In order to perform to academic potential, students must develop a specific set of visual skills. The majority of children develop these skills before entering school but many do not. Deficiencies in these vision skills can often cause academic problems and sometimes be masqueraded as dyslexia and ADD.
Just as children learn to walk, talk, and ride a bike, they learn to use their eyes and see. Kids can easily judge how a friend or family member walks or talks but it’s very difficult to monitor how they see. As a result, the children with vision problems usually think that they see just like everyone else. Unfortunately, if the words in a book become doubled or blurry, the child may assume this occurs to his peers as well. This is why most school aged children are “non-symptomatic” and don’t complain or address their observations to their parents or teacher.
Some visual skills needed for school are below:
Visual Acuity: The ability to see fine detail from a certain distance is what is meant by visual acuity. The standard for “normal” visual acuity is 20/20, which means that a person can identify a tiny object 20 feet away. If someone has “20/40” visual acuity, this means he can identify an object twice the size as the person with 20/20. A person with poor visual acuity will see blurry.
Eye Focusing: To get as much information as we can from the world, we have to adjust our eyes when looking at one distance and to another. If this skill is inadequate, the person misses information and quickly falls behind. People who have difficulty here will have trouble copying from the board and will seem slower to complete tasks. They might start off reading fine for the first few minutes then fatigue, headaches or sleepiness will come shortly after.
Eye Teaming: Both eyes must look together, focus together, move and aim together. They need to align on the same target at the same time. When the aim of each eye is even slightly different, the person may have to use conscious effort to keep them lined up. If somebody is constantly struggling to do this, less attention will be devoted to the actual task at hand. This can create headaches, eyestrain and unnecessary fatigue while reading. One of the tell-tale signs in an eye teaming problem is when the words in a book double or “swim around”. All these problems impact reading comprehension and attention. In fact, many eye teaming problems masquerade as ADD and ADHD.
Eye Movement: When reading, our eyes make small jumps from one word to the next. In our clinic, we see many children who simply don’t know where to point their eyes next when they’re reading. They may understand that they have to go left to right and top to bottom, but they don’t have control over where their eyes land. This can result in losing one’s place and skipping lines. The child may have to use a finger to keep their place on the page.
Additionally, when writing, the eyes have to lead the hands. If the eyes don’t move accurately and reliably, handwriting may become slow, messy and inconsistent.