Learning Disabilities and Visual Skills
insufficiency or strabismus, all may affect how efficient a child’s visual system may work.
Convergence insufficiency is where the eyes have a strong tendency to drift outward when doing close up work.
Accommodative insufficiency is a sensory motor problem characterized by an inability to focus or sustain focus at near.
Strabismus is a visual problem in which the eyes are not aligned properly; one eye may look straight ahead, while the other eye turns inward, outward, upward, or downward.
For school age children, they require several visual skills to provide efficient vision. They require clear vision (at distance and near), ability to maintain focus accurately, good focusing flexibility to allow rapid change from one distance to another, binocular vision skills, peripheral vision and eye-hand coordination.
If any of these visual skills are inefficient, children may have difficulty keeping up with the visual demands of schoolwork.
When investigating if a child has a learning disability, an in-depth oculo-visual exam should be conducted to determine if visual skills is a component to the disability.
Doctors of Optometry recommend eye exams between six and nine months of age; children have their eyes examined between two and five years of age and then yearly after starting school.
ADHD, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is a common behavioral disorder that affects about 10% of school-age children.
Kidshealth.org reports that kids often understand what is expected of them but they have trouble “following through because they can't sit still, pay attention, or focus on details.”
Often times though, an undiagnosed vision problem can look like a learning disability.
In today’s modern classrooms, where most didactic learning takes place through print and electronic media, optimal vision is crucial. Children who have troubles keeping up with a lesson, often act out, appearing to be disruptive by comparison to their classmates.
Vision problems such as convergence insufficiency, accommodative
article by Dr. Jenny Tsui
Dr. Jenny Tsui
Doctor of Optometry,
Altruistic Eye Doctor Sees What Happens
When Children's Vision Doesn't Get Tested
interview with Dr. Della Chow
When young children have trouble learning to read, sometimes it’s because they can’t see well enough in class.
Dr. Della Chow, a Vancouver optometrist, finds this happens alarmingly often, so she urges parents to take their children for a complete eye exam before kindergarten – ideally, at the age of three.
"Kids don’t need to know the alphabet to have their vision tested," she says.
"If schoolchildren don’t see well, it ends up becoming more than just being a reading problem," says Chow, whose Kitsilano-based practice is called Della Optique.
"Children who see poorly or whose eyes get tired in class can easily become inattentive and then badly behaved. Then they get their eyes checked and they get glasses,” and the problems go away. “The parents feel so guilty!”
The BC Association of Optometrists points out that one in five children entering school has a vision disorder and that 80 percent of a child’s learning is based on vision.
Chow knows she’s right about children needing early eye exams because she herself didn’t get one.
"Children who see poorly or whose eyes get tired in class can easily become inattentive."
- Dr. Della Chow
Her vision wasn’t corrected until she was in Grade 3, and it turned out she needed a strong prescription for nearsightedness. “I don’t know how I even got to Grade 3,” marvels Chow, a graduate of the University of Waterloo’s Doctor of Optometry program, who has been in practice for 15 years. "Some kids have excellent distance vision, so their parents mistakenly think they are fine, when in fact they can’t focus on close work."
Chow believes so strongly in vision testing as a precondition for literacy that she has donated $5,000 to the Can-West Global Foundation’s Raise-a-Reader campaign, making her a Bronze Sponsor.
With the provincial government matching all donations to the campaign, her generous contribution doubled.
“I’m so excited that my $5,000 is turning into $10,000,” says Chow, who is encouraging other optometrists to donate as well.