Vision Problems and Learning Difficulties

Vision Problems and Learning Difficulties

When Is a Learning Difficulty Due to a Vision Problem?

While learning occurs through a number of complex and interrelated processes, vision plays a key role. Many signs, symptoms, and behaviours associated with learning disabilities are similar to those caused by vision problems. This is why it is so important that a comprehensive vision examination be part of the interdisciplinary evaluation of all children who are failing to succeed in school.

How to Identify a Vision Problem

Children should be referred for a comprehensive eye exam whenever visual symptoms are noticed or if they are not achieving their potential. Many of these vision problems may not be detected during a school vision screening or a routine paediatric health evaluation. It may be helpful for you and your child's teacher(s) to review the following list of symptoms to gain a full understanding of possible conditions your child may be experiencing. Phone us for an appointment if you have any concerns. Any of our practices will be happy to look after children of any age for an initial eye examination. Our Newtownards Road practice has a Special Reading Difficulties Clinic for visual perception, memory, motor integration and left/right awareness.


Possible Vision Problems

Complains of blurred vision

Rubs eyes frequently


myopia (short-sightedness)

hyperiopia (long-sightedness)

astigmatism (inability to see clearly in the distance or up close)

Closes or covers one eye

Occasionally sees double

Rubs eyes frequently

Able to read for only a short time

Poor reading comprehension

Eye coordination problems

(inability to coordinate the eyes together effectively)

Holds things very close

Complains of blurred vision

Poor reading comprehension

Says eyes are tired

Able to read for only a short time

Has headaches when reading

Eye focusing problems

(inability to easily refocus eyes or maintain clear focus)

Mistakes words with similar beginnings

Difficulty recognizing letters, words, or simple shapes and forms

Can't distinguish the main idea from insignificant details

Trouble learning basic math concepts of size, magnitude, and position

Faulty visual form perception

(inability to discriminate differences in size, shape, or form)

Trouble visualizing what is read-

Poor reading comprehension

Poor speller

Trouble with mathematical concepts

Poor recall of visually presented material

Faulty visual memory

(inability to remember and understand what is seen)

Sloppy handwriting and drawing

Can't stay on lines

Poor copying skills

Can respond orally but not in writing

Faulty visual motor integration

(inability to process and reproduce visual mages by writing or drawing)

Trouble learning right and left

Reverses letters and words

Trouble writing and remembering letters and numbers

Difficulty with laterality and directionality

(poor development of left/right awareness)

Vision and learning

Children who are under achieving at school, and often diagnosed as dyslexic or dyspraxic, frequently have a hidden vision problem that prevent them from reaching their true academic potential in the classroom.

Many will have had a routine eye test which mainly tests for distance vision clarity and does not look in any detail or understanding at the visual processes taking place in the child patient with learning difficulties or, indeed, in the adult with eye strain in the office or one who still does not enjoy reading or sports.

Once a routine eye test has determined that there is not a sight or clarity problem, vision is ruled out as a contributing factor in the learning difficulties and an opportunity is missed to give vital help to the child.

Reading, writing and spelling are all fundamental visual tasks and therefore the correct management of vision must be the first area that should be looked at when there are learning problems.

The main visual skills needed for learning are:

Fixation:  Aiming the eyes or shifting rapidly from one object to another (reading from word to word).

Tracking:  Following moving objects smoothly and accurately (keeping your place when on a line; catching a ball).

Binocular Vision:  Seeing with both eyes and combining information received through each eye to make one mental picture. Using one eye and mentally shutting off the other is suppression.

Convergence:  Turning the eyes toward each other to look at near objects (words at reading distance) and maintaining eye alignment comfortably and efficiently over time (attention span).

Stereopsis:  Determining relative distances between objects by looking at them from two different places (the two eyes) simultaneously.

Field of Vision:  The area over which vision is possible, including motion, relative position of objects in space, contrast and movement sensitivity in side vision (reading from line to line without getting lost on the page).

Form Perception:  Organising and recognising visual sensations as shapes, noticing like and differences (the difference between “was and saw”, “that and what”,” 21 and 12″, “e and o”etc.).

Therapy Options:

There are three treatment alternatives available and often these are combined in a vision care programme.

Compensatory Lenses

These merely help the person to see more clearly if the patient does not wish to do further vision care.

Treatment Lenses

Special lenses are prescribed that reduce the stresses of the near-centred tasks, such as working on video display terminals or reading, to reduce the forces which contribute to vision problems.

Lens prescriptions may be modified to guide the vision to a better mode of operation. Yoked prisms are also used where indicated. In some cases prescribed tinted (coloured) lenses are beneficial. Lenses are tools available to alter human behaviour beneficially and immediately allow patients to alter their perception of the world around them and change how they function in their environment, reducing visual stress and give them a tool to help them perform their visual tasks. Glasses become a useful appliance similar to using a good pen to aid handwriting or football boots instead of plimsolls for football to use when working in today’s demanding visual environment, which is filled with sustained near point visual demands done indoors with artificial lighting and within restricted rooms.

Vision Training

Here the optometrist provides a treatment programme to develop those abilities that either were not present or were poorly developed in the patient’s overall profile of visual abilities. Vision training is a step-by-step, development-based series of activities and procedures that the patient practices over time to facilitate the development of a more efficient and comprehensive visual process.

Vision training takes 3-12 months to complete, with weekly or fortnightly sessions of 40-60 minutes with the optometrist or vision therapist. This is almost always combined with home vision training by the patient.

Mackey Opticians

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   422 Newtownards Road, BELFAST, Co. Antrim, BT4 1HJ

   028 9073 9909

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