Category Archives: Behavior problems

behavior problems in children

Can Vision Therapy Improve Your Child’s Behavior Problems?

Does your child have behavior problems, and you just can’t seem to figure out why? What many parents and educators don’t know is that sometimes behavior problems in children are caused by undetected vision problems that can be successfully treated with vision therapy.

Even if a child has 20/20 eyesight, vision deficiencies can interfere significantly with learning. And when a child struggles to learn and complete tasks that are easy for classmates, they grow frustrated, distracted, and may act out or display coping behaviors that appear to be common childhood behavior problems.

To learn more how vision can affect learning and behavior, download our free guide here and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

You may get frequent calls from your child’s teacher, and perhaps you’ve even met with counselors about their behavior. But despite disciplinary actions or positive reinforcement, the disruptive behavior continues, seemingly undeterred.

Issues that contribute to a child’s behavioral problems can be as varied as hereditary factors, malnutrition, allergies, physical illnesses, or instability at home. Behavior problems in children have many possible root causes–environmental concerns, abuse, cries for help, emotional problems, developmental delays, attention deficit disorder, anxiety, oppositional defiant disorder (ODD),  obsessive compulsive disorder, and much more.

Parents and educators rarely suspect a vision deficiency  because there’s simply little awareness about how vision problems affect learning and behavior in children.

Signs or symptoms often attributed to behavior problems that may be caused by a vision disorder include:

  • Antsiness or fidgeting
  • Getting up from seat at inappropriate times
  • Talking during instruction or distracting classmates
  • Inability to stay on task or complete work
  • Defiantly refusing to do assignments or to take a turn reading in front of the class
  • Disruptive behavior or “acting out”
  • Deflecting blame or making excuses
  • Social awkwardness, missing social cues about politeness and personal space, and trouble getting along with peers

Children with vision deficiencies often don’t know they have a problem, or they are not able to articulate it. They think everyone else sees and processes information the way they do, and they don’t know why things are difficult for them. Their eyes get tired, they get headaches, and they are constantly straining to do even the simplest tasks, such as read a line of text or copy from the board.

Vision exams by your family eye doctor typically only test for vision clarity. As long as a child can clearly see and identify the letters on an eye chart, he can pass the exam with 20/20 vision or get prescribed corrective lenses. The exam usually doesn’t test for eye movement, eye coordination, or visual processing problems.

The only way to determine if your child’s behavior problems are caused by a vision problem is to schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

The good news is, learning-related vision problems that affect behavior can be treated successfully with vision therapy. Many parents notice significant lasting behavioral improvement within a few short months of intensive vision therapy.

If you’re located in Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD and you suspect that your child may have a learning-related vision problem that affects behavior, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

vision therapy for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Can vision therapy treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)?

Many children who have displayed symptoms of attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) have experienced relief or improvement from those symptoms by undergoing an intensive and comprehensive vision therapy or vision training program.

However, that does not mean vision therapy treats or cures attention deficit disorders. It means that ADD/ADHD is often misdiagnosed, and many of the symptoms of visual processing problems or vision disorders mimic the signs and symptoms of ADD/ADHD.

Click here to watch a video on how an undiagnosed vision problem could be interfering with your child’s ability to learn or stay on task.

A pediatric psychiatrist or pediatrician may have suggested a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and prescribed Adderall, Ritalin, or another medication. As a parent, if your child does have ADD/ADHD, you want to ensure he or she gets the best treatment possible to feel better and learn effectively. However, you also don’t want your child to be labeled incorrectly or medicated unnecessarily.

So it is important for you to be aware of signs that could indicate a vision problem but are often misattributed to attention or behavioral problems, including:

  • Daydreaming, appearing distracted, or staring off into space
  • Looking away from the paper or assignment often
  • Seeming to have a short attention span or quick loss of interest
  • Antsiness or fidgeting
  • Getting up from seat at inappropriate times
  • Disruptive behavior or “acting out”
  • Talking during instruction time or distracting other students
  • Losing place while reading, skipping words or lines, seemingly due to carelessness
  • Forgetting material just learned
  • Difficulty staying on task or focused
  • Starting but not completing tasks
  • Scoring better on the beginning of tests and progressively worse towards the end, seemingly due to distractedness or loss of interest
  • Social awkwardness, missing social cues about politeness and personal space, and resulting trouble getting along with peers

Each of these symptoms could indicate ADD/ADHD, but they could also point to a vision problem.

Most educators or parents never suspect vision, usually because typical vision screenings and exams only test for clear eyesight at a distance, not other problems. You may only suspect something else might be at the root of the behavior when a child does not improve with treatment for attention deficit disorder.

But what does vision have to do with attention and behavior?

