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child with vision problem

9 Signs Your Child May Have an Undiagnosed Vision Problem

Vision problems that affect learning are all-too-often overlooked or misdiagnosed. Eye exams conducted at your child’s school or by your family eye doctor typically only screen for the ability to see clearly at a distance; so it is possible for the results to show 20/20 vision without detecting an eye movement problem or visual processing deficiency. To detect a learning-related vision problem, your child would need to undergo a thorough functional vision exam by an optometrist trained in developmental vision care.

However, without awareness of the signs of a learning-related vision problem, parents and education professionals tend to mistake the vision problem for a learning disability, dyslexia, or attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD). Unfortunately, many children struggle in school because of an undiagnosed vision problems for years unnecessarily, when the problem could improve significantly with vision therapy.

Montgomery County Parents: Don’t miss Dr. Nicholson’s upcoming webinar. Click here to register and learn about how undetected vision problems could be interfering with your child’s performance in school.

Here are 9 signs your child may have an undetected vision problem:

1. Skipping while reading or writing

Problems with eye muscle coordination, such as eye tracking and eye teaming, may cause a child to skip words or lines while reading or writing. You may notice your child losing his place while reading or copying from the board, rereading words or lines, or using a finger, pencil or some other tool in an attempt to maintain his place while reading or writing.

2. Reversing or getting confused

Children with visual processing problems commonly confuse their left with their right, or reverse letters, numbers, or words. This is why parents often suspect dyslexia. You may also notice that your child confuses similar looking words or substitutes words while reading.

3. Below average reading performance

You may wonder why your bright child is having difficulty reading, or reading very slowly, carefully, and without confidence. Children with deficient visual processing skills, such as visual memory, also have difficulty comprehending and remembering what they have read, as well as trouble with spelling.

4. Poor handwriting skills

If your child has exceptionally messy handwriting with crooked or poorly spaced letters and words, this might indicate a vision problem. He could be misaligning words or letters because he is having trouble with eye teaming or eye tracking.

5. Noticeable coping behaviors

Have you noticed your child squinting or bending close to her paper to read, even though her eyesight is 20/20? Have you seen her covering or closing one eye or tilting her head to an unusual angle while reading? These behaviors could be to compensate for an eye muscle coordination problem.

6. Attention problems

Often, children with vision problems are mistakenly thought to have attention deficit disorder (ADD/ADHD). Because of eye movement problems and deficiencies in their visual processing skills, they are constantly struggling in school and become frustrated. For this reason, the child may seem restless in the classroom environment or during homework, avoid activities that require visual concentration, or “act out” with disruptive behavior, much like children with ADD/ADHD.

7. Physical response

Children with vision problems are constantly overcompensating for their deficiencies and straining, so resulting physical symptoms are common. You may notice your child has headaches or exhaustion after reading or other intense visual activities, complaints that their eyes hurt or feel tired, or excessively dry, watery eyes, or red eyes. You may also see them blinking excessively or rubbing their eyes. Another related physical symptom is unexplained  motion sickness.

8. Sight abnormalities

A child with vision problems may complain of double vision or blurred vision, especially when looking up and down, such as copying from the board. There may be a sensitivity to light. He may complain that the text on the page is going in and out of focus, moving, or jumping, or that lines and letters are running together. Because it is possible this way of seeing is all they know, they could find it challenging to describe what they are experiencing, so pay close attention.

9. Body movement and awareness

Aside from learning-related activities, a child with vision problems may also have difficulty in social settings or in sports. She may have trouble with clumsiness, poor coordination, slow hand-eye coordination, or awkwardness with personal space boundaries.

Overall, the signs and symptoms of vision problems that affect children are varied and diverse. Coupled with lack of awareness about eye movement and visual processing skills, misdiagnosis is common. If you have noticed any combination of these symptoms in your child, schedule a functional vision exam with 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 you are in the Olney or Silver Spring, MD area, contact Dr. Philip Nicholson’s Visual Learning Center today for an appointment.

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.