As the new school year approaches, parents anxiously ask themselves; Will this year be different than last year? Will my child progress? Will she have a good teacher that will finally enable her to succeed? Often, poor grades are due to underlying vision problems. The College of Optometrists in Vision Development offers hope to parents of struggling readers. Getting to the root of a child’s reading struggles can be difficult.
Reading and writing are the two most common tasks people perform in school. When we read a book, a sheet of paper, or a computer monitor, we are performing a visual task. When we read we need to aim two eyes at the same point simultaneously and accurately, focus both eyes to make the reading material clear, continue or sustain clear focus, and move two eyes continually as a coordinated team across the line of print. When we move our eyes to the next line of print, we continue with the process. All of this must be done easily and effortlessly in order to comprehend what we are reading. When we cannot do that easily, it affects reading comprehension.
After reading a passage or a chapter, students answer questions to determine what they have learned from what they have read. Those who have eye coordination and eye movement problems struggle to read and then have trouble remembering what they read. If your child struggles with reading, has attention problems, takes longer than it should to get homework done or has difficulty comprehending what was read, a vision problem may be contributing to his or her difficulties.
The purpose of declaring and observing August as International Children’s Vision and Learning Month is to help educate the public on this vital issue. Governor Christie has made a proclamation to this effect that undiagnosed and untreated vision problems can interfere with learning. The proclamation states that there is a critical role that vision plays in the learning process and untreated vision problems can significantly impact on a child’s ability to read and to learn.
It is common that difficulties become greater in 3rd and 4th grade. The reason is that in kindergarten, first and second grade, we learn how to read. In 3rd and 4th grade, we now use reading in order to learn. When a child has difficulty in doing their school work, it compounds the difficulty with homework. Parents sometimes describe this as “Homework Hell”.
Parents often see many different experts, starting with the basics, which includes an eye exam. It is confusing for parents however, when they suspect that their child has a vision problem but the experts say nothing is wrong. Pediatric Ophthalmologists, doctors skilled in eye disease and eye surgery, often say that vision has nothing to do with the ability to learn and concentrate. Most parents intuitively know that vision has an enormous role to play in learning, but they often don’t know what to do and who to turn to. Physicians are able to determine if each eye individually is healthy and can see at a distance of 20 feet. Rarely, however, do they test how the two eyes are work together or how they focus. Interestingly, there is no vision in an eye because vision is actually based in the brain and not in the eye. General eye doctors typically look for eyeglass type problems and may say a child doesn’t need any help. The point is that not all doctors look for vision problems that impact learning.
Some children avoid reading and struggled with reading comprehension. In order to gain comprehension throughout the reading process, we must constantly take in visual information and decoding it from the written word into a mental image. Memory and visualization are also used to constantly relate the information to what is already known and to help make sense of what is being read.
Fortunately, optometric vision therapy can help children gain the needed vision skills so they no longer struggle with reading and schoolwork. The observance of International Children’s Vision and Learning month brings greater awareness of the visual link to reading and learning. Many children and their families struggle unnecessarily. When a vision problem is at the root of a child’s difficulties with reading, optometric vision therapy can make all the difference. Once a child learns the needed visual skills, they are able to work faster on homework with better concentration. Reading is much easier. Grades and confidence often improve. Once learned, these skills are permanent.
To learn more about Optometric Vision Therapy is and how it can help, click here