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School’s Out For Summer!

Many of us can hear this song by Alice Cooper in our heads. Was this past year a struggle for your child? Are you hoping that somehow things will get better on their own or your child will have a "better" teacher" next year? What can you do to make next year better? 

If your child is struggling to read or finding it difficult to remain on task, the cause may be an undetected vision problem, even if your child has passed the school's vision screening or a routine eye exam. Many children who have been diagnosed with reading difficulties, learning disabilities, dyslexia, or attention deficits actually have a vision problem at its root. If he or she is having difficulty reading or catching a ball, there may be a vision issue that may be holding your child back from succeeding. Early detection can save years of struggling, but it must be done using the correct testing. Although most people think that eyeglasses solve all vision issues, in fact, they don't. 

Children who have difficulty with eye movements when reading, will then struggle with schoolwork and homework. A child may struggle with double vision every day, but assume that everyone else has the same difficulty when reading. Words may double and they have to struggle to keep the words single. Words may blur or jump around. These children then do poorly in school and become frustrated. 

Learning how to read is probably one of the most challenging tasks a child must do. It requires the child to accurately use all of their language, decoding, phonetic, and visual skills to successfully recognize words and understand what they mean. At times, a child may be able to see the letters but not make sense of the word. They may not be able to decode print or make the connection between the word's written symbols and the sounds they should make. Many children who struggle to read are not dyslexic at all, and their phonetic awareness and language processing skills are fine. Rather it's their vision that is interfering with their ability to read.

Vision plays a pivotal role in the reading process. Clear eyesight is important, but it is only the beginning. School vision screenings routinely check children's sharpness of vision at distance, as measured by seeing the 20/20 line on the eye chart. If the child fails, they are given glasses to see better at distance. But if you think about it, schoolwork and homework is not done at distance. It is done at near. Unfortunately, the vision screenings by the school nurse or the pediatrician is inadequate to test all the vision skills needed for schoolwork. They don't test eye movements when reading and usually don't test how the eyes align at near. Many people assume this screening is adequate and assume that is all that is needed for vision. 

Children's vision involves so much more. To be successful in school, children must have all of the visual skills and that goes far beyond just being able to have sharp distance sight. To read, a child must be able to coordinate their eyes as a team and then be able to follow a line of print without losing their place. They must be able to maintain clear focus as they read or make quick focusing changes when looking up to the board and back to their desks. They must then be able to interpret and accurately process what they are seeing. If children have inadequate visual skills in any of these areas, they can experience great difficulty in school, especially in reading. 

Children who lack good basic visual skills often struggle in school unnecessarily. Their "hidden" vision problem keeps them from performing at grade level. Unfortunately teachers and parents often don't make the connection between poor reading and the child's vision. If your child is having a problem with school or with reading, the summer is an ideal time to address this so that your child develops the vision skills they need for school next year. A special type of vision examination can detect these problems and a special vision learning program can solve these problems permanently.

Dr. Roth. OD, FCOVD, is a developmental optometrist. He is Board certified in Vision Development and Vision Therapy. He diagnoses and treats patients of all ages who have had vision problems that ultimately affect learning. He offers free consultation, a special developmental vision screening, developmental vision examinations, and vision therapy to solve these problems. He is available to speak to parent groups. Dr Roth, Lic# 4635 OM# 27OM0005600, practices at Family Eye Care, in Old Bridge and may be reached at 1-732-679-2020.