Vision Therapy Can Improve Reading Skills In Children
Because 75% to 90% of what a child learns enters through their eyes and travels down the visual pathways to the brain, it stands to reason that any obstruction in their visual system may keep a child from achieving their full potential.
If your child struggles to read, it may be rooted in an undetected visual dysfunction. To read seamlessly, one needs to possess strong vision skills, such as excellent binocular vision, visual fixation, saccades, accommodation, and convergence. As mentioned above, a deficiency in any of these visual functions can result in reading difficulties, which, in turn, hinders learning and academic success.
Fortunately, the vision therapy program offered at A-Ha Vision can help improve your child’s visual skills, thus improving his or her reading abilities and scholastic achievements. Call us to set up a functional vision evaluation with Dr. Shirley Ha to assess your child’s visual skills.
The Difference Between Good Eyesight and Good Vision
Basic vision screenings offered in schools only check for visual acuity — meaning, how clearly your child can see objects situated 20 feet away. This is usually referred to as 20/20 eyesight. However, 20/20 eyesight doesn’t mean that the child has perfect vision. Children may have 20/20 eyesight, with or without prescription glasses and may still experience trouble reading, learning or seeing the board due to reduced visual skills.
Which Visual Skills are Necessary For Reading and Learning?
The Five F’s: Fixation, Focusing, Following, Fusion, & Figuring It Out.
- Fixation or Visual fixation – the eye’s ability to aim accurately at a given target. Static fixation refers to the eye’s ability to aim and focus on a stationary object, such as a word on a page. Whereas saccadic fixation is when the eyes move rapidly and accurately across a page to read a line of print.
- Focusing or Accommodation – is when the eyes adjust their focus as the distance between the individual and the target shifts from near to far. One’s ability to maintain focus at near distances is critical for reading and writing.
- Following or Eye Movements – are made up of pursuits and saccades.
- Pursuits – eye tracking to keep your place while reading.
- Saccades – rapid eye movements, such as when the eyes move from one area to the next when reading a text.
- Fusion or Binocular fusion – the brain’s ability to form a single, integrated image with the information received by each individual eye. Poor binocular vision tends to result in double or blurred vision, confusion, or reading avoidance.
- Another common part of fusion is convergence, or the eyes’ ability to turn towards each other to maintain a single image, which is vital for reading.
- Figuring it out or Perception – a person needs to interpret and comprehend what they just read, which is an essential skill for reading and learning.
How Can Parents and Teachers Spot a Child’s Visual Dysfunction?
Detecting a visual problem can be difficult — especially in children — as they may not complain about their vision, or simply lack the verbal skills to effectively communicate what they’re experiencing. By undergoing a functional vision assessment with Dr. Shirley Ha, the optometrist will determine whether visual dysfunction is at the root of their difficulty. In addition to reading problems, poor visual skills can manifest in several ways:
- Children with reading difficulties may exhibit behavioral issues associated with frustration
- Reading below school grade level
- Excessive fidgeting or low attention span could indicate a vision-related problem
- They may resist going to school or doing homework
- In the classroom, they may shy away from reading out loud or avoid reading altogether
- They may struggle to summarize or remember what they’ve just read
- Teachers may notice the child taking frequent bathroom breaks during reading-related activities
- When looking at distant objects, such as a blackboard, they may cover one eye, tilt their head, or frequently blink their eyes
If you notice a child displaying any of the above behaviors, it may be time to call A-Ha Vision for a functional vision evaluation.
What About a Child with ADHD, Dyslexia, or Learning Disability Experiencing Reading Problems?
For children who have been diagnosed with dyslexia, 5 out of 9 of the symptoms used to diagnose dyslexia are vision related. Plus, children diagnosed with ADHD, 15 of the 18 symptoms are also vision related. Therefore, a child with ADHD or dyslexia may have vision problems hindering their ability to read aside from other issues. This applies to a child with a learning disability as well.
Vision therapy can not cure ADHD or dyslexia, but any vision problems can be resolved. Therefore, through a functional visual exam, we are able to rule in if there was a vision problem adding to the problem or not.
How Does Vision Therapy Improve Reading Skills?
Vision is a learned skill — meaning, it can be trained and often responds well to training due to the brain’s neuroplasticity. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Learning Disabilities found that 12 vision therapy sessions significantly enhanced reading abilities among sixth graders with subpar reading levels. Results indicate that after undergoing vision therapy, their attention processing abilities and reading improved by an impressive 220%.
The vision therapy program offered at A-Ha Vision can provide similar outcomes for your child. If visual dysfunction is the underlying cause of your child’s reading and learning struggles, our tailor-made vision therapy program will target and improve his or her specific visual skills. The process may involve various aids and tools, such as prisms, filters, eye patches, balance beams, and digital simulations.
Because reading issues can have multiple causes, a multidisciplinary approach incorporating other health care professionals and educators will help ensure that your child reads at the expected level.
If you suspect that a vision problem may be preventing your child from reaching his or her potential, contact A-Ha Vision to schedule a functional eye evaluation today. Invest in your child’s future with vision therapy and see the results for yourself.
Dr. Shirley Ha provides vision therapy and other services to patients from Oakville, Burlington, Halton, Mississauga, and throughout Ontario.