If children are dealing with problems such as oculomotor dysfunction, amblyopia, visual processing disorders, convergence insufficiency, or other functional vision problems, these signs could be either direct indications or coping and avoidance behaviors.

When a student has a learning-related vision problem or weak visual processing skills, the extra effort required to keep his eyes focused, aligned, turned correctly, and visually process what he is learning is especially taxing. Tasks that are easy and come naturally for peers can cause fatigue, headaches, and frustration.

Because of the strain of functional vision problems, students may choose to rest their eyes by looking away from their paper frequently or staring into space. Because they become agitated, they may fidget or move around, preferring activities that do not require as much stress on the visual system. And because they are often unaware that the way their vision system functions is different from others’ and because they can’t articulate that they are experiencing problems, they tend to “act out” with disruptive behavior or distract fellow classmates.

Often, the child does not know that something is wrong; he is simply adapting to his environment and expectations as best he can.

Click here to download our free guide on 10 things you should know about vision.

The good news is, if a child does have a vision problem, rather than ADD/ADHD, vision therapy can help. As our vision therapy success stories illustrate, a personalized intensive vision therapy program can result in significant and lasting improvement within a relatively short period of time.

We want to emphasize that not all attention problems are related to vision. Your child may be experiencing problems that are psychological, neurological, environmental, nutritional, related to auditory processing, or any number of factors. Vision therapy only helps with attention and behavioral problems if a child has a learning-related or functional vision problem.

We encourage you to watch this video about learning-related vision problems to learn more.

If you suspect your child has a vision problem that may be affecting his or her learning, attention, or behavior, schedule a comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist today.

For a functional vision exam and vision therapy in Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment today.


Can vision problems affect my child’s life outside of school?

While many vision problems are first suspected in a school setting or learning environment when a child has difficulty with reading, writing, math, or engages in disruptive classroom behavior, vision problems can also significantly affect the child’s life outside of school.

If a child has a visual processing issue, seemingly simple tasks may be more difficult for him than other children. He may struggle to learn how to tie his shoes, match his socks, or follow demonstrated instructions. You might notice that he has trouble remembering his own address, phone number, or retelling stories about something he watched on television or experienced.

Vision problems also affect social interaction. Your child might appear awkward, clumsy, or other children may complain that he is invading their personal space, because he has trouble with spatial and body awareness and depth perception. The other children might treat him differently because he has developed coping habits, such as constantly rubbing his eyes, squinting, or tilting his head, or because he often complains of headaches or nausea. He may become distracted while talking or ignore the rhythm of a conversation and other social cues. Children or other parents might unfairly judge this behavior as unmannerly or inconsiderate.

In addition to learning difficulties, vision problems can affect physical activity as well. A child with an untreated vision problem may perform poorly in sports due to clumsiness, poor hand-eye coordination, inability to focus, or skewed depth perception. They may be picked last for teams; or the the other children may leave them out of games or tease them.

At home, a child’s untreated vision problems may contribute to stress in the household. Homework can consume hours of family time. Parents often become frustrated or angry with a child if he keeps getting in trouble at school or ‘acting out’ with friends or siblings. Particularly if parents did well in school or sports, they may not be able to relate to their child’s struggles and suspect that their child is not trying or that he’s just ‘bad.’

Dealing with difficulty in school, awkwardness in social settings, poor performance in physical activities, and strained relationships with parents is a lot for a child to handle. While children with other learning disabilities may excel in sports or sociability, vision problems interfere more often beyond the classroom. Falling behind academically and being treated differently by peers and adults can lead to low self-esteem and withdrawal.

Fortunately, a personalized vision therapy program treats visual processing problems. Vision therapy, also known as vision training, is likely to significantly improve performance in academic, athletic, and social settings. In fact, one of the first benefits of vision therapy parents often report is that their child’s self-esteem improves dramatically shortly after starting a vision therapy program.

Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center treats visual processing problems with individualized vision therapy programs in our Olney, MD office, convenient to Silver Spring. Contact us today to schedule a comprehensive exam and consultation.

What Appears to be Attention Deficit Disorder Could be a Vision Problem

Have you received a note from school saying your son or daughter is having difficulty paying attention? Did your child’s teacher or counselor recommend testing for attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD)?

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, trouble reading, and difficulty staying on task or following instructions.

Your pediatrician or a pediatric psychiatrist might have diagnosed your child with attention deficit disorder and prescribed medication, such as Ritalin or Adderall.  No parent wants this diagnosis for their child or to medicate their child unnecessarily. But if a child truly has attention deficit disorder, caring parents want what’s best, so the child can improve, learn, settle down, behave, feel more in control, and get along better with peers. If a child does have ADD/ADHD, proper treatment can work wonders.

