Category Archives: Vision Therapy

can vision therapy be done at home

Can vision therapy be done at home?

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

Vision therapy is a treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and visual perceptual-cognitive deficiencies that interfere with learning. You can think of vision therapy (sometimes called vision training) as something akin to physical therapy for the visual system. Vision therapy helps children with learning-related vision problems develop or improve visual skills, abilities, and efficiencies.

The only way to properly diagnose a learning-related vision problem is by undergoing a comprehensive vision screening by a developmental optometrist trained in functional vision care. 

In a comprehensive vision screening, the doctor will use equipment such as prisms and Visigraph infrared monitoring devices that are not used in routine eye exams. During the exam, they will test for visual skills including:

  • visual perceptual or visual processing skills such as visual discrimination, visualization, and visual memory
  • accommodation facility (focusing)
  • lateral vergence facility (lateral eye alignment and speed)
  • vertical vergence ranges (vertical eye alignment)
  • eye movement while the child is reading or answering questions that require comprehension

If your child is diagnosed with a vision problem, an individualized vision therapy treatment program, under the supervision of a specially trained optometrist, can significantly improve or correct the visual deficiency.

At the Visual Learning Center, which offers vision therapy in Olney, Maryland, patients are prescribed an intensive program to treat their specific diagnosis. Each individualized program includes sets of exercises and activities to be done under the guidance of a trained vision therapist who monitors and tracks progress.

In-office sessions provide a controlled environment in which adjustments are made as needed. Some vision therapy exercises can be done at home; however, relying only on self-prescribed eye exercises can lead to eye-strain, discomfort, irritability, nausea, and exacerbation or regression of symptoms. So use caution, be patient, and monitor the child closely.

We strongly encourage patients who are under the care of a trained optometrist to supplement a personalized program or in-office treatment with additional practice at home.

The following vision therapy exercises can be done at home:

Discrimination Orientation Arrows (DOA) is a vision therapy exercise that develops visual discrimination — a skill essential in determining correct letter orientation.  

Children with poor visual discrimination skills tend to reverse letters, so this exercise mimics the process of selecting a direction for each letter while writing.  With practice, they will begin to catch mistakes faster and more easily, reduce the frequency of errors, and dramatically boost their self-esteem.

Watch the video below for a demonstration of the Discrimination Orientation Arrows activity in progress. Download your own activity board here.


The Stickman Activity aims to improve eye movement skills and visual processing skills.

Doing this activity can improve laterality and directionality, which are skills required for reading, writing and recognizing direction and orientation of words and letters. This activity can also improve figure-ground perception, which is necessary to distinguish an image or text relative to its context or background. Additionally, the activity can enhance visual concentration, which is a skill that allows the eyes to fixate attention for a long enough period of time to read and comprehend.

Watch the video below for a demonstration. Download your Stickman Activity packet here.


Letter Tracking Activities are designed to improve eye movement skills and visual processing skills.

Visual discrimination is a perceptual process that involves the ability to correctly identify basic features of a visual stimulus, such as text. Discrimination enables a child to see and identify shape, size, orientation, and color.

Poor visual discrimination skills cause a child to skip letters or words when reading and have problems with laterality and directionality.

Watch the video below for a demonstration. Download a Letter Tracking Activity packet here.


The letter tracking activity is useful to reduce writing and common reading problems caused by poor visual discrimination.

For vision therapy in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us for an appointment.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

Will Vision Therapy Make Your Child a Better Reader?

Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center
offers Vision Therapy in Olney, MD near Silver Spring.

Vision therapy is a treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. You can think of vision therapy (sometimes called vision training) as something akin to physical therapy for the visual system–your eyes and brain.

If a child is struggling to read because of a learning disability, dyslexia, developmental delay, or attention deficit disorder, vision therapy is not the answer.

However, many parents, teachers, occupational therapists, and even family eye doctors, are unaware that the signs and symptoms of visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies often mimic other common childhood challenges to reading.

If your child has an undetected vision problem, reading can be difficult, and vision therapy can help.

An eye movement disorder may cause your child to reverse letters, skip lines or words, or strain to maintain focus. A visual processing problem may cause your child to confuse words, be unable to recall words they just learned or read, or be unable to create a mental picture in their mind of the material they are trying to comprehend.

Successful vision therapy requires following an intensive individualized program. Each session will include procedures that are designed to enhance the brain’s ability to effectively control learning-related functional vision problems, such as eye tracking (smooth movement), eye teaming (coordinated movement), eye focusing, or visual processing deficiencies.

