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VLC - What is a learning-related vision problem-

What is a Learning-Related Vision Problem?

The Visual Learning Center offers
developmental optometry & vision therapy
near Silver Spring, MD in Olney.

Did you know that approximately 80% of what a child learns in school is learned visually? Acquiring knowledge from the page, the board, the screen, and interactions with teachers and classmates requires continual use of the visual system.

You may think that if your child can see clearly, you’re in the clear; however, vision is much more than clear eyesight. It’s the ability to take in information, process and understand it, and act on it.

Learning-related vision problems result from deficits in visual information processing and visual efficiency.

Vision involves three main components — reception, processing, and output.

  • Reception is the ability to see things clearly, singularly, and comfortably. It’s the input function of the visual system, which can be compared to entering data into a computer.
  • Visual Processing is your brain’s ability to identify and compute the information received through your eyes. After the computer (your brain) gets the data, it manipulates it, categorizes it, and runs it through processes, such as meaning making and comprehension.
  • Output is the result of visual processing. It’s a response or action. For example, output may be the creation of a mental image, an oral or written response, or a gesture.

The visual system is a complex system that functions smoothly in most cases, and most people take it for granted. However, if any element of the visual system is not functioning as it should, learning can be challenging.

We cannot take in information efficiently and comfortably if we struggle to move or control our eyes in the ways in which they were meant to move. We cannot make sense of what we see with our eyes without the accompanying healthy functioning of the brain and healthy communication between the eyes and brain.

Learning-related vision problems are a big problem. Studies have shown that:

  • 58% of children with trouble learning have difficulty copying or following instructions from the board, even with 20/20 eyesight.
  • 80% of children who are reading disabled have vision problems.
  • 78% of children with reading or learning problems have difficulty tracking their eyes properly, meaning their eyes do not move smoothly and efficiently across the text on the page.
  • 63% of children with reading and learning problems have difficulty moving and pointing both eyes together as a team.

Vision problems that affect learning are all-too-often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Vision screening conducted at your child’s school or by your family eye doctor typically only screens for the ability to see clearly at a distance; so it is possible for the results to show 20/20 eyesight without detecting an eye movement problem or visual processing deficiency.

To diagnose a learning-related vision problem, your child would need to undergo a thorough functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care.

Signs your child may have an undetected vision problem include:

  • Reversing letters when reading or writing
  • Confusing similar looking words
  • Skipping letters, words, or lines when reading or writing
  • Trouble copying from the board even with 20/20 eyesight
  • Reading below grade level or low reading comprehension skills
  • Messy handwriting
  • Physical problems when reading, such as dizziness and nausea, tiredness, or eye strain
  • Double vision or blurred vision even with 20/20 eyesight
  • Attention or behavior problems that resemble ADD/ADHD
  • Squinting or bending close to the paper to read, covering or closing one eye, or tilting head to an unusual angle while reading
  • Clumsiness, social awkwardness, lack of coordination when playing sports

A few examples of learning-related vision problems include:

  • Accommodative dysfunction: trouble using eye muscles appropriately to bring an object into focus clearly or to maintain focus for a sustained period of time. Vision becomes fuzzy or blurred.
  • Amblyopia (lazy eye): reduced vision in one eye, causing the brain to favor the unobstructed eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye.
  • Convergence insufficiency: the brain has trouble accurately, efficiently, and comfortably coordinating the eye muscles to see properly for a prolonged period of time.
  • Visual processing deficiencies: the vision system has trouble computing visual input, leading to problems with visual-motor integration and speed, visualization, visual memory, and more.

Unfortunately, many children struggle with learning due to undetected vision problems that can be improved successfully with vision therapy. Learning-related vision problems often resemble similar problems that cannot be treated with vision therapy.

When your child is having trouble in school or difficulty learning, it can be confusing and troubling for you as a parent. Fortunately, vision therapy addresses and treats learning-related vision problems that might be holding your child back. But the first step is always to determine if your child does indeed have a vision problem.

So check for these 9 signs; and if you suspect a problem, schedule a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care and vision therapy right away.

For vision therapy in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us for an appointment.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

boy with glasses

What Vision Therapy Can and Cannot Treat

Vision therapy helps children with vision problems develop or improve visual skills, abilities, and efficiencies. If your child is diagnosed with a functional vision problem or visual processing disorder, an individualized vision therapy treatment program, under the supervision of an optometrist trained in developmental and functional vision care, can significantly improve or correct the visual deficiency.

Some visual conditions cannot be treated adequately with just glasses, contact lenses, patching, or surgery. When appropriate, these conditions are best resolved through a program of vision therapy.

Effective vision therapy is an individualized treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. Sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to control eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, or visual processing.

