Tag Archives: ADD/ADHD

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.

Teacher Appreciation Week: How Vision Therapy Can Help Teachers

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and we want to express a big thank you to all of the teachers who support students in the classroom. At the Visual Learning Center, we work daily with children who have struggled in school due to learning-related vision problems, sometimes for years before receiving a diagnosis; and their caring, patient, and skilled teachers deserve appreciation for their dedication to each child’s success.

Classroom teachers serve as our allies and partners in vision therapy, so we wish to celebrate their service to the community and welcome the opportunity offer our support in return.

When a child has difficulty in school — particularly if parents feel confident that their child is smart — teachers sometimes endure undue blame. Parents are understandably frustrated when a child performs poorly and may assume the teacher should know what to do to improve their child’s performance.

Teachers are educated in a wide variety of subject matter, teaching methods, and classroom management skills; and they receive training in detecting possible learning disabilities and special needs. However, the majority of teachers are unaware of how common learning-related vision problems are, and most teachers simply do not know how to recognize the symptoms.

Once teachers learn about how vision affects learning, they begin to recognize vision problems in their classroom right away and realize this is something they have been dealing with for years.

So, how can teachers get the help they need?

First, they have to be able to recognize vision symptoms that may affect learning, such as:

  • Squinting while reading near or far
  • Rubbing eyes continuously throughout the day
  • Rubbing temple or forehead and complaining of headaches
  • Complaints of dizziness or motion sickness
  • Skipping words or losing place while reading
  • Confusing similar words
  • Reversing letters
  • Easily distracted, inattentive, unable to stay on task
  • Disruptive behavior, especially after expressing frustration with work
  • Poor hand-eye coordination, depth perception, or awkwardness and clumsiness
  • Performs noticeably better orally than written

As you may recognize, many of these symptoms can also indicate learning disabilities, dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, or even health problems; and consequently, misdiagnosis is common. A possible vision problem is often overlooked.

If you are a teacher, you can expect that parents may dismiss your suggestion that their child has a vision problem because he or she has “20/20 eyesight.”  It is important for teachers to understand that the vision problems that affect learning are not usually detected during routine vision screenings at school or typical vision exams with the family’s eye doctor.

Typical vision exams only test for eye sight, or vision clarity at a distance. However, vision involves an entire vision processing system — the coordination of eye muscles and the brain.

A healthy vision system can function well over prolonged periods of time in a classroom setting; but if the child has a vision problem, he will grow tired and frustrated, not understanding why he has so much trouble doing tasks that seem easy for his peers. So a child with vision problems might seem to give up, have low self-esteem, or act out as a result.

Once a child is properly diagnosed by an optometrist who specializes in functional and developmental vision care, he can take part in an intensive individualized vision therapy program, which is likely to bring about remarkably fast and long-term results.

To learn more about vision and vision therapy, download our free guide, watch our webinar, and see our resources for teachers and parents.

If you are a teacher in Olney, Silver Spring, or the surrounding area, invite Dr. Philip Nicholson to speak at your school or association. Click here to learn more.