The visual functions and abilities that vision therapy treats come as second nature to people without vision problems. For example, if a child already moves and focuses his eyes easily without extra effort, vision therapy exercises aren’t going to help him read better. But if a child is straining to keep his eyes focused and turned correctly, vision therapy can improve the child’s ability to read.

In vision therapy, a patient uses specialized computer and optical devices, including therapeutic lenses, prisms, and filters, to develop greater visual-motor skills and endurance.

As the patient makes progress, during the final stages of therapy, their newly acquired visual skills are reinforced and made automatic through repetition and by integration with motor and cognitive skills.

Vision Therapy Success Story 6

Watch this webinar to learn more about how vision affects learning and discover how a vision problem may be interfering with your child’s ability to read.

The only way to determine if vision therapy would help your child become a better reader is to have him or her undergo a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

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

boy with glasses

What Vision Therapy Can and Cannot Treat

Vision therapy helps children with vision problems develop or improve visual skills, abilities, and efficiencies. If your child is diagnosed with a functional vision problem or visual processing disorder, an individualized vision therapy treatment program, under the supervision of an optometrist trained in developmental and functional vision care, can significantly improve or correct the visual deficiency.

Some visual conditions cannot be treated adequately with just glasses, contact lenses, patching, or surgery. When appropriate, these conditions are best resolved through a program of vision therapy.

Effective vision therapy is an individualized treatment program designed to correct visual-motor and/or perceptual-cognitive deficiencies. Sessions include procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to control eye focusing, eye teaming, eye tracking, or visual processing.

Click here for 9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem

Here are are just a few examples of conditions that affect vision and interfere with learning, which can be treated successfully with vision therapy:

Accommodative (focusing) dysfunction

A child with an accommodative disorder has trouble using his eye muscles appropriately to bring an object into focus clearly or to maintaining focus for a sustained period of time. The muscles that focus the lenses in our eyes have to adjust quickly (and often) to see various points of visual interest clearly, or sustain that clear focus over a period of time, without vision becoming fuzzy or blurred. Vision therapy can treat accommodative disorders successfully.

Amblyopia (lazy eye)

A child with amblyopia has reduced vision in one eye because normal and healthy connections between the child’s eyes and brain did not form correctly during developmental stages. The deficiency causes the brain to favor one eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye. Vision therapy can treat amblyopia successfully.


Strabismus is a condition in which the eye is either constantly or intermittently turned – usually inward or outward (often the cause of amblyopia). In a child with strabismus or other similar alignment problems the eye that points straighter becomes dominant. In severe cases, surgery may be required, but vision therapy can treat strabismus successfully.

Convergence insufficiency

Convergence is the ability to aim one’s eyes at a near distance, and children with a healthy visual system are able to aim their eyes naturally and easily.Convergence insufficiency is a medical condition in which the brain has trouble accurately, efficiently, and comfortably coordinating the eye muscles to see properly for a prolonged period of time at reading distance. Vision therapy can treat convergence insufficiency successfully.

Visual Processing Deficiencies

Normal visual processing requires a complex system of neurological activity to be developed and functioning properly. Many children lack good visual processing skills. Because of a delay in development or disorder, their vision system has trouble computing visual input, leading to problems with visual-motor integration and speed, visualization, visual memory, and more. Vision therapy can treat visual processing problems successfully.

Unfortunately, a lot of children continue to struggle unnecessarily due to undetected vision problems that can be treated successfully with vision therapy. However, one reason so many vision problems go undiagnosed is that they often resemble similar problems that cannot be treated with vision therapy. As parents discover the remarkable results achieved in vision therapy programs, it’s important to understand that vision therapy is not a miracle cure for untreatable conditions.

Some examples of conditions that vision therapy does not treat include:

Myopia, Hyperopia, Astigmatism

Vision therapy does not treat nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism. Children with these common condition, which blur vision, are prescribed eyeglasses or contact lenses to optically correct the problem, by altering the way in which light enters the eyes. Myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism are all caused by an irregularity in the length of the eyeball itself or curvature of the cornea, and therefore cannot be corrected by vision therapy. (Note: Vision therapy is sometimes confused with the Bates Method or the See Clearly Method which do not have the same scientific basis or reputation as vision therapy.)


Vision therapy does not cure dyslexia. the signs and symptoms of dyslexia and learning-related vision problems practically mimic each other, with subtle differences. Even a professional trained to recognize dyslexia may not suspect a vision deficiency without proper awareness. Dyslexia cannot be cured, though many learn to cope with it well and succeed; however, learning-related vision deficiencies that have symptoms similar to dyslexia can be treated and even eliminated by vision therapy. Click here to learn more.

