Dyslexia or Learning Disability Diagnosis? Get a Second Opinion from a Developmental Optometrist

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

Has your child been diagnosed with dyslexia or a learning disability? You may want to get a second opinion from a developmental optometrist.

When a child has trouble with reading, learning, or test performance, teachers and parents often suspect a learning disability or dyslexia. However, what appears to be a learning disability might actually be an undiagnosed learning-related functional vision problem that can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Although parents would rather their child not have to face the challenges of living with a learning disability, sometimes a diagnosis can come as a relief. Now that you’ve identified the problem, you can begin working with specialists who can help your child develop healthy and productive coping strategies.

But if your child’s diagnosis is not correct, they could be struggling unnecessarily with a condition that is treatable with vision therapy.

Here’s why so many children are misdiagnosed:

  • Standard eye exams and vision screenings will not detect learning-related vision problems. So, unfortunately, many children are misdiagnosed with learning challenges without ever undergoing a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist trained in functional vision care.

  • The signs and symptoms learning-related vision problems practically mimic dyslexia and other learning disabilities, sometimes with only subtle differences.

  • Most teachers, educational specialists, and occupational therapists have never been trained to recognize the symptoms of learning-related vision problems. They receive training in detecting possible learning disabilities and other special needs. However, the majority of education professionals are unaware of how common learning-related vision problems are.

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that indicates a person’s brain is “wired” differently. Children with learning disabilities are no less intelligent than their classmates, but they may have difficulty learning through conventional teaching methods. A child with a learning disability may struggle with reading, writing, math, organizing information, memory, or with reasoning skills.

Examples of learning disabilities include auditory processing disorders (difficulty understanding spoken language), dysgraphia (difficulty with writing), dyslexia (difficulty understanding written language), dyscalculia (difficulty with math problems and concepts), and nonverbal disabilities (difficulty with spatial and facial cues).

Learning-related vision problems may present almost identically to some learning disorders. But many vision deficiencies and disorders can be significantly improved or even eliminated permanently with vision therapy.

Both a child with a learning disability and a child with a vision deficiency may:

  • Transpose, omit, substitute, and reverse words and letters when reading and writing.
  • Appear restless, fidgety, or distracted in a classroom setting or while doing homework
  • Have difficulty staying on task, paying attention, zoning out, and daydreaming
  • Have poor coordination or fine motor skills
  • Struggle with reading, writing, spelling, comprehension, and memory
  • Seem bright, articulate, and may have a high IQ, but they are unable to read, write, spell, or perform as well as expected on exams and standardized tests 
  • Learn well through hands-on experiences; dyslexics tend to be helped by being able to observe and use visual aids, but those with visual deficiencies do better with oral coaching.
  • Have difficulty with time; dyslexics have trouble with sequences and time management; those with vision problems have trouble telling time on a clock dial.

But your child might not need to learn differently. Instead, your child may need to undergo a treatment program to train and reinforce vision skills, with lasting results.

To be clear, vision therapy does not cure dyslexia, 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.

Additionally, it is important to note that many children who have learning disabilities and developmental delays also struggle with vision problems. If your child has been diagnosed with developmental delays, and they are not making expected progress from working with an occupational therapist or in another type of learning developmental therapy, it could be due to an undetected vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

The only way to rule out a vision problem is with a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

For a comprehensive exam and vision therapy in Olney, Maryland or Silver Spring, schedule an appointment with Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center.

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