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.
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.