Tag Archives: difficulty reading

The Little-Known Reason Some Families Dread Summer Reading Lists

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

Summer reading lists are meant to reinforce reading skills learned during the school year and inspire kids to become avid readers —  discover great stories, increase their knowledge, and expand their creativity and empathy. Reading for fun can help to set your child up for academic success, and summer can be a wonderful time for children to spend pleasurable hours curled up with a few good books.

But if a child struggles with reading, summer reading is anything but pleasurable. For some families, tackling a summer reading list is a tough battle. You may assume children who struggle to read have dyslexia, a learning disability, attention problems, or they’d simply rather be playing video games. However, many parents instinctively know something is wrong.

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

Perhaps the child is bright, imaginative, and has a strong vocabulary, but reading still stumps them. Maybe the child learned to read in Kindergarten without a problem and then fell behind their classmates as they advanced to third or fourth grade. If any of this rings true for you or someone you know, there’s a little-known reason that could be causing the reading list summertime blues — but there could be a cure.

If your child has difficulty reading, it could be due to an undiagnosed but treatable functional vision problem. Typical vision exams by your family eye doctor and school vision screenings only test for clear vision at a distance. They do not test for visual processing problems and eye movement deficiencies that can interfere with reading and learning.

Some signs that reading problems in children might be caused by a functional vision problem include:

  • Reversing letters
  • Skipping words, lines, or letters
  • Difficulty copying from the board
  • Frequent headaches
  • Dizziness while reading
  • Messy handwriting
  • Trouble watching 3-D movies
  • Behavior or attention problems
  • Poor memory and comprehension

Children with learning-related vision problems may struggle to read due to a disorder or deficiency. Examples include problems with eye tracking, eye teaming, visual processing, focusing, or memory.

Vision is comprised of three main components — reception, processing, and output; and each component of vision contains its own complex system.

  • Reception is the input function comparable to entering data into a computer. It’s the ability to see singularly, clearly, and comfortably.
  • Visual Processing is the brain’s ability to compute the information that the eyes receive. After the computer gets the data, it categorizes, manipulates, and runs it through thinking processes.
  • Output is the result of visual processing.

If any aspect of the complex system of vision doesn’t function in a normal and healthy way, it will interfere with a child’s ability to read and learn.

The good news is vision therapy can be the cure for the summertime reading blues and lead to a lifetime as a strong and confident reader.

Vision therapy (also known as vision training) quickly improves visual processing problems and eye disorders by facilitating exercises and activities that strengthen existing deficiencies within the visual processing system.

The only way to determine if a child’s reading challenges stem from a learning-related vision problem is with a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

Many children who participate in our vision therapy programs in Olney, Maryland come to us having tested below their current grade levels in reading. Upon completing therapy, they experience impressive results and reading improves significantly.

Read some of our vision training success stories to learn more about how vision therapy can help your child in reading.  

Contact us to schedule an appointment and discover how vision therapy can improve speed and accuracy of eye movements, visual concentration, letter reversals and other skills, making reading easier, faster, and more enjoyable any time of year.

Register for an upcoming webinar here.

daughter struggling with reading

7 Reasons Children With Undiagnosed Vision Problems Struggle to Read

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

Is your child struggling to read, and you don’t know why? One of the most frequent complaints by parents who visit the Visual Learning Center is that their child is having difficulty reading or reading below grade level.

This can be particularly disheartening for parents who love to read or remember fondly curling up with a good book as a child. You may have even noticed that your child seemed to read easily in Kindergarten, but then fell behind as time went on.

You sense something is wrong, but assessments and interventions for learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorders haven’t helped.

One commonly overlooked type of condition that might be interfering with your child’s ability to read could be a learning-related functional vision problem, even with “20/20” eyesight. An undiagnosed vision disorder or deficiency can make reading incredibly difficult.

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

When parents first learn that their child may potentially have a learning-related vision problem that’s interfering with their ability to read well, they usually wonder why the school’s vision screening or family eye doctor didn’t detect a problem.

The problem is routine vision screenings typically only test for the child’s ability to see clearly at a distance for a few moments. Reading requires intense and sustained focusing of the eyes for a prolonged period time, moving the eyes smoothly along lines of text, and processing of the information through the entire visual system for comprehension.

Here are 7 Reasons Children With Undiagnosed Vision Problems Struggle to Read (even with 20/20 eyesight):

They lose their place when reading.

