Discovering Vision Therapy Blog

A Surprising Reason for Your Child’s New Learning Problems

Children exhibiting new learning difficulties could have a vision problem
About this time of year, we start to see children struggling for their first time in school. It’s something that often shocks parents, especially if their child has never experienced learning problems. What can be even more surprising is the underlying cause: vision problems.

When we tell parents vision could be the root cause, they ask the same question: If the problem is vision, why haven’t teachers or parents caught it yet?

You would think that if your child’s vision was affecting their learning, surely it would have been detected in the past, right? Not quite. We’re going to explain why, and list eight sets of symptoms that could indicate your child has a vision-related learning problem.

Why a Vision Problem, Why Now

Let’s begin by specifying what we’re referring to as “vision problems.”  We aren’t discussing poor visual acuity, or clearness of vision, which is generally identified through school screenings that test for 20/20 eyesight. Rather, we’re referring to functional vision, which incorporates the entire visual system - the eyes, the brain and visual pathways.

Never heard of functional vision? Many people haven’t. However, functional vision is necessary for many required skills in school, such as being able to follow a single line of text across a page, or switching back and forth between reading words in a notebook and on the dry erase board.

Furthermore, poor functional vision may not noticeably affect a child’s ability to learn in lower grades. That’s because people will adapt and compensate for vision problems, offsetting the issue.

One example is if a child has an eye turn, also known as strabismus. This problem prevents the eyes from converging on the same point, often resulting in double vision. To compensate, the brain may automatically shut down communication with one eye so it only receives a single clear image.

However, as the visual system encounters tougher challenges associated with a higher grade level, these adaptations become less effective. Thus, a child may begin to struggle with school.

There are many symptoms associated with functional vision problems, including headaches and difficulty following along in class. The College of Optometrists in Visual Development (COVD) provides a more comprehensive list of symptoms. We will list some of the symptoms here, as well as possible vision problems associated with them.

If you notice any of these symptoms in your child, have him or her take a Functional Vision Test. It’s the most accurate way to properly assess their entire visual system.

Symptoms of Functional Vision Problems

Here is a list of symptoms from the COVD that could indicate a vision related learning problem. We’ll list eight sets of symptoms, along with the vision problems with which they’re often associated.

1. Symptoms:

  • Complains of blurred vision
  • Frequently rubs eyes
  • Squints often
Possible Vision Problems - Nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism (inability to clearly see up close or in the distance), or difficulty with eye focusing.


2. Symptoms:
  • Closes or covers one eye
  • Occasionally sees double
  • Rubs eyes frequently
  • Only able to read for a short time
  • Poor reading comprehension
Possible Vision Problems - Eye coordination problems (inability to coordinate the eyes together effectively).


3. Symptoms:
  • Holds objects 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
Possible Vision Problems - Eye focusing problems (inability to maintain clear focus or refocus eyes).


4. Symptoms:
  • Moves head excessively when reading
  • Frequently loses place, skips lines when reading
  • Uses finger to keep place
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Short attention span
Possible Vision Problems - Eye tracking problems (inability to smoothly and accurately move the eyes from one point to another).


5. Symptoms:
  • Mistakes words with similar beginnings
  • Difficulty recognizing letters, words, or simple shapes and forms
  • Can't distinguish the main idea from insignificant details
  • Trouble grasping basic math concepts of size, magnitude and position
Possible Vision Problems - Poor visual perception (inability to distinguish differences in size, shape or form).


6. Symptoms:
  • Trouble visualizing what is read
  • Poor speller
  • Trouble with mathematical concepts
  • Difficulty recalling visually presented material
Possible Vision Problems - Faulty visual memory (inability to remember and comprehend what is seen).


7. Symptoms:
  • Sloppy handwriting and drawing
  • Can't stay on lines
  • Poor copying skills
  • Can respond orally but not in writing
Possible Vision Problems - Faulty visual motor integration (inability to comprehend and reproduce visual images).


8. Symptoms:
  • Trouble learning right and left
  • Reverses letters and words
  • Trouble writing and remembering letters and numbers
Possible Vision Problems - Difficulty with laterality and directionality (poor development of left/right awareness).


If your child is suddenly having a difficult time learning, it could indicate a functional vision problem.  Review these eights sets of symptoms.  If your child displays any of the symptoms, the first step toward a diagnosis is to take the Vision Quiz and to download our Vision and Learning Guide.


Download Free Vision  And Learning Guide
Posted by   Greg Mischio