Did you know that 80% of what we learn in school comes from our vision? Much of that comes from how well we can read. Reading is fundamental to a child’s success in school and truly forms the foundation of our education.
At EyeCare Specialties Vision Therapy Program, we treat students who struggle with reading due to a vision disorder. We often find those students also have problems with other subjects like math, history, science, geography and technology. Our goal is to examine the student and determine if the child may be struggling with a vision disorder that is affecting their learning abilities.
There are over 20 different visual skills involved in the process of reading, but for teachers and parents looking for more information, the American Optometric Association (aoa.org) categorizes these skills in seven key areas: visual acuity, visual fixation, accommodation, binocular fusion, convergence, field of vision and form perception. Of those seven skills, only one is routinely covered in a basic eye screening done at the pediatrician’s office.
Visual acuity is the ability to see clearly. This is the skill the basic eye chart measures at the pediatrician’s or school nurse’s office. The test usually measures how clearly a child can see both close-up and at a distance of up to 20 feet. If there is a problem with seeing objects clearly, the student should be referred for a comprehensive exam with an optometrist.
Visual fixation is the ability to aim the eyes on fixed or moving objects. The ability to fixate vision requires split second timing in order for the eyes to transmit information immediately to the brain. Just a slight delay can cause comprehension and fluency problems which can be discouraging to the young learner.
Accommodation is the ability to refocus the eyes back and forth between different points of focus. In the classroom, this would mean being able to transition between focusing on the board in class to text on a desk. This extremely important during tests and other activities that require quick changes in focus.
Binocular fusion is the ability for both eyes to work together at the same time. When a child has eyes that fail to work together properly, one eye can overcompensate for the other, resulting in decreasing vision in the underutilized eye. A child with a binocular vision disorder may be found closing one eye when trying to read.
Convergence is the ability for both eyes to turn inward in order to focus on close up images. Because most school work is done at a close proximity, this is an important skill to have.
Field of vision is the entire picture that the eyes see. The ability to see out of the corner of one’s eye is important to the process of reading. Having good center vision and peripheral vision will help the child receive all vision cues that are important for learning.
Visual and form perception are links between the shapes of objects being seen and the brain’s interpretation of those shapes. When a child struggles with form perception, it can slow down the reading process and make it difficult for the child to increase reading fluency.
A comprehensive eye exam will discover if a student is struggling in any of those areas. Treatment could include corrective lenses, vision therapy or both.
Vision Therapy is a series of treatments and exercised designed to address any of the above situations. We will customize a course of treatment for each patient with a goal of increasing the student’s reading fluency, comprehension and vocabulary.
I have found that when a child’s vision problems are addressed, his/her confidence soars. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a child who previously struggled with reading and schoolwork, become motivated to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
Information from aoa.org and education.com.