To read, the eye jumps across the text and fixates on certain points; with each fixation, the child takes in either a whole word or part of a word while the eye is momentarily stationary. If your child has trouble with eye tracking, they will often lose their place in the text, making reading difficult.

They see letters in reverse.

Many parents assume letter reversals are always a sign of dyslexia. Letter reversals are also a common symptom of vision problems, such as eye movement disorders and visual processing deficiencies, which can make reading challenging.

Their eyes are not moving together as a team.

The ability to move, turn, and point the eyes together at the same time is called eye teaming or binocular vision skills. If a child’s eyes are not working together as a team, they may be experiencing double vision or blurry vision, which makes reading tiring.

Their eyes and brain do not work together efficiently.

Vision includes a lot more than eyesight. Vision is comprised of three main components — reception, processing, and output; and each of these main components of vision is complex. If any aspect of the complex vision system is not functioning in a normal and healthy way, this can interfere with the ability to read.

Their eyes do not stay focused.

Children with accommodative dysfunction, or trouble focusing, have difficulty maintaining a clear image for a reasonable length of time. Reading is challenging because the text grows fuzzy or blurred, and they have to strain to stay focused.

They quickly forget what they just learned or read.

Visual memory is the ability to look at something, create a mental image for that thing, and hold that picture in your mind for later recall and use. To read, a child must look at a word, recognize and recall individual letters and strings of letters, create a mental image for that word and associate it with a meaning, and hold that word picture in mind to see and retrieve later. If a child has a visual memory deficiency, the process is a struggle and it affects their ability to read.

They’re frustrated and tired.

Children with vision problems are constantly overcompensating for their deficiencies and straining, so resulting  irritability and physical symptoms are common. For this reason, the child may seem restless or “act out” with disruptive behavior. They may experience headaches or exhaustion after reading or complain that their eyes hurt, feel tired, or that their eyes are excessively dry or watery.

To detect a learning-related vision problem, your child must undergo a thorough functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care.

Once diagnosed, the good news is, an individualized vision therapy program can result in significant improvement in a relatively short period of time.

If your family is located in the Olney or Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland area, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today to schedule an appointment.

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.

Reading Problems in Children

How to Tell if Reading Problems in Children are Caused by Undetected Vision Problems

Getting to the bottom of what’s causing reading problems in children can be challenging. Parents and teachers often turn to the usual suspects: Is it a developmental disorder? Dyslexia? A learning disability? An attention deficiency?

Even reading specialists, counselors, and occupational therapists rarely suspect a vision problem to account for reading problems in children. If a student has passed a vision screening at school or with a family eye doctor, most educational professionals are trained to believe 20/20 eyesight rules out the possibility that a vision problem could be to blame for reading difficulties.

A typical eye exam only tests for clear vision at a set distance for a short period of time. But reading requires close, focused eyesight for a sustained period of time, smooth and coordinated eye movement, and the efficient processing of information through the visual system.

If this is news to you and you thought a typical eye exam eliminated the need for more testing, you’re not alone. There is simply a lack of awareness that reading problems in children are sometimes caused by undiagnosed vision disorders.

But unlike dyslexia or learning disabilities, which children can learn to cope with but cannot be cured, many learning-related vision problems can be treated successfully with vision therapy.

Signs that reading problems in children are caused by a functional vision problem include:

Frequent headaches:

If your child has difficulty reading and also frequently complains of headaches from reading, the headaches could be caused by strain due to vision problems, such as convergence insufficiency, amblyopia, or poor visual processing skills.

Dizziness while reading:

If your child struggles with reading and also complains of dizziness while reading, this could be due to accommodative dysfunction, eye tracking problems, or poor convergence or divergence skills.

Reversing letters:

If your child has trouble reading and also reverses letters when writing, it might not be dyslexia. Children with visual processing problems commonly confuse their left with their right.

Messy handwriting:

If reading is a problem for your child and your child also has messy handwriting with crooked or poorly spaced letters and words and an unusual pencil grip, this might indicate an eye tracking or eye teaming problem.

Symptoms of attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD):

If your child reads below grade level and also seems distracted, restless, has trouble staying on task, or causes disruption in class, it might not be what you think. These behaviors that mimic attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) may be due to frustration caused by vision deficiencies.

