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Reading and Learning Difficulties

 

Vision is one of the key ways in which we information gather about the world around us. In the educational context it is the primary method by which we become educated. When the way in which we perceive the world is impaired it can lead to various outcomes for different people.

It is recognised that with specific learning differences, such as dyslexia, there is a higher prevalence rate of visual anomalies. These anomalies are not the cause of learning difference but can amplify it’s impact and as such need to be dealt with. In other cases the visual anomalies can cause problems in the reading of children who do not have a specific learning difference. It is important to stress that if your child has, for example, a dyslexia, then it is unlikely that any visual problems we find are causing it, but may be compounding it.

Visual problems can cause a range of symptoms, from the obvious ones of blurry vision and double vision all the way through to very subtle ones such as poor concentration or poor behaviour.

Vision is one of the key ways in which we information gather about the world around us. In the educational context it is the primary method by which we become educated. When the way in which we perceive the world is impaired it can lead to various outcomes for different people.

It is recognised that with specific learning differences, such as dyslexia, there is a higher prevalence rate of visual anomalies. These anomalies are not the cause of learning difference but can amplify it’s impact and as such need to be dealt with. In other cases the visual anomalies can cause problems in the reading of children who do not have a specific learning difference. It is important to stress that if your child has, for example, a dyslexia, then it is unlikely that any visual problems we find are causing it, but may be compounding it.

Visual problems can cause a range of symptoms, from the obvious ones of blurry vision and double vision all the way through to very subtle ones such as poor concentration or poor behaviour.

What do we look for?

In addition to assessing you or your child for the major contributory causes of poor visual performance, such as uncorrected need for glasses, we also assess in detail the more fine aspects of the visual system, such as the binocular vision (eye coordination system) and also the visual processing system.

Do you not look at tracking?

There is no good quality scientific evidence to support the view that “tracking problems” cause vision problems. Indeed, much of the research supports the view that the “tracking problems” are a result of the underlying learning difference etc. Tracking from an optometry perspective is not performed when reading as we actually make saccades (jumpy) eye movements, not smooth ones. As a result, therapies designed to “treat tracking problems” are not based on scientific evidence and are not advised.

At DF Optometrists we use to latest clinical eye movement recording hardware to monitor eye movements during reading. This gives us a wealth of information, including stability and consistency of saccades – the movements used in reading. In addition we assess convergence (bringing the eyes in together) which some non-optometric professions class as a tracking movement. For more on tracking please see the tracking article.

What can you do to help them?

There are a wide array of possible treatment and management strategies we may be able to use to help you/ your child. These include the use of spectacles (sometimes with prism in), evidence based eye exercises (orthoptics) and the use of tinted lenses.

Tinted lenses – more than just a fashion statement.

There is a good level of scientific evidence to show that for some people, especially those with a dyslexia, the use of a coloured filter can improve their visual processing ability and reading comfort. For more on this please see the Visual Stress section of the website.