At the Visual Learning Center, we often receive referrals from Occupational Therapists who notice that a child in their care may be struggling with vision problems. OTs are trained to work with children to improve and strengthen specific skills and abilities, and deficiencies in the visual processing system can interfere with a child’s ability to make progress.
However, many skilled and experienced Occupational Therapists simply are not trained on how to detect vision problems. Further, many OTs are unaware that Vision Therapy can supplement or enhance the work they are doing with a child.
If you are an Occupational Therapist who works with children, here are 3 main types of functional vision problems you may notice during your assessments or sessions:
1. Accommodation Skills
If you work work with a child who often gets frontal headaches or eye aches, squints, blinks, or rubs his eyes excessively, or often complains that his eyes sting or itch, these may be signs of an eye focusing problem.
Children with poor accommodation skills, or trouble focusing, are unable to easily sustain focus on an object or text or maintain a clear image for a reasonable length of time. Reading and writing are difficult because objects become fuzzy or blurred, and the child will strain to perform well on assignments or tests, compared to his peers.
2. Convergence Skills
If you notice that a child tries to avoid reading, looks away from the text often, shows fatigue easily while reading, or indicates that the words are moving around on the page, this could be due to an eye teaming problem.
If a child has poor convergence or divergence skills, or an eye teaming problem, this means he has trouble using his eyes together as a team. His eyes move somewhat independently of one another, causing blurry or double vision, difficulty with depth perception, and fatigue. Performance and reading comprehension suffer because the child has to work harder than his classmates just to properly see and efficiently process the text.
3. Ocular Motor Skills
If you are working with a child who reads slowly, struggles with reading comprehension, has difficulty copying from the board at school, or loses his place or skips words while reading or writing, this could be due to an eye tracking problem.
If a child has poor ocular motor skills, or an eye tracking problem, he strains to accurately control the movements of his eyes. Instead of moving smoothly, his eyes will skip or jump, making it difficult to read, write, or look up at something in the distance and then back down to the page in front of him. What should be simple tasks prove challenging.
If you suspect that a child may have a functional vision problem, the next step is to refer him or her to a developmental optometrist for a comprehensive functional vision exam.
For occupational therapists in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson at The Visual Learning Center to speak to our staff.