Discovering Vision Therapy Blog

Teachers Surprised by Impact of the “Hidden Learning Disability”

Teachers Surprised by Impact of the "Hidden Learning Disability"

In this amazing video, two optometrists show teachers what students who have a functional vision problem experience in school.  It’s an eye-opening experience for these educators, who now understand why we refer to vision issues as the “hidden learning disability.”

Functional vision problems are termed the “hidden disability” because they are often undetected. Due to the dramatic negative impact that can have on a child’s education, we believe a more accurate term should be the “hidden learning disability.” The teachers in this video now understand what we mean.

The video is entitled “20/20 Isn’t Everything.”  It’s extremely well-produced and features Dr. Richard Maharaj and Dr. Chris Schell demonstrating the kinds of functional vision problems we see children struggling with in the classroom.  

What’s unique about this video is that teachers get to experience firsthand what these functional vision problems actually feel and look like from the child’s perspective.  The doctors use prisms and contact lenses to simulate amblyopia, astigmatism, near-sightedness and convergence insufficiency in the teachers.  Watch how dramatically it affects their classroom performance.

Did you notice the reactions of the teachers, particularly Tanya?  She became extremely frustrated as she struggled to keep pace with the other teachers.

Imagine children who experience these functional vision issues, but are unaware that there is a problem.  This is the way they’ve viewed the world their entire life, so they don’t understand their vision is impaired compared to their peers.  They’re frustrated as other kids perform in ways they can’t.


So what can a teacher do about functional vision problems?

  • Watch out for telltale symptoms and take the Vision Quiz.  If you see a child struggling in school, then take the Vision Quiz.  The Quiz includes the typical symptoms of a functional vision problem.  If a child is experiencing a number of the symptoms, or one or two symptoms persistently occur, then a functional vision problem may be present.

  • Suggest a Functional Vision Test – not a just a typical school screening.  Many school screenings include reading an eyechart, which tests only for acuity, or your ability to see clearly. Children with functional vision problems need to see a developmental optometrist who can conduct tests designed specifically to detect issues such as poor depth perception, eye teaming, and tracking.

  • Make accommodations in the classroom.  Following the diagnosis of a functional vision problem, you can make accommodations for your student.  While many of these will be based on the type of visual problem, here are some of the typical things we recommend teachers implement:
  • Make larger print available.
  • Allow for visual breaks during sustained near point work.
  • Allow children more time copying from the board.
  • Provide “fat” pencils or crayons with special grips.
  • Provide a slanted reading surface.
  • Encourage the student to maintain the Harmon Distance when reading.  This is measured as the space from the elbow to the knuckle on the hand.
  • Allow for more time when taking tests.

  • Pass along our Vision and Learning Guide.  Probably the best thing you can do is help educate parents on functional vision problems.  Provide them with this link, from which they can download our guide that provides a comprehensive explanation of the types of functional vision problems, and how vision therapy can help correct them.

  • Spread the word to your teaching colleagues.  Teachers are known for sharing good ideas.  Please share this post and the video with your fellow teachers.  A child struggling with vision problems can be an extremely disruptive force in the classroom, impacting not only their own education, but also the education of those around them.  Getting help for kids suffering from vision problems will help these afflicted students, and benefit your educational community as a whole.

The most important thing to keep in mind is how disruptive these vision problems can be.  No matter how fantastic a teacher you are, your efforts will be severely diminished if your student has a functional vision problem.  Just ask the teachers in this video.


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Posted by   Greg Mischio