However, some children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder, when the symptoms they are experiencing are actually related to a vision disorder. Many parents only learn that vision can be at the root of the problem when a child’s behavior and attention does not improve with treatment for attention deficit disorder.

Vision is not usually suspected. Suggestions that a vision problem could be to blame are often initially dismissed; because after all, most children undergo vision screening at school or have an annual exam by their family eye doctor. The child either has “20/20 vision” or he already wears corrective lenses.

However, “20/20 vision” is not enough, as it simply indicates that a patient can see clearly at 20 feet of distance. It does not test how well the child can see close up, how eyes function when they move across a page or from a desk to the board and back again. Screening for 20/20 eye sight also does not assess how well visual processing works, meaning there is no measurement of how well the child is able to remember or make sense of what he sees.

In fact, the eye chart test only catches a small percentage of vision problems. Unfortunately, screening for distance only is outdated and inadequate, considering the tasks and learning activities children need to complete in school.

When a child has a learning-related vision problem and his visual processing skills are weak, he must put forth a tremendous amount of extra effort just to keep his eyes turned correctly, focused, aligned, and recall or process what he is learning. This extra effort can cause fatigue, headaches, and unease.

As a result of experiencing visual difficulties, the child may choose to stare into space, respond to irritability by moving around or choosing an activity that does not cause as much stress on his visual system, or react to his frustration with disruptive behavior. What appears to be daydreaming, distraction, or ‘acting out’ may simply be avoidance or coping behaviors. He does not understand that something is wrong; he is simply adapting to his environment and expectations as best he can.

If your child’s attention or behavioral problem is resulting from a vision deficiency, the good news is a personalized intensive vision therapy program can result in significant and lasting improvement within a relatively short period of time.

To be clear, not all attention problems are related to vision. A child may be dealing with neurological, psychological, nutritional, environmental, auditory processing, or any number of factors. Vision therapy only helps with attention and behavioral problems if a child has a vision problem.

To determine if your child has a vision problem that may be affecting his attention or behavior, he should undergo a functional vision exam and through vision assessment by an optometrist that specializes in functional and developmental vision care.

If you suspect a vision problem, or you want to rule out a vision problem in your child, and you live near Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD, contact us to schedule an appointment with the Visual Learning Center.

Can an attention problem actually be a vision problem?

Many parents question their child’s attention span. When a child will not sit still, stay focused on a task long enough to complete it, stares into space too often, hops from subject to subject, jumps from activity to activity, or simply appears to have too much energy, the child’s spirited behavior can go from charming to concerning to, in some cases, alarming.

Could there be a problem with your child’s attention span?

You may wonder how long a normal attention span is, begin to compare your child’s attention span to those of their friends, and you may even start to suspect that your child has an attention problem, such as Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Attention disorder diagnoses have become commonplace. However, most parents, teachers, and even trained psychologists and other professionals are unaware that childhood behavior that appears to be an attention problem could actually be caused by a vision problem in disguise.

Unfortunately, many parents only begin looking for alternative causes to attention problems when diagnosis, treatment, and medication for ADD/ADHD does not improve a child’s behavior or performance in school. This is because awareness about learning-related and behavioral-related vision problems is not as widely spread as knowledge of attention deficit disorders.

Attention is the ability to focus consciousness on a task. Studies show attention is the most essential factor for academic success; and in order for a student to be successful, he or she must first come to attention and then maintain attention on the task at hand. In school, these attention requirements largely involve strong visual processing skills.

What does attention have to do with vision?

The ability to stay on a task is often adversely affected by poor visual processing skills. If a child is unable to keep his or her eyes aimed properly, for prolonged periods, comfortably and easily, this deficit in the functioning of their eyes and visual processing system can interfere with their ability to maintain attention.

When visual processing skills are weak, the effort a student must put forth to keep their eyes turned correctly, aligned, and focused can cause unease, fatigue, and headaches. It’s easier and more natural for the child to give up on a task that requires sustained focus and move on to an activity that allows for more sporadic and unfocused eye movement. Talking in class and moving around the room causes far less frustration for them than aiming their eyes at the text on a paper in front of them, on a screen, or on the board.

Unable to enjoy the ease many of their peers experience in remaining focused on a visual task, a student may choose to doodle, talk in class, act out, or cause disruptions. So what looks like ADD/ADHD could very well be the result of a vision problem.

Research shows visual attention skills can be dramatically improved with intense, one-on-one vision training, also known as vision therapy.

In Olney, MD and convenient to Silver Spring and surrounding areas, Dr. Philip Nicholson, OD’s Visual Learning Center provides comprehensive evaluations to determine if your child might significantly benefit from vision therapy.