Difficulty copying from the board:

Does your child struggle to read and also seem to have trouble copying from the board, despite 20/20 eyesight? Copying from the board at school is particularly difficult for children with accommodative dysfunction, oculomotor deficiency, poor eye teaming, or visual processing problems.

Trouble with watching 3-D movies:

If your child can’t read well and also has trouble watching 3-D movies, this could indicate a potential vision problem.  To properly see 3D effects in movies, strong binocular vision is necessary. If your child has poor binocular vision with amblyopia or lazy eye, the effects will not be visible or may cause motion sickness.

These are only few of many possible symptoms that could indicate that a child’s reading problem is related to a vision problem

Click here for 9 signs your child may have an undiagnosed vision problem.

To learn more about how vision affects learning, watch our free pre-recorded webinar here.

The only real way to determine if reading problems in children are caused by a visual deficiency or disorder is to schedule a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

If your child is diagnosed with a learning-related vision problem, it can be treated successfully within a short period of time with an intensive individualized vision therapy program.

To schedule a vision exam and consultation with a developmental optometrist, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center. Services include vision training or vision therapy in Olney, MD, near Silver Spring.

child reading below grade level

Is Your Child Reading Below Grade Level?

Are you concerned that your child is reading below grade level? Many children find learning to read challenging, but some students struggle significantly more than others and fall behind their peers in their reading assessment scores.

Reading assessments measure factors such as vocabulary, decoding skills, and reading comprehension. The tests serve to identify reading competencies in individual students relative to a set standard.

When a student is considered to be reading at grade level, that child’s reading assessment score falls within the approximate range of the average score of a normalized standard sample of students in that grade level group.

When a student is considered to be reading below grade level, it generally means the child’s reading assessment score was lower than the average assessment score of students in the normalized standard sample for his grade level.

Some critics challenge the fairness of grade-level standards, arguing that the results only reflect how students performed relative to other students, rather than measuring the achievement of a certain proficiency. The relative nature of a grade-level standard does not take into account environmental factors and various advantages or disadvantages.

However, if a student is not doing as well as his peers or performing up to expectations on reading assessments, you will want to look into all possible causes.      

One common, but often overlooked, problem that may be hindering your child’s ability to read at grade level could be a functional vision problem that interferes with learning. A vision problem can cause a student to read below grade level, even with “20/20” eyesight.

Unlike typical eye exams, school standardized tests and reading assessments may require activities that are challenging for a child with a learning-related vision problem.

Routine vision screenings involve little more than testing to see if the child can see clearly at a distance for a few moments. Reading assessments and standardized tests often require intense and sustained focusing of the eyes for a prolonged period time, looking from the problem to the answer sheet repeatedly, and the ability to bubble-in answers without losing his place.

Undergoing assessments and testing for hours can intensify a problem that was not otherwise apparent during classroom or other reading activities, because the child’s eyes can become even more strained and tired than usual.

Poor visual skills that interfere with reading assessment performance include visual processing speed and accuracy, visual memory, selective concentration, visual-motor integration and speed, and visualization.

A few examples of learning-related vision problems that may cause a child to read below grade level include:

Eye tracking problems

Eye tracking skills are the eye movements we use to scan a line of text. Even in a normal healthy visual system, these movements are not smooth, left-to-right shifts. Instead, the movements are a series of “jumps” and “fixations.”

Reading requires the eye to jump across text and fixate on certain points; with each fixation, we take in either a whole word or part of a word while the eye is momentarily stationary. We decode and process each word, and then our eyes fixate on the next word and pause briefly to decode and process it.

Eye tracking problems can contribute to below grade level scores on a reading assessment.

Accommodative dysfunction:

An accommodative (eye focusing) disorder causes a person to have trouble using eye muscles efficiently to bring an object into focus clearly or to maintain focus for a sustained period of time. The muscles that focus the lenses in our eyes need to adjust often and quickly to see various visual points and planes clearly, or to sustain that clear focus over a period of time without vision becoming fuzzy or blurred.

If a child is struggling to focus his eyes during a reading assessment, he will see blurred text and slow down, contributing to a possible lower score.

Amblyopia (lazy eye)

Amblyopia causes reduced vision in one eye due to an abnormal or unhealthy connection between the child’s eyes and brain, which occurred during developmental stages. This common deficiency causes the brain to favor one eye over the other and suppresses images from the affected eye. Strabismus, for example, is a condition in which the eye is either constantly or intermittently turned, usually inward or outward, and the eye that points straight becomes dominant.

