Vision Related Learning Difficulties

Does your child lose their place, and miss out letters, words or lines when reading and find that they cannot remember the text? These are symptoms of vision related learning difficulties.

Seeing is our primary source for gathering information in learning. Therefore, vision problems can have a profound effect on how we learn, read or sustain close work. It is easy to understand that eyestrain or blurred vision are vision problems. Poor attention span at school, clumsiness, poor sports performance or reduced productivity, may not be recognised as vision problems.

Visual problems in any of the following areas can have a significant impact on learning:

  • eye tracking and locating skill – eyes following along a line of print; and eyes jumping from one word/line to the next.
  • eye teaming skill – two eyes working together as a synchronized team to fuse the two images.
  • accommodation – eye focusing from a distant object to a near object and back again.
  • visual-motor integration – eye-hand coordination
  • visual perception – visual memory, visual form perception, and visualization

Vision and learning are intimately connected. A vision problem can be an integral part of a learning problem. Children with undiagnosed visual problems are often diagnosed as having Learning Disabilities, ADHD, Dyspraxia or Dyslexia.

Parents and teachers often assume that if a child can read the small letters on a sight testing chart across the room, then there is no vision problem. The visual skill needed for reading and learning is much more complex. A Behavioural Optometrist believes that your visual status and the way you interpret what you see, does not depend solely on how clearly you can see at a distance.

Children’s work and learning at school is mainly at near, and so consideration must be given to all the visual, visual motor and visual perceptual skills that need to be developed in order to prevent vision and eye problems.

To develop the visual skill needed for learning a Behavioural Optometrist may carefully prescribe lenses. They may also prescribe a programme of Optometric Vision Therapy to enhance and develop the visual skill needed for learning.

Vision related learning difficulties not only affect children learning to read. A child with visual difficulties might manage to learn to read, but struggle as the work becomes more demanding. Children do not ‘grow out’ of vision related learning difficulties; many adults find that the difficulties they had at school continue at work, particularly with office and computer work. Behavioural Optometrists can help children, adults, athletes, patients with autistic spectrum disorders and patients with traumatic brain injuries.

In the UK Behavioural Optometrists are trained by the British Association of Behavioural Optometrists [BABO]. BABO maintains a Register of Accredited Members that are prepared to accept referrals. This list can be found on the BABO website www.babo.co.uk

Here is a list of common signs or symptoms of vision related learning problems:

  • Frequent headaches or eye strain
  • Blurring of distance or near vision, particularly after reading or other close work
  • Avoidance of close work and visually demanding tasks
  • Poor judgment of depth
  • Turning of an eye in or out, up or down
  • Tendency to cover or close one eye, or favour the vision in one eye
  • Double vision
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Difficulty following a moving target
  • Dizziness or motion sickness
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Difficulty copying from one place to another
  • Loss of place, repetition, and/or omission of words while reading
  • Difficulty changing focus from distance to near and back
  • Poor posture when reading or writing
  • Poor handwriting
  • Can respond orally but can’t get the same information down on paper
  • Letter and word reversals
  • Difficulty judging sizes and shapes