As adults, most of us can’t remember what it felt like to learn how to read or discover the difference between ovals and circles. But as a child, reading and basic geometry are difficult tasks. When you add vision problems to the mix, it can make them seem impossible. Eighty percent of what a child learns in school is presented visually, and studies show that 25 percent of all children have vision problems that affect their performance in school.
When we think about learning and vision, most of us probably get the familiar image of a child squinting at the blackboard, struggling to make sense of the blurry figures the teacher is rapidly scribbling at the front of the classroom. Usually, we assume the teacher or parent will notice the child’s difficulty and eventually schedule an eye exam with the optometrist to get eyeglasses. This can be the case for many individuals, but sometimes a vision problem is not as easy to detect or diagnose.
Different Types of Eye Problems
It’s important to recognize that there are different types of eye problems. The most well-known issues, like nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism, are called refractive problems. Often, corrective lenses or conventional eyeglasses can help solve the problems caused by these traits. However, not all vision problems are refractive: often, children with vision-related learning problems have 20/20 eyesight.
Functional vision is another branch of eye health that includes issues related to eye tracking, eye teaming and accommodation. Perceptual vision problems relate to how you identify, judge and relate what you see to previously stored information in the brain. Most routine eye exams do not cover eye problems in these categories. However, there are optometrists who specialize in children’s vision and vision therapy that can test these types of issues.
Common Symptoms of Learning-Related Vision Problems
Below are some of the most easily recognized eye-problem symptoms that could affect how your child is learning:
- Headaches and eye strain
- Blurred or double vision
- Dislike or avoidance of reading and close work
- Short attention span during visual tasks
- Covers one eye frequently
- Relies on finger as a reading guide
- Reads slowly or has poor reading comprehension
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How to Help
If your child has one or more of these symptoms, it may be possible he or she has a learning-specific vision problem. The first step is to schedule an appointment with a qualified optometrist. The doctor will perform a comprehensive evaluation and provide possible solutions and recommendations. It may be necessary to consult other specialists, such as counselors or other doctors, as there may be physiological, psychological or developmental factors that also affect your child’s ability to learn.