Vision in the Classroom

School performance is affected by a significant visual issue in 25% of all children.

Vision in the Classroom in Olympia

American Family Vision Clinic

What are the visual demands of a classroom?

Binocular teaming - this is a skill that represents how well the eyes are coordinated with each other. It translates as depth perception which helps prevent clumsiness and bumping into things. If there’s a lack of binocularity then it can show up in a student’s behavior as he can have a hard time maintaining concentration and interest in reading. A highly motivated student will push himself to overcome this obstacle but then will complain about headaches, discomfort, fatigue and blurry/ double vision. Poor binocularity also causes lower performance on timed tests because it takes these students longer to read and to maintain their visual attention.

Focusing - it’s important to develop the ability to focus at different distances and to be able to smoothly adjust the focus from one distance to another. This is very important in the classroom because a student must be able to focus on the board which is usually at a distance and then to be able to take notes in their notebook or on their computer which is at a much closer distance than the board is at and the demand to shift their gaze at different distances is constantly required in the classroom.

Other very important visual skills for school performance include:

  • Eye-hand coordination
  • Visual perception
  • Visual memory
  • Central and peripheral vision
  • Fine and gross visual-motor skills
  • Convergence

There are many visual demands in the classroom because so much of a student’s performance depends on their vision skills which can actually be strengthened and developed when necessary. Some of these visual abilities are explained as follows: 

Eye tracking - this is necessary for visually monitoring what’s going on in the classroom environment which helps with attention behavior. The six muscles surrounding the eyes must be working properly together to allow for different kinds of smooth eye movements.

A student with undeveloped eye tracking:

  • Has a hard time following a teacher who is using objects and gestures to explain something 
  • Tends to lose their place when reading
  • Has a hard time catching a ball
  • Has difficulty with making smooth transitions and shifting attention. 

Convergence Insufficiency in the Classroom

Maybe you have a student like Charlie who is able to read and to complete the task, however it is not obvious that this very same student is exerting at least double the amount of energy in order to read and it’s taking him longer than his classmates. If the student has a hard time focusing both eyes together in sync when looking at a target up close, otherwise known as convergence insufficiency, the task of reading could take a lot more time and energy than it does for his peer who does not have this visual challenge. Even though Charlie is able to read, by the time he gets through a paragraph, he could be drained and frustrated and lose his attention span for other subsequent visual demands.

These types of scenarios are much more common than they might seem and with the proper awareness of potential visual challenges, a teacher can make great improvements for their individual students who are struggling which has a ripple effect that can also benefit the entire class.

Convergence Insufficiency in the Classroom
What are symptoms of a student who could be having visual challenges?

What are symptoms of a student who could be having visual challenges?

General symptoms:

  • Has wandering eye(s) which means that both eyes are not focusing on the same target
  • Struggles with time management
  • Gives up before attempting a task
  • Loses things, demonstrates clumsy tendencies
  • Gets frustrated when doing assignments such as reading or writing
  • Struggles with depth perception
  • Avoids doing work that requires looking at something up close
  • Complains of headaches
  • Does not enjoy sports
  • Sits close to the computer 
What are symptoms of a student who could be having visual challenges?

When reading, your student:

  • Skips or repeats lines
  • Gets drained and exhausted
  • Complains of blurry or double vision
  • Closes one eye
  • Has difficulty with reading comprehension and has better reading comprehension when someone else reads to the student
  • Reads very close up
  • Needs to use a finger or something else to avoid losing the place

Regarding writing, your student:

  • Confuses or reverses numbers/ letters
  • Writes on an upward or downward slant
  • Has a hard time writing down answers and finds it easier to answer orally
  • Has a hard time copying notes from the board

What can I do for my student who appears to be having visual challenges?

The first step is a very important one and that is being aware of the visual demands of a classroom. Understanding that even a child who can see with 20/20 clarity may be struggling with other aspects of their vision and this knowledge can help your students tremendously. 

There is an entire professional field dedicated to helping children develop their visual abilities and that is known as developmental vision care. A developmental optometrist is trained to do a full evaluation of a child’s visual skills and to determine if your student can benefit from treatment which often involves glasses and/or vision therapy.

Convergence Insufficiency in the Classroom
Dr. Zurcher cartoon

What is vision therapy?

Vision therapy is a series of sessions in-office, which often include at home exercise as well. The child works with a professional vision therapist doing various activities and exercises which train the eyes to work together properly as a team and strengthens the communication that the eyes have with the brain. This yields effective results as a child’s visual skills can constantly be developed and strengthened. When a child no longer has the visual obstacles preventing him or her from being able to keep up with the demands at school, they can finally thrive with their peers. To schedule an eye exam for vision therapy, please call (360) 491-2121. Patients looking for a functional vision exam visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of functional vision services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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