Tag Archives: ADD

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.


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.

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.