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Vision Problems Sometimes Misdiagnosed as ADD or AD(H)D

When a child struggles with reading and learning, it can be just as frustrating for parents and teachers. The search to figure out just what is wrong can be exhausting. Many assume that if a child is having trouble paying attention in school, that ADD or AD(H)D is at the core of problems. Undiagnosed vision problems have symptoms that are very similar to ADD/AD(H)D, and therefore are easily mistaken for it. It is important to remember that ADD/AD(H)D medications do NOT improve learning. According to the July 2005 issue of Scientific American, "Studies increasingly show that while medication may calm a child's behavior, it does not improve grades, peer relationships or defiant behavior over the long term."

Recent research has shown that children who are suspected of having, or have already been diagnosed with, AD(H)D should have their vision examined for specific vision problems that can make reading difficult. When the eyes don't work together properly, it can look like the letters are moving on the page. It can also create a doubled blurred image that is practically impossible to read. While some children are able to figure out which is the "correct" image they should look at, most kids with these vision problems are not able to focus on their reading materials, and eventually avoid the activity as much as possible. This results in a child that appears as though he or she is having trouble paying attention.

Undiagnosed vision problems are hitting epidemic proportions. The fact is that 80% of what children learn is through their vision, but according to the National PTA, over 10 million children in the US are struggling with vision problems that interfere with learning. These problems can wreak havoc on their entire educational experience. So how could this be?

When people go to the school nurse, or the pediatrician, or even the eye doctor, they hear terms like "20/20" and assume that means that the child has perfect vision. Unfortunately, this is only a measure of how well someone sees the eye chart that is at a distance of 20 feet. It is a very dangerous assumption that just because someone can see the eye chart, and identify individual letters, then he or she can just as easily see up close to read. Up close is where we do most of our learning, reading assignments, test taking, etc… Someone, for example, who is farsighted, (this means that that person can see clearly at distance, such as the blackboard) may be able to pass the school nurse's exam or the pediatrician's screening test, but actually has a very serious problem when doing work up close, such as reading or working on a computer.

So the question many people ask is: "Don't regular eye exams find these types of vision problems?" Unfortunately this is not always the case. While all optometrists are trained to test for these visual deficiencies, it sometimes requires a more in-depth examination to pin point one of these problems. This type of in-depth testing is typically performed by an eye doctor who is specially trained to test all the visual skills that are necessary for reading and learning. If your child is suspected of having ADD/AD(H)D, please schedule a developmental vision evaluation today.

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