When a child’s brain preferences one eye over the other, the deficiency can cause strain or headaches, which can lead to reading below grade level.

Visual Processing Deficiencies

Many bright children lack good visual processing skills. Normal visual processing requires a complex system of neurological activity to develop and function properly. Because of a visual disorder or visual system developmental delay, a child may have trouble computing visual input, which can lead to difficulties with visual memory, visual-motor integration and speed, visualization, or other problems.

For example, visualization is the ability to create a mental image in one’s mind, which is important for processing and remembering information for comprehension. Visual memory is the ability to retain information that you have learned–to recognize and remember a word from one page to the next, and one day to the next. Reading requires the ability to create images of words and to recall words or set of words as needed.

Poor visual processing skills may cause a child to read below grade level.

To learn more about how important vision is to your child’s ability to read, download our free guide here and watch our pre-recorded webinar here.

If a vision problem is what’s preventing your child from reading at grade level, the good news is vision therapy can help.

The first step is to schedule an evaluation with a functional or developmental optometrist, trained to detect and treat learning-related vision problems, as soon as possible.

For a functional vision exam and vision therapy in Olney, Maryland or the Silver Spring area, contact the Visual Learning Center today to schedule a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Philip Nicholson and his staff.

Does your child complain of dizziness while reading?

Has your child ever complained of feeling dizzy while reading? Dizziness can have many causes, and it’s a symptom that should be taken seriously. But if you’ve noticed that your child tends to complain of mild dizziness, queasiness, malaise, or nausea, specifically when reading or doing homework, it could be due to an undiagnosed functional vision problem that can be treated with vision therapy.

If your child says, “I don’t feel well,” too often at homework time, you may assume it’s an excuse to avoid work in favor of play time. However, most parents and teachers would not know to associate complaints of dizziness while reading with a vision disorder, particularly because learning-related vision deficiencies almost always go undetected in typical vision screenings or eye doctor exams.

Click here to read 9 signs that your child could have a learning-related vision problem that may cause headaches.

Click here to watch a pre-recorded webinar to learn more about vision problems in children.

We often think of dizziness as something that stems from an inner-ear problem. Many people are aware that the inner-ear and brain work together to control balance. So you probably wouldn’t be surprised to find that your child has fluid or an infection in his ear or a problem in the vestibular system when complaining of dizziness.

In a healthy visual system, our brain and eyes also work together to maintain a stable and even visual plane, which we need in order to read efficiently. When we point our eyes at text, we need to be able to fix and maintain our gaze so that the page and the text remains steady and still. If you have a properly functioning visual system, you can do this without extra effort. But for someone with a functional vision problem, the text may be misaligned or blurry, or it may seem to move, jump, go in and out of focus, appear wavy, or slide down the page. Experiencing any of these effects can cause dizziness while reading.

Children with poor convergence or divergence skills have difficulty with eye teaming. Their eyes move somewhat independently of one another, which causes double or blurry vision, distorted depth perception, and sometimes dizziness.

Children with an eye tracking problem strain to accurately control eye movements. Instead of their eyes moving smoothly across a line of text while reading, their eyes skip or jump, which makes it challenging to read without feeling disoriented and sometimes dizzy.

Children with accommodative dysfunction, or trouble focusing, have difficulty sustaining focus on text or maintaining a clear image for a reasonable length of time. Reading is challenging because the texts grows fuzzy or blurred, and straining to keep the text in focus can contribute to dizziness.

The only way to know if your child’s dizziness while reading is caused by an underlying vision problem is by scheduling a comprehensive vision exam by a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care.

The good news is, learning-related vision problems that cause dizziness when reading can be treated effectively with vision therapy. Students often experience remarkable improvement in a short period of time.

If you are looking for vision therapy in Silver Spring or vision therapy in Olney, Maryland, and you suspect your child’s complaints of dizziness could be related to a functional vision problem, make an appointment with developmental optometrist Dr. Philip Nicholson at The Visual Learning Center today.

learning-related vision problems

My Child Learned to Read in Kindergarten But Now Reads Below Grade Level: What Happened?

