Learning disabilities may include dyslexia, math disorder, writing disorder, auditory processing deficits, or visual processing deficits. Although each child with a learning disability is unique, many also have associated visual problems. Addressing these vision disorders may alleviate some symptoms of learning disability.
DIAGNOSING LEARNING DIFFICULTIES
Most often, a teacher recognizes a child falling behind in a particular subject area and recommends that the child receive further assessment. A school psychologist may conduct tests to see if the child has processing difficulties or significant problems learning certain types of information. Although this type of assessment may include a cursory vision screening, it is important to receive a comprehensive vision exam to rule out vision problems that may contribute to learning difficulties.
LEARNING DISABILITIES AND VISION PROBLEMS
Children with vision problems often report having difficulty with reading, writing, or written math problems. All of these require accurate close vision, making them challenging for people with focusing problems. Problems in the following areas may have a negative impact on learning, leading to a learning disability diagnosis:
- Poor binocular vision. The eyes must work together properly to blend information from each eye into one coherent image.
- Accommodative dysfunction. Focusing problems can lead to blurred vision or the perception that words are shimmering on the page.
- Eye tracking dysfunction. Accurate reading requires the eyes to move back and forth skillfully; eye movement problems may impair this ability.
- Visual-motor integration. Integrating visual information with motor output is essential for eye-hand or eye-body coordination. Poor visual-motor integration may result in learning difficulty.
- Visual processing deficits. Poor visual memory, ability to attend to visual information, or ability to identify visual objects may make reading and writing challenging.
VISION THERAPY FOR CHILDREN WITH LEARNING DISABILITIES
Special corrective lenses may improve some eye problems associated with learning disabilities. In many cases, doctor-supervised vision therapy can correct visual problems. Vision therapy might include viewing information through prisms, wearing a special eye patch, doing puzzles, practicing eye movements, or related exercises.
Over time, vision therapy can retrain the eyes to work more effectively with the brain. After a course of vision therapy, many children with learning disabilities experience less frustration with learning as well as improved academic performance.
ADHD AND ASSOCIATED VISION PROBLEMS
Because of the relatively high number of people with ADHD who also suffer from vision problems, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis. A comprehensive eye exam can uncover difficulties with focusing, eye movements, or ability to the eyes to work together. In many cases, vision therapy is recommended as a first-line treatment.
Vision therapy involves 30 to 60 minute sessions with a vision specialist; sessions often occur once or twice per week. During vision therapy, you will be asked to perform a number of exercises designed to retrain your eyes. This might include looking through prisms, tracking objects with the eyes, focusing on close-up objects, or practicing other visual tasks. Vision therapists often assign homework, allowing you to practice your skills every day.
For kids with an ADHD diagnosis and associated vision problems, vision therapy may significantly decrease symptoms of inattention, distractibility, fidgeting, or behavioral outbursts, leading to great improvements in quality of life.
Vision therapy programs are designed to correct complications like astigmatism, wandering eyes, lazy eye or crossed eyes – all of which can affect eye focus, eye movement, visual perception and coordination. With visual therapy, a combination of vision exercises and specialized equipment are used to train the visual system to repair itself, or strengthen itself, so that eye problems can be rectified or diminished enough to improve how the patient views the world and functions in it.
Executed under the supervision of an optometrist, visual therapy is implemented in an office once to twice a week for up to an hour. Exercises and equipment will be personalized to meet the patient’s needs based on the severity of the problem and related symptoms. These components will also be considered when determining how many sessions the patient requires. To accompany in-office visits, the optometrist may also educate the patient on how to perform specific vision exercises at home.
When visual therapy is complete, and all necessary sessions have ended, the patient’s visual skills and capabilities should have improved and any symptoms associated with their eye condition should have reduced significantly. In addition, visual efficiency should have enhanced and the patient should be more efficient when it comes to processing and understanding visual information.