When it comes to vision and learning seeing “20/20” is just not enough. So what visual skills are necessary to help with reading and learning?
- Eye Tracking – this is the ability to move both eyes together to point at an intended target or follow along a path, like a line of text in a book. Difficulties with eye tracking can cause you to lose your place when reading.
- Eye Focusing – this is the ability to see clearly at different distances and to adjust your eye focus from far to close and close to far. Difficulties with eye focusing can cause headaches, eye strain, and words to go in and out of focus when reading and can cause difficulties with copying notes off the board in the classroom.
- Eye Coordination – this is the ability to align both eyes to look at the same point in space, either close or far. Difficulties with eye coordination can cause headaches, eye strain, and words to appear to move and/or become double when reading.
- Visual Information Processing (VIP) – the ability to take in visual information and decode it from the written word into a mental image. Memory and visualization are also used to constantly relate the information to what is already known and to help make sense of what is being read. Difficulties with VIP can cause problems with reading comprehension.
When reading it is important to maintain good control of all of these visual skills which can be quite challenging. A deficit in any one or more of these skills can effect a person’s ability to read efficiently and comfortably. So what should you look for if you suspect a problem with any of these visual skills?
- Headaches and/or eye strain – good muscle coordination is need to maintain excellent visual skills and the effort needed to control your eyes can be uncomfortable.
- Avoidance of work – visual discomfort can lead to the avoidance of work and can mimic ADD/ADHD. This may be most apparent during long work periods at school or when doing homework in the evenings.
- Covering one eye when reading – if it is uncomfortable to use both eyes together it is not uncommon for people to cover one eye or turn their head when reading so that they only have to use one eye. This may help with the discomfort but can have negative effects on reading efficiency.
- Inconsistency with school work – difficulties with visual skills can lead to inconsistent academic work. This can keep a student from reaching their full potential and can cause frustration for both students and parents.
So what do you do next if you suspect a problem with any of these visual skills? It is necessary to have a comprehensive vision evaluation as most vision screenings do not check for visual skills – only eye sight. And what age should you have your child evaluated? We see infants as young as 6 months old and recommend an evaluation at age 2-3 years old and again at age 5 before they start school. Early detection of any vision problem can mean better long term success. Our doctors provide thorough assessments of visual skills and visual information processing as well as provide treatment options, including glasses and vision therapy.