One of the biggest points of concern and confusion that parents have when they come to us is that they know their child is bright, but he or she is struggling in school. We often hear from parents who say their child had no trouble at all learning to read in Kindergarten, but by third or fourth grade the child has fallen far behind grade level performance expectations.

One common, but often-overlooked, cause for reading problems that develop later in development could be a learning-related vision problem.

When your child first learns basic reading skills, they learn ABCs one letter at a time, often in large, bold, colorful, and even tactile forms. Then they begin reading simple sentences in picture books with large spacious text. Their school books and worksheets all contain large text with lots of space, both to accommodate children’s fine motor skills and to ease them into the reading process.

But by third or fourth grade, reading and close work takes up a significantly greater amount of time in the classroom and during homework; and the text print on book pages and worksheets is much smaller than when they were first introduced to reading. Students in third grade and beyond are also required to copy from the board throughout the day. And all of these seemingly reasonable requirements can be extremely challenging for a child with a vision problem.

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

Large text and space is easy on the eyes. Reading one letter at a time, or a short sentence surrounded by lots of white space is not difficult for children with learning-related vision problems. Likewise, these children can pass a typical eye exam or school vision screening, one letter or short word at a time.

But most eye exams do not test for functional vision problems that interfere with reading. A typical eye exam only tests to determine if your child can see clearly at a distance for a period long enough to complete the exam, not eye movement and visual processing problems that may affect your child’s ability to read for a sustained period of time.

A typical vision screening doesn’t check into how well the eyes work together as a team, how quickly the eyes focus when moving from one visual plane to another, how smoothly the eyes move across the page when reading, how efficiently the brain processes information taken in by the eyes, or a number of other areas of functional vision.


Reading requires the coordination of hundreds of eye muscles and steady oculomotor control. It also requires visualization, visual memory, and other skills for reading comprehension. If your child has an undeveloped vision skill, weakness, or deficiency, this can affect their ability to read.

Poor eye tracking, eye teaming, or focus leads to difficulty and frustration for a child, and the extra effort to take in visual information may cause fatigue, headaches, or the inability to maintain attention.


So, while reading large-print individual words and short sentences for a few minutes in Kindergarten or first grade was easy for your child, reading small-print paragraphs throughout the day can be overwhelming.

Initially, you and your child’s teacher might suspect he is is being careless, distracted, or choosing not to pay attention You might assume he’s skipping unfamiliar or challenging words, because he’s lazy or uninterested.

However, children with learning-related vision problems don’t understand that their vision is to blame. They often grow frustrated, their self-esteem suffers, and they fall behind.


That’s why it’s important that if your child is struggling with reading — particularly if they did not have trouble learning to read initially — that you find a developmental optometrist in your area who specializes in functional vision care. Schedule a comprehensive vision exam right away.

If your child’s reading troubles are related to vision, that’s actually good news. Because once he or she receives a proper diagnosis, a personalized and intensive vision therapy program can lead to significant lasting improvements in a relatively short period of time.

Click here for “10 Things You Need to Know About Vision”

If your family is located in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact Dr. Philp Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule a functional vision exam today.

7 Classroom Modifications to Help Students with Functional Vision Problems

No matter how bright your child is, learning can be difficult if he struggles with a functional vision problem. Once diagnosed with a learning-related vision deficiency, both classroom modifications and vision therapy will improve your child’s ability to learn and demonstrate learning.

As a parent, it is important for you to work together with your child’s teacher and school to ensure the most beneficial classroom modifications are made available to your child. Here are some examples:

Better Lighting

Many classrooms are poorly lit with flickering fluorescent bulbs. Schools often need to make the most economical choices, and fluorescent lighting is cheap. But proper lighting is particularly important for students with vision problems. We suggest providing natural lighting or full-spectrum bulbs whenever possible. On a nice day, your child could sit near the window in the sunlight or at a table with a full-spectrum lamp, especially when doing sustained close work.

Work Breaks

Sustained near-field work that requires a student to keep both eyes pointed in the same direction (a function known as teaming), follow along the text (a function known as tracking), and focus on text or numbers for an extended amount of time (a function known as “accommodation”) is challenging for children with vision problems. These functions work effortlessly for children with healthy vision systems, but children with vision deficiencies need to put forth extra effort. Allowing students to take breaks regularly gives their eyes time to rest so they can begin working again refreshed.