Unrelated Learning Disabilities or Developmental Delays

Vision therapy does not eliminate 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. Many children diagnosed with learning disabilities and developmental delays also struggle with vision problems. If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and he or she is not making expected progress from working with an occupational therapist or in another type of early learning developmental therapy, it could be due to an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD)

Vision therapy is not an antidote for ADD/ADHD, as it does not directly treat impulsivity, hyperactivity, or inattentiveness. However, some children are misdiagnosed with attention deficit disorder when the symptoms they display are actually related to a vision disorder. 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, difficulty staying on task, or following instructions. If the child has a vision problem, he may be diverting his eyes to avoid strain, “acting out” due to frustration, or coping by avoiding tasks; but if the problem is unrelated to vision, vision therapy will not help.

Test Performance in Children with Healthy Vision

In the competitive environment of an educational system that relies heavily on standardized testing, some parents look for creative methods to give their child an edge. You may have learned that vision therapy has helped a friend’s child improve test scores or grades and wonder if your child’s performance in school could be boosted by vision therapy too. Vision therapy does not improve performance in school or tests for children who do not have vision disorders. However, many children could benefit from following these tips to ease eye strain.

When your child is having trouble in school or difficulty learning, it can be confusing and troubling for you as a parent.

Learn more about how vision affects learning by watching this webinar for parents.

Fortunately, vision therapy addresses and treats learning-related vision problems that might be holding your child back. But the first step is always to determine if your child does indeed have a vision problem.

So check for these 9 signs; and if you suspect a problem, schedule a comprehensive vision exam by an optometrist who specializes in functional and developmental vision care right away.

If you are located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us for an appointment.

How Vision Therapy Helps Children With Amblyopia (Lazy Eye)

If a child has amblyopia (sometimes referred to as “lazy eye”), it means he or she struggles with reduced vision in one eye because the brain and the eye are not working together and functioning as they should.

Amblyopia occurs because something blocked or blurred vision during the child’s developmental stages, so as a result, normal and healthy connections between the child’s eyes and brain did not form correctly. The deficiency causes the brain to favor one eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye.

In a patient with amblyopia, the suppressed eye itself tends to be healthy; but because the brain is favoring the other eye, the affected eye is not being used.

As a parent, teacher, or occupational therapist, it is important to note that many children who have amblyopia do not actually complain of vision problems. They have adapted or grown accustomed to favoring one dominant eye.

If you notice your child tilting his head or closing one eye in order to see, this is often a tell tale sign of amblyopia. You may also be able to observe that your child’s eyes are not aligned, that they are not moving together as a team, or that one eye is turning inward, wandering outward, upward, or downward.

Other common symptoms include poor depth perception, clumsiness, and squinting. Your child may complain of eyestrain or headaches. Amblyopia can make it difficult for a child to catch a ball or perform well in sports. At school, he may have trouble with near work or struggle to copy from the board.

Most commonly, amblyopia is caused by strabismus, which is a misalignment of the eyes. With strabismus, the eye is either constantly or intermittently turned–usually inward or outward. Rather than strain to adjust the misaligned images, the eye that points straighter becomes dominant.

If misalignment is not the cause, amblyopia may also occur if there is a significant difference between the two eyes. For example, one eye may not be able to focus as well as the other eye, the affected eye may be more farsighted or nearsighted than the other, there may be an anatomic block such as a droopy eyelid, or one eye may have more astigmatism than the other eye. Rather than strain to compensate for the less competent eye, again, the brain begins to favor one eye over the other.

Early detection of amblyopia is important. If left untreated, the brain will eventually ignore vision in the eye that is affected. Without proper attention by a trained optometrist who specializes in developmental and functional vision care, amblyopia will cause persistent vision problems.

If your child’s amblyopia is caused by a severe eye turn, surgery may be suggested; however this is uncommon and it’s usually an outpatient procedure. If one eye sees significantly more clearly than the other, eyeglasses are prescribed. Usually, a combination of eye patching, eye drops, and vision therapy exercises lead to significant improvement in patients with amblyopia, particularly if the condition is caught early.

If you suspect that your child has amblyopia, schedule a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist today.

The purpose of vision therapy exercises in amblyopic children is to strengthen overall vision by correcting the way the brain processes visual images. Vision therapy exercises are designed to force the brain to pay attention to the suppressed images seen by the weaker or amblyopic eye.