Click here for 9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem

Here are are just a few examples of conditions that affect vision and interfere with learning, which can be treated successfully with vision therapy:

Accommodative (focusing) dysfunction

A child with an accommodative disorder has trouble using his eye muscles appropriately to bring an object into focus clearly or to maintaining focus for a sustained period of time. The muscles that focus the lenses in our eyes have to adjust quickly (and often) to see various points of visual interest clearly, or sustain that clear focus over a period of time, without vision becoming fuzzy or blurred. Vision therapy can treat accommodative disorders successfully.

Amblyopia (lazy eye)

A child with amblyopia has reduced vision in one eye because normal and healthy connections between the child’s eyes and brain did not form correctly during developmental stages. The deficiency causes the brain to favor one eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye. Vision therapy can treat amblyopia successfully.

Strabismus

Strabismus is a condition in which the eye is either constantly or intermittently turned – usually inward or outward (often the cause of amblyopia). In a child with strabismus or other similar alignment problems the eye that points straighter becomes dominant. In severe cases, surgery may be required, but vision therapy can treat strabismus successfully.

Convergence insufficiency

Convergence is the ability to aim one’s eyes at a near distance, and children with a healthy visual system are able to aim their eyes naturally and easily.Convergence insufficiency is a medical condition in which the brain has trouble accurately, efficiently, and comfortably coordinating the eye muscles to see properly for a prolonged period of time at reading distance. Vision therapy can treat convergence insufficiency successfully.

Visual Processing Deficiencies

Normal visual processing requires a complex system of neurological activity to be developed and functioning properly. Many children lack good visual processing skills. Because of a delay in development or disorder, their vision system has trouble computing visual input, leading to problems with visual-motor integration and speed, visualization, visual memory, and more. Vision therapy can treat visual processing problems successfully.

Unfortunately, a lot of children continue to struggle unnecessarily due to undetected vision problems that can be treated successfully with vision therapy. However, one reason so many vision problems go undiagnosed is that they often resemble similar problems that cannot be treated with vision therapy. As parents discover the remarkable results achieved in vision therapy programs, it’s important to understand that vision therapy is not a miracle cure for untreatable conditions.

Some examples of conditions that vision therapy does not treat include:

Myopia, Hyperopia, Astigmatism

Vision therapy does not treat nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism. Children with these common condition, which blur vision, are prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses to optically correct the problem, by altering the way in which light enters the eyes. Myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism are all caused by an irregularity in the length of the eyeball itself or curvature of the cornea, and therefore cannot be corrected by vision therapy. (Note: Vision therapy is sometimes confused with the Bates Method or the See Clearly Method which do not have the same scientific basis or reputation as vision therapy.)

Dyslexia

Vision therapy does not cure dyslexia. the signs and symptoms of dyslexia and learning-related vision problems practically mimic each other, with subtle differences. Even a professional trained to recognize dyslexia may not suspect a vision deficiency without proper awareness. Dyslexia cannot be cured, though many learn to cope with it well and succeed; however, learning-related vision deficiencies that have symptoms similar to dyslexia can be treated and even eliminated by vision therapy. Click here to learn more.

Unrelated Learning Disabilities or Developmental Delays

Vision therapy does not eliminate developmental delays or learning disabilities unrelated to vision. A child with an undetected vision disorder may be misdiagnosed with a learning disability; but a learning disability such as an auditory or language processing disorder, cannot be treated with vision therapy. Many children diagnosed with learning disabilities and developmental delays also struggle with vision problems. If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and he or she is not making expected progress from working with an occupational therapist or in another type of early learning developmental therapy, it could be due to an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Vision therapy is not an antidote for ADD/ADHD, as it does not directly treat impulsivity, hyperactivity, or inattentiveness. However, some children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder when the symptoms they display are actually related to a vision disorder. Teachers might describe your child as distracted or antsy, report that your child daydreams in class, stares out the window, or looks around the room when he should be focusing on his paper or the board. You may have noticed that your child has a short attention span, difficulty staying on task, or following instructions. If the child has a vision problem, he may be diverting his eyes to avoid strain, “acting out” due to frustration, or coping by avoiding tasks; but if the problem is unrelated to vision, vision therapy will not help.

Test Performance in Children with Healthy Vision

In the competitive environment of an educational system that relies heavily on standardized testing, some parents look for creative methods to give their child an edge. You may have learned that vision therapy has helped a friend’s child improve test scores or grades and wonder if your child’s performance in school could be boosted by vision therapy too. Vision therapy does not improve performance in school or tests for children who do not have vision disorders. However, many children could benefit from following these tips to ease eye strain.

When your child is having trouble in school or difficulty learning, it can be confusing and troubling for you as a parent.

Learn more about how vision affects learning by watching this webinar for parents.

Fortunately, vision therapy addresses and treats learning-related vision problems that might be holding your child back. But the first step is always to determine if your child does indeed have a vision problem.

So check for these 9 signs; and if you suspect a problem, schedule a comprehensive vision exam by an optometrist who specializes in functional and developmental vision care right away.

If you are located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us for an appointment.

