Vision and Learning

Eighty percent of what we learn comes into our brain through the visual system, so the better our vision serves us the better we will learn.  "When vision is working well it leads and guides in all we do, when not, it interferes."  John Streff, O.D.

We all know that if someone is not seeing clearly it will interfere with how they perform in school.  That is why there are vision screenings in schools, and why parents take their children for eye exams when they struggle in school.  Often times children will pass the school or pediatrician screening of eye sight, and parents will be lead to believe that their child's vision is perfect, but there is far more than just 20/20 eye sight to consider.

Children can have difficult with the coordination of their eyes, visual processing/perception, or visually guided movement (eye hand coordination) which can effect academic performance.  When the brain is not coordinating the eyes properly, there is a lack of visual efficiency.  This can show up in how the eyes move, how they work together as a team, and how they focus.  Most parents and teacher are aware of tracking problems, where the brain is not coordinating the movements of the eyes, causing difficulty with smoothly reading across rows of print. 

Children with eye movement coordination difficulties often:

  •  lose their place with reading
  •  skip words or rows of print
  •  skip problems on a math page
  •  make "careless mistakes"
  •  confuse similar looking words
  •  guess at words from the first few letters
  •  miss endings of words
  •  skip punctuation
  •  read in a choppy, word-by-word fashion

Children with eye teaming coordination difficulties often experience:

  • fatigue, or tired eyes with reading
  • headaches while reading or just after reading
  • blurred vision after reading awhile
  • difficulty sustaining near work
  • avoidance of near work
  • double vision
  • print running together
  • working too close to the page
  • turning head as though only using one eye
  • closing or covering an eye when reading
  • decreased performance after just a short amount of near work
    • get dizzy or nauseous with near work
    • experience carsickness

Children with focusing (accommodative) difficulties often experience:

  • blurred near vision
  • blurred vision when shifting near-far as when copying from the board
  • headaches
  • eye aches

Difficulties in visual processing or visual perception present with a whole new set of concerns impacting academic performance.  These skills represent how well we utilize visual information once it gets into the brain, including sorting, processing, organizing, manipulating, and storing visual information.  They can range from directionality (letter/number reversals), visual memory, visual spatial relations, figure-ground perception, visual closure, and visualization.

Children with visual processing/perceptual difficulties often experience:

  • letter reversals or transpositions
  • challenges in spelling
  • difficulty retaining sight words
  • confusion of similar looking words
  • difficulty memorizing math facts
  • difficulty learning the alphabet
  • difficulty with reading comprehension
  • difficulty grasping concepts
  • difficulty with multiple step directions
  • difficulty organizing thoughts for writing, planning, and organization in general

The final piece of visual processing has its own category, and that is in integrating vision with movement.  There are both fine visual motor and gross visual motor considerations.  The fine visual motor skills are considered in handwriting/penmanship, and handling tools, while gross motor skills are considered in piloting ourselves thru space, and in sports with the eye hand coordination required to catch and hit a ball.

Children with fine visual motor difficulties often:

  • have sloppy handwriting
  • laborious handwriting
  • hate writing
  • write the shortest sentences possible
  • dislike arts and crafts

EVERY child and adult that struggle academically, or simply is not performing up to their potential should have a Behavioral Vision evaluation to determine if there is a functional vision deficit hindering their performance.