Promethean Boards. Students spend a lot of time looking at boards, and then back at their desks, during a school day. If a child has a vision problem, it may be difficult for the child to copy off the board and follow the lesson.

A child may have “20/20” clear eyesight but may also lack the ability to refocus from near to far and from far to near. As the child looks down at his paper to read or write, he may see clearly. After he is looking at the board for some time, he can see clearly too. However, looking up and down, back and forth, from the board to the paper might be where the difficulty comes into play.

The focus mechanism in the child’s eyes might be weak, slowing down the adjustment period as he looks from one point of site to the other. In functional optometry, focusing is called “accommodation.” A full functional vision exam tests “accommodative facility,” which is the ability to sustain clear vision and to shift focus.

Weak accomodative facility (focusing) is not detected during most normal vision screenings.

Another vision problem that would make it difficult for your child to copy from the board at school is poor eye teaming. Eye teaming, known in functional optometry as “binocular vision skills,” refers to the ability for the two eyes to work together as a team. If both eyes are not moving at the same time in the same direction, a child will struggle to look up at the board, down at her paper, and back again without experiencing visual fatigue and tiring quickly.

Your child could also have poor eye movements, such as tracking and pursuits. Tracking eye movement skills help the child “locate” the words on the board and then locate the space on the paper where they are to place their print. A child with poor tracking skills loses her place often, and getting lost frequently is frustrating and tiring.

Poor teaming and tracking skills are not detected during most normal vision screenings.

If your child has been complaining that he is having trouble copying from the board, or your child’s teacher complains that he is not copying down the lessons or assignments as instructed, a vision problem could be to blame.

Even if a school vision screening or visit to your family vision care clinic indicated that your child has 20/20 eyesight, problems with focus, eye teaming, or eye tracking might be interfering with his or her ability to copy from the board and learn efficiently alongside his classmates.

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 intensive vision therapy can improve eye teaming, eye tracking, and focusing skills. Within the next few months, your child could experience significant improvement, and copying from the board can become easier.

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