Tag Archives: learning disabilities

Dyslexia-or-Learning-Disability-Diagnosis

Dyslexia or Learning Disability Diagnosis? Get a Second Opinion from a Developmental Optometrist

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

Has your child been diagnosed with dyslexia or a learning disability? You may want to get a second opinion from a developmental optometrist.

When a child has trouble with reading, learning, or test performance, teachers and parents often suspect a learning disability or dyslexia. However, what appears to be a learning disability might actually be an undiagnosed learning-related functional vision problem that can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Although parents would rather their child not have to face the challenges of living with a learning disability, sometimes a diagnosis can come as a relief. Now that you’ve identified the problem, you can begin working with specialists who can help your child develop healthy and productive coping strategies.

But if your child’s diagnosis is not correct, they could be struggling unnecessarily with a condition that is treatable with vision therapy.

Here’s why so many children are misdiagnosed:

  • Standard eye exams and vision screenings will not detect learning-related vision problems. So, unfortunately, many children are misdiagnosed with learning challenges without ever undergoing a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist trained in functional vision care.

  • The signs and symptoms learning-related vision problems practically mimic dyslexia and other learning disabilities, sometimes with only subtle differences.

  • Most teachers, educational specialists, and occupational therapists have never been trained to recognize the symptoms of learning-related vision problems. They receive training in detecting possible learning disabilities and other special needs. However, the majority of education professionals are unaware of how common learning-related vision problems are.

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that indicates a person’s brain is “wired” differently. Children with learning disabilities are no less intelligent than their classmates, but they may have difficulty learning through conventional teaching methods. A child with a learning disability may struggle with reading, writing, math, organizing information, memory, or with reasoning skills.

Examples of learning disabilities include auditory processing disorders (difficulty understanding spoken language), dysgraphia (difficulty with writing), dyslexia (difficulty understanding written language), dyscalculia (difficulty with math problems and concepts), and nonverbal disabilities (difficulty with spatial and facial cues).

Learning-related vision problems may present almost identically to some learning disorders. But many vision deficiencies and disorders can be significantly improved or even eliminated permanently with vision therapy.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may:

  • Transpose, omit, substitute, and reverse words and letters when reading and writing.
  • Appear restless, fidgety, or distracted in a classroom setting or while doing homework
  • Have difficulty staying on task, paying attention, zoning out, and daydreaming
  • Have poor coordination or fine motor skills
  • Struggle with reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, and memory
  • Seem bright, articulate, and may have a high IQ, but they are unable to read, write, spell, or perform as well as expected on exams and standardized tests 
  • Learn well through hands-on experiences; dyslexics tend to be helped by being able to observe and use visual aids, but those with visual deficiencies do better with oral coaching.
  • Have difficulty with time; dyslexics have trouble with sequences and time management; those with vision problems have trouble telling time on a clock dial.

But your child might not need to learn differently. Instead, your child may need to undergo a treatment program to train and reinforce vision skills, with lasting results.

To be clear, vision therapy does not cure dyslexia, 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.

Additionally, it is important to note that many children who have learning disabilities and developmental delays also struggle with vision problems. If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and they are not making expected progress from working with an occupational therapist or in another type of learning developmental therapy, it could be due to an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

The only way to rule out a vision problem is with a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

For a comprehensive exam and vision therapy in Olney, Maryland or Silver Spring, schedule an appointment with Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

What Appears to be a Learning Disability Could Be Cured With Vision Therapy

Learning disabilities and vision disorders or visual deficiencies share common signs, symptoms and behaviors. While a learning disability cannot be cured or fixed, common vision problems in children that are often mistaken for learning disabilities, can be successfully treated and cured with vision therapy.

Having 20/20 eyesight does not rule out vision problems that interfere with learning. Watch this video to learn more about the relationship between vision and learning.

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that indicates a person’s brain is “wired” differently. Children with learning disabilities are no less intelligent than their classmates, but they may have difficulty learning through conventional teaching methods. A child with a learning disability may struggle with reading, writing, math, organizing information, memory, or with reasoning skills.

Examples of learning disabilities include auditory processing disorders (difficulty understanding spoken language), dysgraphia (difficulty with writing), dyslexia (difficulty understanding written language), dyscalculia (difficulty with math problems and concepts), and nonverbal disabilities (difficulty with spatial and facial cues).

Each type of learning disability presents unique challenges; and if the disability is identified early enough, children can be taught using different approaches and taught specific skills to cope and even thrive.

Learning-related vision problems may present almost identically to some learning disorders that can be significantly improved or even eliminated permanently with vision therapy.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may reverse, transpose, invert, or mix up letters or words when reading and writing.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may appear restless, fidgety, or distracted in a classroom setting or while doing homework.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may have poor coordination or fine motor skills.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may struggle with reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, and memory.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may perform below grade level on standardized tests or perform more poorly than expected on exams.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may be exceptionally bright or gifted but also struggle in school.

If you or child’s teacher suspect a learning disability, you’ll want to rule out a treatable vision problem. Your child might not need to learn differently. Instead, your child may need to undergo a treatment program to train and reinforce vision skills, with lasting results.

The only way to rule out a vision problem is with a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

For functional exam and vision therapy in Olney, Maryland or Silver Spring, schedule an appointment with Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

Teacher Appreciation Week: How Vision Therapy Can Help Teachers

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and we want to express a big thank you to all of the teachers who support students in the classroom. At the Visual Learning Center, we work daily with children who have struggled in school due to learning-related vision problems, sometimes for years before receiving a diagnosis; and their caring, patient, and skilled teachers deserve appreciation for their dedication to each child’s success.

