Tag Archives: functional vision problem

What Parents Need to Know About How Vision Problems Interfere with Learning (Even if a Child Has 20/20 Eyesight)

Did you know that your child could have 20/20 eyesight yet still have a vision problem that significantly interferes with his or her ability to learn? It’s true, and it’s more common than most parents, teachers, child-development professionals, or even family eye doctors are aware.

Vision is comprised of three main components — reception, processing, and output; and each of these main components of vision are complex.

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

If any aspect of the complex vision system is not functioning in a normal and healthy way, the ability to learn can be impacted significantly.

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


Your child’s vision exam typically only covers the ability to see letters on a chart clearly and singularly for a few seconds.

However, there is a third component of reception that is also important, but isn’t tested by many doctors— the ability to see comfortably. For example, if you hold a pen within inches of your nose, you may be able to see clearly and singularly. But for how long?

Seeing the pen singularly and clearly for just a few seconds does not mean that your eyes can work properly and without strain for longer periods. For instance, you may be able to lift a chair with one hand for a few seconds, but does that mean you can hold it at that height for thirty minutes? No.

Likewise, many children who can look at the tip of their nose cannot maintain clear, single vision at near for more than a few minutes. And those children who can’t, feel strained, tired, or fatigued when reading. They may rub their eyes, blink, or close or cover one eye to avoid using them both. And often, they will try to avoid the activities that make them feel uncomfortable.

Watch for signs of strain and discomfort in your child as he or she reads, works on a computer, or writes, because these problems can affect learning.

Visual Processing

Typical vision exams do not test for visual processing skills. Normal visual processing requires a complex system of neurological activity to be developed and functioning properly.

For example, visual processing speed and accuracy involves reading words, sentences, and numbers quickly and accurately. Selective concentration within visual processing requires a child to stay on a visual task, even with distractions present. Visual memory is an aspect of visual processing that refers to the ability to accurately remember what is only seen for a short period of time. Visualization is the process of creating a mental picture in the mind that is used to solve a problem.

Many children lack good visual processing skills. Because of a delay in development or disorder, their vision system has trouble computing visual input. They can’t make sense of what they see as easily as their peers who have a properly functioning vision system.

Consequently, visual processing problems may cause their performance of everyday tasks such as reading, memorizing, and studying tends to be slower than normal, and their abilities in these areas can fall below average.


Output is the ability to take the gathered and processed information, and make an appropriate response or action. For example, the output may be the creation of a mental image, an oral or written response, or a gesture.

A child who tends to make more errors than average to complete a task, and/or uses an excessive amount of energy to handle visual information, could be revealing deficient visual processing skills in their output. Often, but not always, the symptoms of a vision problem become apparent in the output.

A child who makes more reversal errors than average may have underlying visual processing problems in the areas of visual memory, discrimination, visualization, laterality, and association skills. Poor visual-motor integration could be the cause of messy handwriting.

Vision Therapy Can Help

At the Visual Learning Center in Olney, Maryland, our vision training program is concerned with all three components of vision (reception, processing and output). But we concentrate on visual processing skills most because they are so vital to effective learning.

No one knows the full reason why some children have a greater difficulty with visual processing skills — it’s part hereditary, part environment, and part education-based.

The important thing to note is that, though vision problems can interfere with learning, visual processing skills are learned skills that can be improved. Comprehensive functional vision exams and testing can pinpoint which visual processing skills are most deficient, so that an individualized vision therapy program can focus on specific areas.

By concentrating on and correcting specific problem areas in your child’s visual processing system, vision therapy can eliminate many of the underlying causes of learning difficulties. The symptoms a child with vision problems experience, such as discomfort, poor memory, poor concentration and comprehension, toiling over simple tasks, and avoiding complicated tasks, can improve significantly in a relatively short amount of time or even disappear altogether.

To learn more about how vision affects learning, download our free guide here, and watch our webinar for parents here.

If suspect that an undetected vision problem is interfering with your child’s ability to learn effectively, schedule an exam with a developmental optometrist who specializes in functional vision care right away.

If your family lives in Olney or Silver Spring, Maryland, contact us at Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center to schedule an appointment.

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.

Functional vision problems: What happens if your child’s eyes fail to work as a team?

When your child is doing close work, such as reading, writing, or using a mobile device or computer, he or she needs to be able to keep both eyes turned in to point at the same position. The ability to move, turn, and point the eyes together, is called eye teaming.

Eye teaming is a function that people with normal healthy visual systems do naturally, without thinking about it. However, if your child has a functional vision problem known as Convergence Insufficiency, eye teaming is a challenge.

Convergence insufficiency  is a common two-eyed (binocular) disorder affecting a child’s near vision. It interferes with a person’s ability to see clearly at close distances, making it challenging to read, learn, and complete tasks. People with Convergence Insufficiency find it difficult to keep their eyes working together smoothly as a team, and their eyes tend to drift outwardly when attempting to focus on text or other items at a near distance.

Unfortunately, this problem often goes undetected in children because standard eye exams and school vision screenings do not test for convergence insufficiency. Your child could have passed a typical eye exam with 20/20 eyesight and still have convergence insufficiency.

Additionally, you may not readily notice your child’s uncoordinated or drifting eye movements. Even subtle differences in eye teaming, that are not easily observed by parents or teachers, can cause a significant hindrance to learning.

Symptoms of convergence insufficiency, or poor eye teaming skills, include:

  • double vision
  • blurred vision
  • headaches
  • eye fatigue

Here is an image that demonstrates how text appears to a child with convergence insufficiency:


Signs your child could be struggling with convergence insufficiency include:

  • covering or closing one eye while reading
  • rubbing eyes excessively
  • attempting to avoid reading or homework
  • seeming to have a short attention span
  • fatigue quickly while doing close work
  • losing place while reading

You may notice that while your child did not have trouble reading initially, he struggles with reading speed, fluency, and comprehension, which appears to get worse with prolonged attempts to read.

If you suspect your child may have a learning-related vision problem such as poor eye teaming skills, schedule a functional vision exam with a developmental optometrist right away.

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