Vision Problems Can Look Like Learning Difficulties

Vision Problems Can Look Like Learning Difficulties

When children continue to struggle with reading and learning despite all best efforts to help them, it can be very difficult to figure out what is needed.  Is it a learning disability? Attention disorder? Or is it a vision problem?  As a parent, how can you tell the difference?


A lot of people mistakenly assume that if their child can see things far away that they can see fine up close.  Unfortunately most of the children who have eye coordination and eye movement disorders can see fine when looking at things in the distance.  In addition, most vision screenings only test for how well a child can see the letters on the eye chart from a distance of 20 feet away.


When a vision problem is at the root of a child’s struggles with learning, the signs are very easy to see – when you know what to look for.  Children don’t know how they are supposed to see, so the only way they can tell you they have a vision problem is with their behavior.  


Therefore, you need to know the various signs to watch for; for example, does your child:

  • avoid reading?  

  • prefer to be read to?  

  • turn his or her head at an angle when reading?  

  • have trouble comprehending what is being read?

  • read a paragraph out loud but not remember what was read?

  • have a short attention span when reading or doing schoolwork?


Any one of these can be a sign of a possible eye coordination, tracking or eye movement problem.  It is important to understand that our eyes take in visual information and then send it to the brain where it is processed. If the information that is sent to the brain is faulty, it can make learning very difficult.  For example, eye coordination problems can make it look like the words are moving on the page or appear double or blurry.


When children have difficulty reading and also then to reverse letters and numbers a lot, parents often think their child may have dyslexia.  Typically children who have dyslexia can pass most vision screenings because they can see the letters on the eye chart just fine.  According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, in their position paper on Vision and Dyslexia, “… a substantial number of individuals with dyslexia have other visual problems. These problems may include inadequate development of function in the visual system, associated pathways, and brain.”  


In addition, research by Margaret Livingstone and her colleagues from the Department of Neurobiology, Harvard Medical School and the Dyslexia Research Laboratory, Beth Israel Hospital in Boston states: “Several perceptual studies have suggested that dyslexic subjects process visual information more slowly than normal subjects. Such visual abnormalities were reported to be found in more than 75% of the reading-disabled children tested.” 


Research also continues to show that Optometric vision therapy is effective at resolving a variety of vision disorders that interfere with reading and learning; specifically eye movement (tracking), eye teaming (eye coordination), visual motor skills, etc. 


So what should a parent do when a child continues to struggle with reading?  

According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, “Be especially certain to have eyes and ears checked for correctable vision and hearing problems.”  When you have your child’s vision checked, make sure you see a Developmental Optometrist to ensure all the visual skills critical to reading and learning are evaluated. 

For more information contact:  

Zachery Weinberg, OD,
Developmental Optometrist

Forest City Vision♦ ♦ 216-468-8020

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