Classroom teachers serve as our allies and partners in vision therapy, so we wish to celebrate their service to the community and welcome the opportunity offer our support in return.

When a child has difficulty in school — particularly if parents feel confident that their child is smart — teachers sometimes endure undue blame. Parents are understandably frustrated when a child performs poorly and may assume the teacher should know what to do to improve their child’s performance.

Teachers are educated in a wide variety of subject matter, teaching methods, and classroom management skills; and they receive training in detecting possible learning disabilities and special needs. However, the majority of teachers are unaware of how common learning-related vision problems are, and most teachers simply do not know how to recognize the symptoms.

Once teachers learn about how vision affects learning, they begin to recognize vision problems in their classroom right away and realize this is something they have been dealing with for years.

So, how can teachers get the help they need?

First, they have to be able to recognize vision symptoms that may affect learning, such as:

  • Squinting while reading near or far
  • Rubbing eyes continuously throughout the day
  • Rubbing temple or forehead and complaining of headaches
  • Complaints of dizziness or motion sickness
  • Skipping words or losing place while reading
  • Confusing similar words
  • Reversing letters
  • Easily distracted, inattentive, unable to stay on task
  • Disruptive behavior, especially after expressing frustration with work
  • Poor hand-eye coordination, depth perception, or awkwardness and clumsiness
  • Performs noticeably better orally than written

As you may recognize, many of these symptoms can also indicate learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, or even health problems; and consequently, misdiagnosis is common. A possible vision problem is often overlooked.

If you are a teacher, you can expect that parents may dismiss your suggestion that their child has a vision problem because he or she has “20/20 eyesight.”  It is important for teachers to understand that the vision problems that affect learning are not usually detected during routine vision screenings at school or typical vision exams with the family’s eye doctor.

Typical vision exams only test for eye sight, or vision clarity at a distance. However, vision involves an entire vision processing system — the coordination of eye muscles and the brain.

A healthy vision system can function well over prolonged periods of time in a classroom setting; but if the child has a vision problem, he will grow tired and frustrated, not understanding why he has so much trouble doing tasks that seem easy for his peers. So a child with vision problems might seem to give up, have low self-esteem, or act out as a result.

Once a child is properly diagnosed by an optometrist who specializes in functional and developmental vision care, he can take part in an intensive individualized vision therapy program, which is likely to bring about remarkably fast and long-term results.

To learn more about vision and vision therapy, download our free guide, watch our webinar, and see our resources for teachers and parents.

If you are a teacher in Olney, Silver Spring, or the surrounding area, invite Dr. Philip Nicholson to speak at your school or association. Click here to learn more.

The Real Reason Your Smart Child Might Be Testing “Below Grade Level”

Standardized tests have long been part of the education system in the United States; but over the past decade mandated standardized testing has increased significantly to become a core component of schooling and a critical measure of your child’s success as a student.

Proponents of standardized tests claim that they are a fair, effective, and efficient way to measure students’ progress and hold schools accountable to goals and expectations. On the other hand, critics argue that standardized tests distract from deeper learning, and that they are unfair because some children do not test well, despite knowing the material.

As a parent, no matter where you stand on this controversial issue, if your child is testing below grade level, it is important for you to find out why.

If your child seems bright, but does not perform well on standardized tests, your first response might be that the teacher is not doing a good job, or that the school is not offering an optimal learning environment, or that the test is unfair. You may have performed well in school and on standardized tests yourself, and feel that someone must be failing your child.  You know that your child is smart, so something must be wrong.

Teachers and counselors will probably suggest testing for a learning disability, or they might suspect dyslexia or attention deficit disorder. The teacher’s performance review and the school’s performance goals are often dependent on students meeting grade level expectations; so it is in everyone’s best interest to get your child the help he needs.

However, there is a common, but often overlooked, problem that may be hindering your child’s test-taking ability. The real reason your child might be testing below grade level could be due to a learning-related vision problem. A vision problem could be to blame for your child’s “below average” reading comprehension or slow test taking, even with “20/20” eyesight.

Vision problems that affect eye muscles and coordination may cause your child to see double or blurry, lose his place often, or experience fatigue and distracting headaches. A visual processing problem related to memory or visualization could be the reason behind delayed reading comprehension.

Unlike a routine vision screening or typical eye exams, school standardized tests require prolonged reading, intense focusing of the eyes for hours at a time, looking from the problem to the answer sheet repeatedly, the ability to follow straight lines to bubble-in answers, and more activities seemingly simple for a child with a normally functioning vision system.

Testing for hours may exacerbate a problem that has not yet surfaced during normal classroom activities, because the child’s eyes may become even more tired than usual.

Poor visual skills that interfere with standardized testing include processing speed and accuracy, selective concentration, visual memory, letter reversals, visual-motor integration and speed, and visualization.

If there is any possibility that a vision problem could be to blame for your child scoring “below grade level” on standardized tests, the first step is to schedule a comprehensive vision exam by a doctor of optometry who specializes in functional and developmental vision care.

If diagnosed with a learning-related vision problem, an individualized vision therapy program can significantly, and relatively quickly, improve your child’s performance. With proper treatment and practice, these vision problems can be overcome.

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