Vision problems can affect school performance
The title of this post may seem like a no-brainer. “Yeah, if you need glasses and don’t have them, that’s a problem!”
But what we learned is, there’s more to vision than how sharp or blurry the world looks ( = “eyesight.”)
When Nathan had his multidisciplinary educational assessment (at Big Springs Educational Therapy Center in Riverside CA), one of the things they looked at was visual functioning. This included how smoothly the student’s eyes tracked together across the printed page, whether both eyes were in alignment, how well the student recognized shapes that were rotated, and other things we don’t normally think about.
Deficits with visual efficiency make tasks like reading or taking notes from the board pretty challenging and tiring. If this is happening with a kid who also has attention deficits, or poor hand-eye coordination, you’ve got a recipe for giving up on schoolwork.
We had known Nathan’s eyes got tired during homework sessions, but so did the rest of him! (Half the time spent on “homework” was taken up with procrastination, tantrums, discussions, pouting, etc.) In any event, the assessment revealed that Nathan did have some genuine visual functioning deficits. It was suggested that he have a “developmental optometric evaluation” where a specialist could pinpoint the problems and provide therapy to correct them. Big Springs gave us a list of local vision therapy providers, and we chose the one closest to us: Hospitality Eyecare Center in San Bernardino. (These days, you can google “vision therapy” for your area to find a provider.)
The Eyecare Center confirmed that Nathan had 20/20 eyesight, but some eye tracking and binocular coordination problems. We then had four months of office visits for therapy, twice a week, with some exercises to do at home between appointments. At the end of the four months, Nathan was re-evaluated and all of the deficits had been corrected.
So did this pay off? Did Nathan’s schoolwork experience improve? Hard to say. Nathan never admitted to noticing a difference after the therapy. (It was another weapon in his arsenal of, “You drag me to these appointments and they never do any good.”) He did pretty well in his next school year – 7th grade – when more note-taking and reading are expected. But by 8th grade, other factors sent him into a tailspin from which he never really pulled out.
I know another mom whose daughter had vision therapy. The daughter did not have any other big-time learning disabilities, but struggled with reading. They were skeptical about vision therapy, but she went through all the therapy sessions – and reading became much, much easier for her as a result. So vision therapy might be something you want to look into (ha ha, lame joke), especially if your student avoids reading, complains of tired eyes, etc.