A child that sees like this can pass a vision screening [infographic]

As a parent, you’re dedicated to ensuring your children are healthy, thriving, and have access to the best available learning opportunities. So when your child undergoes an eye exam at school or with your family eye doctor and passes with “20/20 eyesight” or a prescription for corrective lenses, you’re probably confident that his or her vision is fine.

As far as common knowledge goes, you’ve done everything necessary to make sure your child is able to see clearly enough to perform well in school. If your child continues to struggle in school, it must be due to something else, right?

Unfortunately, most eye exams do not test for functional vision problems that often interfere with learning and performance. A typical eye exam with your family optometrist or ophthalmologist generally only tests to determine if your child can see clearly at a distance for a period long enough to complete the exam. It doesn’t test for eye movement and visual processing problems that may affect your child’s ability to see, learn, and complete tasks for a sustained period of time in a learning environment.

The general exam doesn’t check into how well the eyes work together as a team, how quickly the eyes focus when moving from one visual plane to another, how smoothly the eyes move across the page when reading, how efficiently the brain processes information taken in by the eyes, or a number of other areas of functional vision.

Only a functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care can diagnose learning-related vision problems such as convergence insufficiency, amblyopia, strabismus, blurred vision, double vision, and more.

Children who see like the illustrations below can still pass a typical vision test:

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Right Click + Save to Download

As you can now see, if your child sees like any of the above illustrations, learning can be challenging. Children with functional vision problems struggle more than their peers to learn, not because they are not bright and capable of learning, but because their visual system is not functioning in a healthy manner.

The good news is, once he or she receives an appropriate diagnosis, a personalized and intensive vision therapy program can lead to significant lasting improvements in a relatively short period of time.

Click here to read “9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem,” to learn more about signs and symptoms of functional vision problems that interfere with learning.

After reviewing the signs and symptoms, if you suspect your child may have a learning-related vision problem, schedule a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist today.

If you are located in Olney or Silver Spring, MD, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.

5 Tips to Help Your Child Ease Eye Strain

We all experience eye strain from time to time. Whether we’re avid readers or our work keeps us glued to a computer screen all day, modern work and play taxes our eyes and our entire visual system now more than ever before in history.

Think about the number of images, emails, text messages, television shows, social media updates, books, and more that we consume each day of our lives today compared to our own childhood, or consider stark difference between the way we use our eyes each day and the way our great grandparents used their visual systems. It should come as no surprise that modern work, school, and entertainment can cause our eyes can become overworked if we are not careful.

For a child who is still in developmental stages of growth, eye strain can be particularly taxing. If that child has an functional vision problem, the effects of eye strain can severely interfere with learning. Even when well-rested, children with learning-related vision problems struggle more than their classmates to read, write, and perform in the classroom; so additional stress to the visual system can be particularly detrimental.

We suggest that all parents work with children to help them avoid and alleviate eye strain whenever possible. If your child has a vision problem, this is especially important.

Here are 5 tips to help your child ease eye strain:

1. Limit Screen Time

While there is nothing wrong with allowing your child to use smartphones, video games, computers, or tablets for fun and to develop comfort with technology, it’s important that you limit their screen time to protect their eyes. We understand that kids love their devices and this can cause fits or tantrums, so we suggest gradually replacing their screen time with other enjoyable activities.

2. Use Adequate Lighting

If you were the kid who tried to read under the covers with a flashlight despite your parents saying you’ll “ruin your eyes,” this tip might ring a bell. Keep in mind that if what you’re reading is brighter than the rest of the room, it will cause a strain on your eyes. This goes for back-lit screens or working in a dark room with a small desk lamp. So remember that your child will incur less eye strain if he works in a well-lit room, with preferably natural or full-spectrum lighting.

3. Work at a Proper Distance

Does your child sometimes try to write with his head down on his desk or read with his chin propped up on a book? It’s best to sit up straight and work with slightly more than a foot or an arm’s length distance away from the text. Your child may mistakenly believe reading closer is helping to ease the strain, but it is only making matters worse.

4. Take Breaks

Our eyes need an occasional break in order to avoid strain. Encourage your child to take a short break every 15 to 20 minutes.  Put the book or pencil down and step away from the screen every so often. Ask her to get up and stretch, close her eyes tightly for a few moments, or focus on objects in the distance for awhile. Pushing a child to keep working, especially if she is already struggling with a vision problem, will only cause more eye strain and greater difficulty learning and performing.

5. Get Active

Children with functional vision problems sometimes not only struggle with learning, but they have difficulty with coordination, sports, and social interaction as well. For this reason, they may avoid outdoor and physical activities in favor of video games and television. Encourage your child to play outside when possible — go for walks and look around at the environment, play in the yard with the dog — activities that will give the eyes a break from working and stimulate the visual system in a different way.

If  you suspect your child has a functional vision problem that is exacerbated by eye strain, help him or her to follow these tips. Then schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist immediately. In addition to properly resting the eyes, an intensive vision therapy program will provide relief of unnecessary strain and improvement to vision.

If you are in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today.