Learning-related vision problems are more common than you might expect, and these problems can negatively impact a child’s ability to learn.
While it is of course only part of a larger system, vision plays a key role in the learning process. 65% of people are visual learners and 90% of the information which reaches the brain is visual.
Many of the symptoms and behaviors commonly associated with learning disabilities are very similar to those caused by vision problems.
For this reason, it is very important that if a child is having trouble in school, a developmental eye exam be a part of the evaluation process.
There are many signs or symptoms that may indicate your child has a vision problem that is impacting their learning ability. Both parents and teachers should keep an eye out for potential issues, so that a proper assessment and treatment, if necessary, can follow quickly to ensure that a minor issue does not become a major one.
These can include, among others:
Vision and learning are now known to be very closely related. According to experts, up to 80 percent of what children learn in school is information which is presented to them visually. Good vision is essential for one to reach their full potential in the academic world--especially at young ages.
With some issues, it is easy to notice a problem. For example, a child who is having difficulty reading what’s on the blackboard at the front of the classroom, or a child who gets headaches when they have to read for extended periods.
Other problems are less obvious, and not always associated with vision. Trouble focusing on tasks, for example, can be caused by one of a few vision issues. Difficulty learning visually can also indicate a visual problem that can be corrected.
Essentially, any vision problem which can negatively impact academic performance falls under the category of learning-related vision problems.
It is important for both parents and teachers to understand the role vision plays in learning so that a struggling student can get the assistance they need. Vision-related learning problems are distinct from learning disabilities such as ADHD, and treating them like learning disabilities will not help. In fact, it can make the situation worse, if the actual cause of the difficulty--a vision issue--is not addressed.
There are several types of learning-related vision problems you should be aware of so that you can be better equipped to catch them when they arise.
There are three main types of learning-related vision problems. Two of these mainly impact visual input, and the third mainly impacts visual processing and integration.
These are problems affecting the visual acuity in the eyes (which can be measured with an eye chart and a comprehensive eye exam). Examples of refractive errors include nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, among others. Eye health problems are conditions which cause low visual acuity but can’t be corrected by standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, or refractive surgery.
Eye health and refractive problems can lead to difficulty seeing things in the classroom or difficulty reading.
These are problems with the eye function itself, and visual function. Problems with eye teaming, fine eye movements, and accommodation are examples of functional vision problems. These sorts of problems can lead to blurred vision, double vision, eye strains, and headaches.These problems can make it difficult to focus in academic settings.
These sorts of problems can be more difficult to detect, as they deal with understanding what a person sees, identifying it, judging it, and relating it to previously stored information. Examples of skills that rely on perceptual vision include recognizing previously seen words, and the ability to form mental pictures based on words being read.
Separate from all of these, color blindness can potentially cause an issue as well, especially for young children where color identifying or matching activities are done in the classroom.
As with vision problems in general, the best treatment begins with seeing an eye doctor and having your child’s eyes properly examined.
Based on the examination results, your doctor will make the appropriate suggestions, be they corrective lenses, vision therapy, or something else.
It must be underscored that the problems discussed here are in no way learning disabilities, and should not be treated as such by parents or teachers. Because many of the symptoms are similar (a child with vision issues might also act out in class, become exhausted after any school work, or fidget while reading) these vision issues can be easily mistaken for learning or behavioral issues.
Additionally, children diagnosed with learning or behavioral disabilities have a higher incidence of vision problems. So even if your child has been diagnosed with a learning or behavioral issue, it is still a good idea to have their vision checked.
Additionally, if your child has a learning-related vision problem, it is important to reassure them that this has nothing to do with their intelligence or overall intellectual abilities. Once they receive the proper vision treatment, they will be able to perform just as well as other students.
Learning-related vision problems are more common than you might think, and often misdiagnosed by teachers. Learn how to properly address them to help your child.