At the Visual Learning Center, our vision therapy programs for amblyopia are based in the best scientific research available in the field of vision and learning, and our methods are continually modified to incorporate new scientific data to achieve the best results. Each individualized session includes procedures designed to enhance the brain’s ability to properly control the whole vision system and targets your child’s specific deficiency.

If your family is local to Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us to schedule a functional vision exam with developmental optometrist, Dr. Philip Nicholson here


Vision Therapy: How to Improve Vision Skills at Home

Vision Therapy helps children with functional vision problems, often resulting in dramatic improvement in their ability to overcome the visual deficiencies and the special challenges they face. With the help of vision therapy, children with vision disorders experience significant improvements in reading, writing, spelling, math, classroom behavior, sports, social skills, and more.  

To learn more about functional vision problems and vision therapy watch this webinar for parents.

Effective vision therapy includes an individualized and intensive program, in which patients work closely with trained therapists under the supervision of an optometrist who specializes in developmental and functional vision care.

One-on-one attention allows for immediate feedback that enables your child to actually recognize the difference in his or her performance, quickly improve self-esteem, and make significant progress in a relatively short period of time.

Your child’s vision therapy program should target and train skills that are most likely to have an impact on the unique learning and academic difficulties he or she is facing. The immediate goal should be to develop meaningful skills that will be used in daily activities, so that they will retain skills over the longterm.

Once you notice the improvement your child makes in vision therapy, you may wonder what you can do to enhance their progress at home.

At the Visual Learning Center, we encourage parental involvement and we require practice outside of office visits. Practicing at home is a cost-effective way to reinforce repetitious procedures and help transfer learned skills to everyday use.

We believe practicing at home contributes to the results our families are able to enjoy together, and parents report that it helps to mend and strengthen the relationship with a child that has been strained due to “homework wars” and getting into trouble at school (for “acting out” due to vision-related frustrations).

Click HERE to download our list of fun, age-appropriate activities that you can do at home with your child. This guide also includes a list of games, online resources, and apps.

Download (3-pages)

Download (3-pages)

Remember that these activities are intended to enhance a vision therapy program, not replace it. If you suspect your child has a learning-related vision problem, first contact a developmental optometrist to schedule a comprehensive functional vision exam. Only a trained professional can develop an appropriate course of treatment.

For even more activities, visit our resource center here.

If you you are located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s office to schedule a functional vision exam today.

Children Diagnosed with Developmental Delays May Also Have Undetected Vision Problems

Many children diagnosed with “developmental delays” also struggle with vision problems; and often parents learn that their child has an accompanying vision problem even after their family eye doctor assured them them that the child’s eyes are normal and healthy, with no need for corrective lenses.

To better understand why your family eye doctor did not detect a vision problem, read this article.

If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and he or she is not making expected progress from working with an occupational therapist or in another type of early learning developmental therapy, it could be due to an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

Vision is so closely related to learning, that nearly every aspect of a child’s development can be slowed or affected by visual system deficiencies or delays. While a typical eye exam may find that a child sees clearly and has healthy eyes, only a thorough vision exam by a developmental optometrist trained in functional vision can properly detect the types of learning-related vision problems that could be interfering with your child’s progress.

To learn more about how vision relates to learning and child development, download this guide and watch this free webinar for parents.

Problems often attributed simply to “developmental delays” in young children that could be caused by or exacerbated by problems with the visual system include:

  • balance and clumsiness
  • gross and fine motor skills
  • poor eye contact
  • paying attention
  • hyperactivity
  • “acting out” and signs of frustration

Most learning-related vision problems are not detected until a child is older, and performance lags in reading, comprehension, writing, spelling, testing, and classroom behavior. However, younger children that have been diagnosed with developmental delays, who are working with other therapists, can benefit from early detection and early intervention. In addition to physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech language therapy, for example, the child can also enter a vision therapy program and make significant progress. A multidisciplinary team approach is often an answer.

If you suspect your child may have a learning-related vision problem, talk to your child’s doctor, teacher, or therapist about your concerns. Show them our resource center for teachers and this article for Occupational Therapists. However, keep in mind that this information may be new to these professionals as well, and you will want to explore all avenues that can support your child’s growth.

The only way to know for sure if your child with developmental delays can benefit from vision therapy is to get a proper diagnoses by scheduling a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist.

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


child in occupational therapy session

3 Vision Problems Occupational Therapists Can Recognize When Working with Patients

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.

To learn more about signs and symptoms of functional vision problems, download our free guide “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision” here and watch our recorded webinar on vision here.

