Educational experts tell us that about 80% of what our children learn in school is visually presented. We know from experience that when a youngster has vision problems it has the potential to affect academic and reading performance. Health and education experts consider these learning-related vision problems.

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The challenges arise when we try to assess our children’s learning progress. If they seem to struggle, it’s critical for us to determine whether the culprit is a learning-related vision problem, or if their problem is related to learning disabilities. Or even both.

From an from an article in the Optometrist Network, the key challenge is raised by this joint policy statement by the American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association:

“Many children and adults continue to struggle with learning in the classroom and the workplace. Advances in information technology, its expanding necessity, and its accessibility are placing greater demands on people for efficient learning and information processing.”

Ironically, experts now believe that increasing screen-time is a significant contributing factor to myopia (nearsightedness, or blurry distance vision), even as our kids spend more of their learning time looking at screens.

When our child is having a tough time mastering early lessons in math, identifying the cause can be tricky. Is the problem strictly vision related, or is it a possible learning disability. Diagnosing the problem early is essential. Yet, over the past generation, we’re all painfully aware of myopia reaching epidemic levels, as well as the increased diagnoses of learning disabilities like dyslexialanguage processing disorder, and related disorders like ADHD.

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From this super informative article in All About Vision, the challenge of accurate and early diagnosis is spelled out clearly.  “…Specific vision problems can contribute to learning problems, whether or not a child has been diagnosed as learning disabled. …A child struggling in school may have a specific learning disability, a learning-related vision problem, or both.”

The article goes on to offer some great advice for parents trying to get to the bottom of their child’s learning challenges.  “If you are concerned about your child’s performance in school, you need to find out the underlying cause of the problem. The best way to do this is through a team approach … teachers, an eye doctor who specializes in children’s vision and learning-related vision problems and perhaps other professionals.”

The advice is strongly echoed in the Optometrist Network article when they suggest, “Educational, neuropsychological and medical research has suggested distinct subtypes of learning difficulties. Current research indicates that some people with reading difficulties …have co-existing visual and language processing deficits. … No single treatment, profession or discipline can be expected to adequately address all of their needs.”

So – as parents we’re still left with figuring all this out, and that’s not a simple task. Experts suggest ruling out the most common cause responsible for any learning problems our kids might be suffering, and that entails a full eye exam to rule out the most common refractive errors.  These are abnormalities of the eye that affect the normal ability of the eye to focus light on the retina. If a problem is identified – such as myopia – you can deal with it immediately with corrective lenses and, now, with Treehouse Vision System you can slow or even stop the myopia from getting worse.

If your child continues to struggle with learning, additional tests can be run to help identify whether there are other factors contributing to their learning problems, as noted within the two articles cited above.

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The ever-helpful team at All About Vision offers the following checklist of symptoms which we can watch for in our kids, to determine whether there are suffering from learning-related visions problems.

Symptoms of learning-related vision problems include:

  • Headaches or eye strain
  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Crossed eyes or eyes that appear to move independently of each other (Read more about strabismus.)
  • Dislike or avoidance of reading and close work
  • Short attention span during visual tasks
  • Turning or tilting the head to use one eye only, or closing or covering one eye
  • Placing the head very close to the book or desk when reading or writing
  • Excessive blinking or rubbing the eyes
  • Losing place while reading, or using a finger as a guide
  • Slow reading speed or poor reading comprehension
  • Difficulty remembering what was read
  • Omitting or repeating words, or confusing similar words
  • Persistent reversal of words or letters (after second grade)
  • Difficulty remembering, identifying or reproducing shapes
  • Poor eye-hand coordination
  • Evidence of developmental immaturity

If your child is challenged at school and seems to be experiencing learning problems, and they also suffer from any of the symptoms noted above, it’s possible they have a learning-related vision problem. The first step is a comprehensive eye exam from an optometrist. If myopia is the issue we’d welcome performing an assessment at Treehouse Eyes to determine if we can help stop or slow its progress.  Contact us here to schedule a visit. Please share this article with any parents you think might benefit from a read, and we welcome your questions and ideas posted in the comments section below.