Oral Testing Options

For children with vision problems, reading and writing causes strain and even headaches; so sometimes these students get distracted or give up while taking a test. If you’ve ever studied with your child for an exam, certain he would ace it, only to find out later that he failed, a functional vision problem could be interfering with his test-taking performance. Bubbling in answer sheets can be a particular challenge. Allowing students to demonstrate knowledge through oral quizzes and tests when possible is often a helpful solution.

Grant More Time

Often, classroom exams and assignments are either intentionally timed or students are hurried on to the next task due to schedules and general time constraints of the school day. A child with a learning-related vision problem may need more time to learn, complete assignments, and take tests. This has nothing to do with intelligence; it’s simply a matter of the way their vision system functions. Granting extra time can boost their performance.

Use Highlighters

When you were in school, did you ever use highlighter markers or pencils to underline important text? When you’re reading, do you ever slide your finger or pen along text as a guide, especially when you’re getting tired or trying to concentrate on challenging material? Allowing a child with an eye tracking deficiency to use highlighters as they read is a simple but effective classroom modification. Readers with normal healthy visual processing systems can easily move their eyes in a left to right manner across the page without skipping words or losing their place. Highlighters can make it easier for your child to stay on track.

Make Larger Text Available

Children with learning-related vision problems strain to read standard-sized text more so than their classmates with healthy vision systems. Larger print is easier to read, focus on, and follow along, smoothly and efficiently. Text on worksheets and exams can be enlarged simply by using larger font or blowing up the copy size. The school may be required to accommodate your child’s needs by ordering large-print textbooks when available. You can also buy large-print books for your child to read at home or check them out from the library.

Limit Copying From Board

Copying from the board or screen can be difficult for a student with a vision problem, even if he has 20/20 eyesight or wears eyeglasses. When a child has trouble focusing, he may see clearly while looking down at his paper, and clearly while looking up at the board. However, looking up and down, back and forth, from the board to the paper might be where the challenge comes into play. The focus mechanism in your child’s eyes might be weak, slowing down the adjustment period as he looks from one point to the other. Arrange for seating closer to the board for some relief, or preferably provide the child with printed materials from which to copy.

If your child has a learning-related functional vision problem, simple classroom and learning environment modifications can provide much-needed relief as he tries to cope. The first step is for you to get a diagnoses by scheduling a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist. Then work with the school teacher and school to ensure appropriate modifications are made available.

These classroom modifications may be temporary, because an individualized vision therapy program can improve functional vision significantly.

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

Does homework in your household drag on for hours? Convergence insufficiency could be the cause

If your child spends hours completing homework each evening, your initial frustration might be with his teacher. You may complain that too much homework is being assigned and worry that the school is to blame for interfering with family time, play time, or outdoor and extracurricular activities; but over time, you eventually realize that your child is taking much longer to complete his homework than his peers.

You know that your child is bright, so why is he struggling to complete homework in a timely manner? You could suspect a learning disability or attention deficit disorder, but your child could actually have a vision disorder, even if he was found to have “20/20” eyesight during a vision screening at school or an exam by your family’s eye doctor.

Vision disorders and poor visual processing skills are sometimes to blame for “homework wars” and poor performance in the classroom.

As a parent, it is important to pay close attention to your child’s symptoms. You might be tempted to dismiss complaints as excuses and urge your child to push forward and try harder. However, if your child has a vision problem such as convergence insufficiency, his symptoms could be presenting significant challenges to performing well on school assignments.

Convergence–the ability to aim ones eyes at a near distance–is a required skill for reading and other schoolwork. 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.

If your child often complains of headaches or claims that his eyes hurt, feel like they are pulling, tired, or uncomfortable, this could be a sign of convergence insufficiency. Difficulty concentrating or remembering what he has read could be symptoms as well. A child may also complain of double vision, or say that that words float, swim, or move in and out of focus. He may read slowly, lose his place, or read the same line more than once.

If your child is having difficulty in school or completing homework, and you notice any of these red flags, schedule an evaluation with a functional or developmental optometrist, trained to detect and treat learning-related vision problems, as soon as possible. If diagnosed with a vision problem such as convergence insufficiency, the good news is vision therapy can treat and improve your child’s convergence problem significantly and quickly.

If you are in the Olney, MD or Silver Spring, MD area, contact the Visual Learning Center today to schedule a comprehensive evaluation with Dr. Philip Nicholson and his staff.