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.
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.
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.