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Will Vision Therapy Help Your Child Perform Better In School?

by Terry Wilson

Some children are intelligent, active, and social and yet perform poorly in school. What may seem like a behavior problem causing children to act up in school or have difficulty reading may actually be a vision problem. Have you considered that your child might need vision therapy to help them do better academically? The first step is to identify whether a learning-related vision problem is causing poor performance or not. If a learning-related vision problem is identified, preparing for vision therapy is next.

What are the Different Learning-Related Vision Problems?

Learning-related vision problems aren't identified using a basic visual exam. A standard exam checks for nearsightedness, farsightedness, and even astigmatisms. However, a more in depth exam is used to identify learning-related vision problems. At this exam, your child's eyes will be tested for eye tracking and alignment, as well as the ability to focus on and perceive information. Based on the results, your child may be diagnosed with one of these disorders:

  • Functional Vision Disorder: Functional vision refers to the relationship between the brain and the eye. If your child has a functional vision problem, then they likely struggle focusing both eyes simultaneously and could have poor peripheral vision. Symptoms of this disorder include eye stress, headaches, blurry vision, and double vision because the eyes are straining against one another instead of working together. This can make it difficult to focus on fine print and read quickly.
  • Perceptual Vision Disorder: A perceptual vision disorder occurs when the eyes have difficulty processing what is seen or recognizing similar images. Difficulties that accompany a perceptual vision problem include cognitive struggles such as remembering or understanding what is read. You might also notice that your child struggles over the same word over and over, because they don't realize it is similar. Symptoms include poor attention span and eye rubbing.

What is a Learning-Related Vision Therapy Session Like?

If you feel like vision therapy could help your child perform better in school, you'll want to help prepare them for their sessions. Your child must understand that this is a long-term investment that could last up to a year. These sessions can be rigorous and demanding, but are designed to progress in difficulty so your child doesn't become easily discouraged. Each office will have a different approach to therapy, but each exercise will:

  • Improve Depth Perception: Exercises such as studying objects at different distances and playing catch can improve depth perception and make it easier to focus on specific objects. This will help with functional vision disorders because it improves the eyes' ability to work together.
  • Improve Cognitive Abilities: Copying drawings and repeating phrases will help your child with perceptual vision disorders. Your child will learn to identify and recall shapes, images, and information and be able to apply this skill to all academic areas.
  • Strengthen Eye Muscles: Learning-related difficulties can be manifest by crossed eyes or a lazy eye. Trauma such as a sports injury can also cause eye problems. To overcome these setbacks, eye muscles must be strengthened. Part of therapy can include wearing an eye patch for a certain amount of time each day and using the injured eye to identify words and objects.

Learning-related vision problems aren't always easy to identify – especially because a standard eye exam doesn't test for these kinds of problems. However, you should see a specialist if your child is performing poorly in school. If a learning-related disability is detected, vision therapy is a reliable method of improving function and perception. While some of these exercises may seem simple enough to do at home, a therapist should always be consulted for the best treatment plan for success.

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