As the spring flowers bloom, teachers are assessing the performance of their students over the past year. For some parents, a difficult decision looms: Should a child be held back a grade? Discover why vision problems must be considered when that question is raised.Let’s be clear – when we say “vision problems,” we’re not referring to acuity, or focusing issues. The fact that a child has 20/20 vision does not mean their functional vision is working correctly. Functional vision includes visual skills such as eye teaming, tracking and focusing. These skills must also be assessed to determine if a child’s visual system is functioning correctly.
Unfortunately, functional vision isn’t even on the radar for many schools. Teachers and parents are simply unaware of the dramatic impact a functional vision problem can have on learning.
This oversight may have tremendous consequences as teachers and parents consider the plight of whether or not to hold a child back a grade.
A Decision With Huge Implications
The effectiveness of holding a child back is a controversial subject, and we’re not about to offer an opinion, as it’s beyond our field of expertise. It is interesting to note a piece of research concerning children that are held back, however.
Research from the 2003 “Position Statement on Student Grade Retention” from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) notes, “Retention is more likely to have a benign or positive impact when students are not simply held back, but receive specific remediation to address skill and/or behavioral problems and promote achievement and social skills.”
Note the line, “specific remediation to address skill and/or behavioral problems.” Without a doubt, our friends in education do not go willy-nilly into these uncertain waters. A specific plan likely accompanies any child that is held back.
The big question is whether or not that plan includes addressing any vision problems. If a functional vision problem exists, addressing the issue with vision therapy could have a tremendous impact.
We often see children who are lagging behind their peers in learning take tremendous leaps ahead after vision therapy improves their functional vision. Synara Brown, whose son Daniel underwent vision therapy, explains, “He was a grade level behind in reading, and now he’s right on track.”
Listen to her describe Daniel’s remarkable turnaround.
How can vision have such a dramatic impact on school subjects? And why don’t typical vision screenings detect a functional vision problem?
As we noted in this post on the Five Common Problems with Vision Screening Tests, typical vision tests only account for acuity, and miss these other functional visual skills:
- Eye Movement Control
- Simultaneous Focus at Far
- Sustaining Focus at Far
- Simultaneous Focus at Near
- Sustaining Focus at Near
- Simultaneous Alignment at Far
- Sustaining Alignment at Far
- Simultaneous Alignment at Near
- Sustaining Alignment at Near
- Peripheral Vision
- Depth Awareness
- Color Perception
- Gross Visual-Motor Skills
- Fine Visual-Motor Skills
- Visual Perception
- Visual-Motor Integration
Do these have an impact on a child’s ability to learn? Absolutely. Take a look at our post How Vision Problems Can Affect Reading, Spelling or Writing, or watch and listen to Dr. Kellye Knueppel’s in-depth explanation.
With so many educational issues obviously tied to functional visual skills, and so many of these skills not being properly assessed, making the decision to hold a child back without testing for a functional vision problem may leave out a critical piece of the plan to help that child succeed.
Please understand that we’re not here to question an educator’s decision. Our goal is to make parents and teachers aware of how prevalent vision problems are, and how critical it is to either confirm or eliminate the possibility in the child’s evaluation.
If you suspect your child has a vision problem, keep an eye out for these 29 telltale vision problems:
- Has a crossed or lazy eye
- Tilts the head to one side on a frequent basis, or has one shoulder that is noticeably higher
- Squints, blinks, and/or closes one eye repeatedly
- Holds the book close while reading
- Has poor hand-eye coordination
- Displays signs of emotional or developmental immaturity
- Has a low frustration level, and often doesn’t get along well with others
- Experiences blurry vision
- Complains of nausea or dizziness and motion sickness
- Experiences double vision (you may have to ask – “do you see two of these objects?”)
- Confuses left and right directions on an ongoing basis
- Loses his or her place when reading or copying from the board or paper
- Remembering what was read is often difficult
- Has difficulty remembering, identifying and reproducing geometric shapes
- Reverses words
- Uses finger to read
- Rubs eyes during or after short periods of reading
- Skips words and/or has to re-read on a regular basis
- Omits small words
- Struggles with handwriting
- Moves head back and forth (instead of moving eyes)
- Appears clumsy, or frequently bumps into things or drops things
- Experiences problems catching a ball
- Favors the use of one eye when reading or viewing an object
- Experiences burning or itching eyes, reddened in appearance
- Has frequent headaches in forehead or temples
- Exhibits posture problems
- Has a short attention span and is easily distracted
- Becomes nervous, irritable, or quickly fatigued while reading, looking at books, or doing close work