Learning Obstacles

Vision Issues, Pt II

Until I took my child to the eye doctor, I did not understand that vision is a learned process. I now know that we have to learn to see.

Children track while they read (tracking), find and look at stationary objects on pages (fixation), change focus from the board to their papers and back (focus change), detect slight differences such as in the words “were” and “where” (visual discrimination), and must use two eyes smoothly to work effectively (binocularity). What happens when one or more of these functions is off?

Dr. Gary Polan, optometrist, handed me literature, which I will share with you: Eighty percent of a person’s information is gathered through vision. Vision is divided into three categories:

  • Eyesight
  • Efficiency at obtaining information
  • Visual processing

We are in the “Age of Information,” in which students are utilizing technology to a greater degree, increasing their near-vision tasks. Students are also expected to read much more now than, for instance, in my parent’s generation. With so much close-up work, visual deficiencies can be heightened, resulting in eyestrain, headaches, and blurred vision among others.

Vision training or vision therapy, a specialty, emphasizes the retraining of ocular skills. Areas of treatment include:

  • Ocular motor aiming and tracking for those struggling with reading
  • Vision perception, typically deficient in those with learning disabilities
  • Binocular vision anomalies, which includes strabismus or eye turn
  • Amblyopia or lazy eye, inefficient visual processing
  • Accommodation or focusing, often seen in the development of near sidedness

Being fitted for glasses is no longer the only treatment for vision issues. Visual exercises can be used to treat headache symptoms, eyestrain, and blurriness, while vision training can be used to slow the process of myopia, known as nearsightedness, and to help those diagnosed with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia, or ADHD. A significant number of children with ADHD have convergence insufficiency, an eye disorder that makes focusing on nearby targets difficult. I was fascinated to learn that eye dysfunctions have some of the same symptoms as ADHD, resulting in misdiagnosis (American Academy of Pediatrics and Strabismus Proceedings April 12-16, 2000).

I view vision therapy as being similar to speech therapy or occupational therapy in the way that they all improve upon critical skills. If you know someone who might benefit from visual therapy, suggest that they see a behavioral optometrist, who provides full vision care and vision therapy in the office.

To find a behavioral optometrist in your area, one who understands developmental and functional optometry, log on to www.oepf.org.  At the top of the page is a title that says, “Find an Optometrist.” Click “find an OEP professional near you” on the drop-down menu and input your city/state/zip code to start your search. 

You can also write to the OEP Foundation at: 1921 East Carnegie Avenue Suite 3-L, Santa Ana, CA 92705-5510.  Also, if you go on the website and click on the left-hand side, either on “educators,” “patients and parents,” or the other categories, you can read the latest research and statements made by the American Academy of Optometry and the American Optometric Association.