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.


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.  

gifted student with a learning-related vision problem

Could Your Gifted Child Have a Learning-Related Vision Problem?


Vision problems are often initially suspected when a child performs poorly in school or below grade level on standardized tests; however, there is another population of children that can be easily overlooked if we focus primarily low grades and test scores as indicators of possible vision deficiencies. Because abilities are individual and measurements in school are typically relative, gifted and talented students with vision problems may still be able to get better grades and scores than their classmates.

When a student earns relatively good grades and scores well on assessments, parents and educators may be less likely to notice a vision problem. Instead, when the child doesn’t perform quite as well as expected, he is perhaps even more likely than his classmates to be accused of laziness or not applying himself.

Gifted students with vision problems are often adept at compensating for their deficiencies. They use strong abstract reasoning skills to develop strategies to work around their problems. They tend to catch on quickly, figure out how something should be done, verbally express well-reasoned answers easily, and offer up quick-witted ideas and thoughts to illustrate that they obviously understand the material.

Compensating for a learning-related vision problem, however, can be just as troublesome for a gifted student as other children with learning-related vision problems. Attempting to always perform up to their parents’ and teachers’ elevated expectations can lead to fatigue, headaches, emotional, and behavioral problems. Their self-esteem can be affected, because they are aware of their intelligence level, recognize that they grasp concepts more easily than their classmates, and are cognizant of their tendency to think in complex ways; however, they may not understand why they are not able to consistently outperform or compete with their peers.

To cope, gifted students with vision problems may use sarcasm, physically display exaggerated boredom, and play off of the idea that they are “smarter” than the other students in order to avoid work. Parents and teachers often suspect attention deficit disorder, because the child appears to have trouble paying attention and may exhibit what they perceive as tell-tale ADHD behavioral problems.

It is important for parents to understand that while giftedness is recognized early as a form of developmental advancement associated with certain intellectual strengths, bright students face learning challenges too. When a child is not performing at his expected potential, it is time to pay attention, get the appropriate assessments, and find the help he or she needs.

For a better understanding of how vision is related to learning, click here.

For a list of signs and symptoms associated with learning-related vision problems, click here.

If you suspect that your gifted child may have a learning-related vision problem, contact a developmental optometrist and schedule a functional vision exam right away. Unfortunately, gifted students often fall through the cracks of the education system, as attention and resources are directed towards students who are unable to perform on level.

The good news is, with an individualized vision therapy program, significant progress can be made within a relatively short period of time, and your gifted child can begin achieving at a rate aligned with her potential.

If you are in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center for a comprehensive assessment today.

Philip Nicholson, O.D.

Q&A With Dr. Nicholson: Will my child outgrow vision problems without vision therapy?

Untreated vision problems nearly always last a lifetime. When a child is diagnosed with a vision problem by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care, it is important for that child’s long-term success and self-confidence to receive the best possible treatment. At the Visual Learning Center in Olney, MD, we provide a unique vision therapy treatment program for each patient’s individual needs to ensure optimal improvement and lasting results.

Without vision therapy, unfortunately, your child will most likely not outgrow vision problems, but instead struggle throughout school and eventually learn accommodation techniques to adapt to their environment and meet their needs.

Coping skills appear different, depending on the specific eye movement disorder or visual processing skills deficiency each child has.

For example, your child may use avoidance tactics, such as listening to auditory books rather than having to read text.

If your child has problems with accommodation — changing focus from near to far at will, which is an essential skill for copying notes from a board — he or she may ask for notes from a teacher or classmate.

If your child suffers from frequent eye strain or headaches from looking at material at near-point, he or she will learn to take a visual break and allow eyes to rest every few minutes. Head tilting, squinting, or moving the paper or book around are also common coping behaviors.

Children are naturally adaptable and resourceful; so many will take the necessary steps to avoid embarrassment and perform at their best. It is also important to remember that if the child is not aware that he has a vision problem, he may not even be conscious of coping behaviors.

While these examples may seem like good solutions for troublesome issues, they are like placing Band-Aids over much more serious underlying problems. Your child will most likely never be able to perform at his or her true potential when these detours slow them down; and when it comes to academic performance, what parent does not want their child to achieve their best?

Take a look at our vision therapy success stories to learn more about how vision therapy can lead to significant and lasting improvement in a relatively short period of intensive treatment.

If you suspect your child might have a vision problem that would benefit from vision therapy, and you are in the Olney, MD area, convenient to Silver Spring, MD, contact us today to schedule an appointment.