Parents who have a child with reading problems or other learning difficulties should not accept the diagnosis of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, originally called ADD), dyslexia, slow learner, or lazy without arranging for in-depth vision testing. Vision problems can present symptoms that are identical, or similar, to those of learning disorders, lack of ability, or lack of effort in the classroom.
Fortunately, many optometrists have been trained to administer tests that will pinpoint a vision difficulty and can treat – and often cure – such problems through vision therapy. If you are doing everything you can to encourage your child to read or help him improve his marks in school and having no success, consider taking him to a vision therapist for further testing.
Standard Tests do not Uncover Particular Vision Problems
If your child has no difficulties in school, his vision appears normal, and he never complains about his eyes or his sight, you probably have no motive to seek in-depth vision testing. However, there are some symptoms that are common to learning disabilities, as well as laziness, or limited learning ability and it is worthwhile to get a second opinion if your child shows these symptoms:
- Difficulty reading – in particular, squinting, tilting his head, skipping words, covering one eye, reading words backwards
- Headaches, complaints of sore eyes or blurriness, excessive blinking, an eye that wanders when he’s tired
- Lack of concentration and inattention at school
- Poor marks in spelling and writing, and very slow at copying
- Poor coordination and avoidance of sports
There Are Many Vision Problems Masquerading as Learning Disorders
There are number of eye problems that can make reading very difficult to learn and the child may be unaware that there is a problem having no way of comparing “normal” and “different”:
- Poor eye coordination, which means the eyes don’t move and work together well
- Lack of eye muscle control, which results in jerky eye movements
- Poor eye-brain communication, which makes it difficult to interpret what is seen
- Lack of eye focus, which makes it difficult to follow movement (e.g., a moving pointer, a ball moving through the air)
What Vision Therapy Entails
Most vision therapy takes place in an office and there usually exercises to do at home. The therapy must be tailor-made to correct the particular problem and will be based on the results of the testing. As the eye problem improves, the therapy is adjusted:
- Eye exercises
- Wearing a temporary eye patch
- Eye tracking exercises on the computer or with 3D imagery
- Balance boards and metronomes
Why a Misdiagnosis is Dangerous
All too often, a child diagnosed with a learning problem is treated with medications – particularly for hyperactivity – that carry long-term side effects. As well, not treating the vision problem does nothing to correct the difficulty he is having, and will negatively affect not only his classroom experiences, but will also affect him for the rest of his life.
Even if the original diagnosis is correct and your child does have a learning disability, vision therapy can help improve his learning skills, including his ability to read well and fluently.
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