Tag Archives: reading below grade level

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.

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.