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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.