Vision and Learning

Until recently, most pediatricians and other medical professionals have denied that vision has anything to do with reading and learning disabilities. We now have proof that vision deficiencies are responsible for more than 68% of reading disabled children. We also know that 80% of what we learn is through vision. We are not born with vision. It is an acquired skill.

Vision Related Learning Disability Therapy Mid Atlantic

Just like you are born with feet, but can't walk, you are born with eyes, but can't see and process. Vision is a result of both heredity and/or our environment as we develop. If your child is not walking by a certain age, your pediatrician takes corrective measures. If your child is not seeing and processing information at each stage of their development, your optometrist takes corrective measures, like corrective eye glasses or vision therapy. This is why we recommended your child’s first eye exam to be done at the age of six months by a developmental optometrist.

Video: Fox TV - Learning Related Vision Therapy Problems

information processing model

Vision and Reading

"Children with serious problems in binocular control tend to telegraph this in noticeable behaviors. They frequently rub their eyes, squint at the page, cover one eye or turn sideways to read, or move their head from left to right instead of their eyes. Any one of these behaviors, if persistent, is an indication that parents should have their child tested by an optometrist specializing in diagnosing and treating visuomotor problems. Binocular fusion and controlled scanning are highly trainable."

-from "Why Our Children Can't Read and What We Can Do About It" by Diane McGuiness, Ph.D., a cognitive developmental psychologist & professor at the University of South Florida.

Vision & Developmental Dyslexia

Dyslexia is a term that is used to describe a "difficulty with words," it represents only one aspect of reading disabilities. Dyslexia is used to diagnose children who have the greatest difficulty in learning to read. Unfortunately, parents are led to believe that reading problems in general (in particular dyslexia), have nothing to do with eye site or vision. This is a popular belief among educators, pediatricians, and eye surgeons (Ophthalmologists). Most believe that reading disabilities are caused by "phonological problems," the sound of words (language based), and that vision, may play a limited role in reading comprehension and disabilities. If that sounds illogical to you, as a parent, it should.

So the secret to dyslexia is that the visual centers of the brain aren't communicating well with the auditory/language and attention centers of the brain. It's less important to debate whose responsibility it is to help these areas communicate with each other effectively, and more important to do something about it. And that's where vision therapy is at its best, helping children integrate vision with movement, language, and attention. As reviewed elsewhere on this site, the research by optometrist, Dr. Harold Solan and his colleagues have pioneered in the application of magnocellular theory, helping to explain why so many children who undergo vision therapy, experience improved reading abilities. Read more at

The Relationship Between Convergence Insufficiency & ADHD:

For many years, it has been obvious to developmental optometrists that convergence problems (in particular Convergence Insufficiency (or CI) result in behavior symptoms, like those used to diagnose ADHD. In other words, a substantial number of patients who seek Developmental Optometric care have a history of being able to pay attention very well when someone else is reading, BUT have a short attention span, or become more fidgety, when they have to read independently. They appear to have ADHD when in reality; they have visual inattention because of poor or improper vision.

The problem is that these patients are usually lumped together, and they end up in special education and are often medicated. While a small set of patients with true ADHD may benefit from medication, precious resources and money would be saved if those with visual problems such as CI were properly evaluated.

A study, by Dr. Granet and colleagues at UCSD, is notable because it is the first paper published in a medical journal that establishes a direct link between ADHD and CI. In a review of 266 charts of patients with CI, these researchers found a three times greater amount had ADHD than would be expected among patients in general. While the authors are cautious not to draw to much of a confusion from this, they now recommend that patients diagnosed with ADHD should be evaluated to determine if they have CI.

Studies of this nature should help call attention to children misidentified as having ADHD, when the underlying visual problem is left untreated. This is particularly important because CI is one of the more common visual problems that developmental optometrists help through vision therapy. In many instances, parents of children, and adult patients have reported to us that that their capacity to attend when reading, writing, or computing has improved substantially after completing vision therapy.

Read more at VisionHelp

School Help (Section 504): How Your School Can Help Your Child with a Vision Based Learning Disorder

Requests For Section 504 Accommodations by Dr. Leonard Press
Section 504, part of the Special Education law, provides a method for schools to accommodate children who are in need of special arrangements to improve their educational environment.

Many parents are already aware of the more common approaches to accommodate some of the processing problems related to vision, and they include:

  • Extra time for assignments
  • Use of large print material
  • Use of highlighters or organizers
  • Supplemental books on tape
  • Extra time for tests
  • Administering tests verbally
  • Special seating in the classroom

Schools often require information from professionals to justify the requests for accommodations. One of the tests that we use for this purpose is the Visagraph II,(also Readalyzer) a computerized device that records the speed and accuracy of eye movements while reading. The patient's eye position is continuously monitored by infrared sensors during silent reading.

But the issue shouldn't remain there. While it's good to accommodate processing deficiencies, it's even better to administer vision therapy so that accommodations aren't necessary. While this isn't possible in all cases, we have helped many children for whom it is. Your school is responsible for educating your child, but it is your responsibility to provide your child with the tools he needs to learn. Read more at

References and Resources: References and Resources: References and Resources:

Vision and Its Valliant Attempt To Derive Meaning From The World By Carl D. Hillier, OD FCOV. First published in Division 1 Briefings, The Journal of the California Psychological Association Division of Professional Practice, Issue #172, November 2010. (Reprinted with Permission) links:

Research update on Visually-Based Reading Disability - Developmental Dyslexia
Barry Tannen, O.D., FCOVD link:

Visual Processing and Oculormotor Ability in Reading Disabled Children by Harold A. Solan, Od, MA, FCOVD

Neorulogical-Behavioral Model of Dyslexia by Donald N. Cardinal, PhD/Garth N. Christenson, OD, MSEd and John R. Griffin, OD, MSEd.

Optometry and Learning Disabilities by Harold M. Solan, OD, FCOVD and Leonard J. Press, OD, FCOVD

Vision Resources

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