Your child's education is arguably the most important part of their childhood. His/her success in this incredible endeavor will affect him/her forever. If your child is falling behind, it is your duty as a parent to find the proper way to help. Dr. Josiah Young of Opticare Vision Center in Cincinnati, Ohio explains, “Often, parents who see their child struggling through school, consistently failing, despite their child's best effort, will assume that their child has a learning or other related disability such as ADHD. Unfortunately, doctors, too, will often misdiagnose based on the presenting symptoms. However, it is important for your child's success for you to know that the issue may not be related to a learning disorder, but may actually be an undiagnosed visual problem.”
One visual difficulty that your child may be having is convergence insufficiency. Our eyes are designed to work together to present an accurate image of the world, but each one functions on its own. When you look at an object, each eye records an image independently, and sends its image to the brain. These two images are then interpreted in the brain into a single, unified image. This is known as binocular fusion. In cases of convergence insufficiency, the eyes do not aim at the exact same spot up close, making binocular fusion impossible. Your child may see words on a page with double vision and/or the words may look as though they are moving across the page. This can cause difficulty in learning and reading that can lead to a misdiagnosis of a learning disability or dyslexia. Furthermore, the resulting difficulty can cause the child to have problems maintaining attention on a task, which could lead to a misdiagnosis of attention deficit disorder (ADD).
Vision tracking is another eye disorder that is often misdiagnosed. This is the ability to control the fine eye movements necessary to smoothly move across a page of text. Proper control of these fine eye movements helps avoid overshooting or undershooting the next word or words on a page, allowing one to stay on the same line of text until it's finished. “Your child's inability to control these finer eye movements at close range may cause him or her to lose his/her place easily, skip or transpose words, and have difficulty comprehending what was read. These are all symptoms which are also commonly associated with dyslexia, and could lead to a misdiagnosis,” cautions Dr. Young.
Once these conditions are properly diagnosed, however, an innovative and effective solution has recently emerged which can significantly help your child.
Vision therapy is a program that consists of special eye exercises aimed at correcting specific vision issues and common eye disorders. While eyeglasses and contact lenses are effective treatments for refractive errors like nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and presbyopia, there are other vision conditions which corrective lenses cannot fix. Vision therapy trains the visual system to correct itself through a process similar to physical therapy.
Children should have routine comprehensive eye exams to detect if any problems such as tracking difficulties or convergence insufficiency are present, so that proper vision therapy can be prescribed before your child begins to fall behind.