Back to School in Montgomery County: Setting Children with Learning-Related Vision Problems Up for Classroom Success


It’s that time of year again. We’re back-to-school planning, shopping, and prepping here in Olney, Silver Spring, and the surrounding Montgomery County area. Parents, teachers, and administrators are working hard to lay the groundwork for another successful school year.

At the Visual Learning Center, we are proud to play a part in setting students up for success, and we’re fortunate to work with parents and educators who want the best for the children in our community. That’s why Dr. Philip Nicholson has committed to presenting workshops at area schools and centers about learning-related vision problems this year, as well as making more information and resources available about learning-related vision problems and vision therapy.

What we’ve found is that while parents and educational professionals are aware of common learning disabilities, dyslexia, and attention deficit disorder, visual processing problems with similar signs and symptoms still remain largely unknown. Most people mistakenly believe a visit to the family eye doctor with a diagnosis of 20/20 eyesight or a subscription for corrective lenses means their child has been cleared of vision problems that could interfere with learning.

Unfortunately, many learning-related vision problems go undetected and untreated. As this school year gets underway, we encourage you to be vigilant for the following behaviors and clues that could indicate a child has a vision problem:

  • The ability to demonstrate knowledge orally but not do as well on written tests and assignments
  • Performing below grade level or lower than expected despite being obviously bright
  • Reversing letters when reading or writing (in 2nd grade and beyond)
  • Consistently confusing words that are similar
  • Squinting while reading near or far
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • Rubbing eyes continuously throughout the day
  • Rubbing temples or forehead and complaining of headaches
  • Complaints of dizziness or motion sickness
  • Skipping words or losing place while reading
  • Being easily distracted, inattentive, or having a lot of difficulty staying on task
  • Disruptive behavior, especially after expressing frustration with work
  • Homework takes hours to complete, with lots of struggle and coaxing from parents
  • Poor hand-eye coordination, depth perception, or awkwardness and clumsiness

If you suspect a child might have a learning-related vision problem, such as an eye movement deficiency or poor visual processing skills, the good news is an individualized comprehensive vision therapy program can lead to remarkable improvement quickly. The first step is to schedule a functional vision exam with an optometrist trained in developmental vision care.

Unlike a typical eye exam that only screens for clear vision at a distance, functional vision exams check for the coordination of eye muscles and test to ensure the visual processing system is working efficiently.

A healthy vision system can function well over prolonged periods of time, which is necessary in a classroom setting; however, if the child has a vision deficiency, learning and performance can be affected. Compensating for visual deficiencies will cause fatigue and frustration, possibly leading to diminished effort, behavioral problems, and lower self-esteem.

At the Visual Learning Center, we have a long track record of success stories. Dr. Nicholson himself benefited from vision therapy as a child, so he is committed to improving the lives and academic achievement for children who struggled like he did.

To discover more about the relationship between vision and learning, be sure to watch our webinar and download our free guide. To find out more about vision therapy, check out our free resources for educators. If you want to book Dr. Nicholson to speak at your school or organization, click here to learn about his workshops and seminars.

Best wishes to Montgomery County parents, teachers, and students for an outstanding school year.  

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