We all know we use our eyes to read, but the link between vision and reading goes far deeper than that.
In one sense, the connection between vision and reading is obvious. We need to use our eyes to read the words in front of us. However, there is much more to the vision-reading link than that. 80% of the information our brain receives is through the eyes, and once that information has been received, the brain must correctly interpret it so we can properly understand what we are seeing. With reading in particular, it is vital that all parts of this process work correctly, since there are many small details involved with reading. Even if a child is found to have 20/20 eyesight, they may still have a vision issue which makes reading a challenge.
There are numerous ways that vision problems can negatively impact one’s reading ability, which will make learning, especially in the classroom, much more difficult.
It should come as no surprise that if a person is farsighted (meaning they have difficulty seeing near objects), reading will be a struggle. A farsighted child will likely complain of blurry vision, and will squint and rub their eyes frequently as they try to work through their limitations.
If one’s eyes aren’t working together properly, many tasks become more difficult, including reading. While reading, the eyes must work together in order for the reader to properly make sense of the letters and understand what they’re seeing, and there is a higher chance that letters or entire words can be inadvertently skipped. A child with an eye tracking problem is likely to rely on their finger to mark their place so that they don't forget and skip a line, and they may also move their entire head back and forth while reading, as opposed to just moving their eyes. They will also find it difficult to read for extended periods of time because of the discomfort involved.
Convergence is the term for when the eyes turn inward to focus on a single task, such as reading. If their eyes do not do this, a child will have to use significantly more effort to keep them focused on what they are reading. A child having this issue is likely to need to use their finger to mark the place as they read, to try and avoid accidentally skipping over some words. The extra effort required to maintain focus on what is being read can lead to frequent headaches and chronic fatigue--which can in turn lead to increased irritability and acting out during class.
Double vision is an issue related to convergence, and as can be inferred from its name, can lead to seeing double, which is a problem while reading and will force a child to put much more effort into clearly seeing what is in front of them.
Also a problem related to convergence, eye coordination problems are where the eyes are not working together as they should. It will be more difficult for a child to properly align their eyes in order to focus on what they are reading, and you are likely to see them covering or closing one eye, or tilting their head, in order to align their eyes properly or to simply let one eye do the work if trying to read with both together is difficult.
This may be a less obvious way in which vision is linked to reading, but it is no less important. Visualization is the process through which a person pictures something they have read inside their mind. It is an incredibly important skill both in regard to creativity and also to academic learning. Difficulty visualizing things in the mind’s eye will make every aspect of learning more difficult, from reading to mathematics.
Vision is also indelibly linked to writing as well. If one struggles to read, then it will obviously be a struggle to write properly as well. If an issue is causing a child to have diminished hand-eye coordination, or difficulty with laterality or directionality (being able to easily discern right from left), they may reverse letters and words.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that shortened attention spans can be a sign of a vision issue affecting reading ability. If the task is more difficult, a child is more likely to come to dislike it, and therefore tolerate it for shorter periods of time.
It is clear that vision and reading are extremely closely linked, and that any number of vision issues can result in reading difficulties. And reading is not strictly limited to books.
Therefore it is important, especially for school-aged children, to regularly receive a proper eye exam, so that any vision issue that may be holding them back academically can be properly addressed, be that through corrective lenses or vision therapy.
If left untreated, an issue can grow worse, or a child, attempting to adapt to a problem they might not realize is in fact a problem, may learn bad habits which will further hamper their academic ability and be even harder to unlearn later on.
Additionally, vision issues which can affect reading ability often share symptoms with disorders like ADHD, which is not a problem related to vision, so it is important to get your child properly tested if you become aware that they are having a hard time reading.
Vision is very closely linked with reading, and vision issues can make reading much more difficult. If your child is having difficulty reading, and you suspect it may be due to a vision issue, contact us for an appointment.