Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Back-to-School Basics: Ensuring Kids Have Visual Skills for Learning

Jul 30, 2021 11:00AM ● By Randy Schulman
It is back-to-school time, and parents are often thinking about school supplies, backpacks and fall clothing. One of the most important needs to consider for academic success is healthy vision.

Our children’s eyes and how well they work are crucial to effective learning. More than 80 percent of our information comes in through the visual system and there are many basic visual skills important for learning. These skills include clarity of eyesight, ease of shifting and maintaining focus, tracking eye movements, eye alignment, eye-hand coordination and visual perception.

Visual perception includes memory, recognition, retention of information and comprehension. If a child does not have the skills necessary for the demands of their grade, they may struggle with learning, avoid near tasks, or exhibit behavioral problems. In fact, vision problems can cause some of the same signs and symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), like hyperactivity and distractibility.

Most parents believe that the vision screening at the pediatrician’s office can assess if there is a vision problem. Unfortunately, the pediatric screening typically only tests distance visual acuity. Most of the learning takes place at near and important skills like focusing and eye teaming are not assessed.

Only a handful of doctors specializing in children’s vision and learning perform all the tests necessary to determine if the child’s visual skills can meet the demands of the classroom. These doctors consider the age of the child, grade and type of school they are attending. For example, many schools implement a rigorous program from the early grades that may be above the development of the child’s visual system. As an example, efficient tracking skills are typically not fully developed in boys until nearly 8 years of age, yet children are asked to read in kindergarten.

A thorough assessment of a child’s functional vision can determine if the child may have difficulties with reading, writing or even sports performance. Children want to succeed and do their work, but with a deficit in visual skills, the child may have to work harder to get assignments done, causing frustration and possibly even loss of interest in school. They may also experience headaches, fatigue, blinking, inattention or avoidance of near tasks.

When a challenge is found, there are a number of treatment options for parents to consider. Sometimes, a low power plus prescription, with or without prism, can aid the child in reading or near tasks until they develop the skills necessary to focus easily and efficiently without glasses. These developmental glasses relieve stress on the system and allow for the natural development of visual skills.

For students experiencing more significant symptoms, glasses alone may not be enough. Vision therapy can be a very effective treatment option. A program of vision therapy can quickly and efficiently develop the visual skills that the child is lacking. In fact, the earlier a vision problem is detected and treated, the more effective and more successful the treatment will be.

Basic Vision Skills Necessary for Learning

Visual acuity:
The ability to see clearly in the distance for viewing the board, an intermediate distance such as on the computer and up close for reading and writing.

Accommodation or Eye Focusing:
The ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as one shifts from one distance to another, such as when looking from the board to the desk and back, as well as easily maintaining clear vision over time.

Oculomotor or Eye Tracking:
The ability to keep the eyes on a target, shift the eyes from one object to another, move from word to word while reading or following a moving object like a thrown ball.

Binocular or Eye Teaming:
The ability to coordinate and use both eyes together as a team at distance or near, the ability to judge distances and see depth.

Eye-Hand-Body Coordination:
The ability to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands and body when drawing a picture, trying to hit a ball or playing sports.

Visual perception:
The ability to understand and remember what is seen in the environment; includes organizing images on a printed page into letters, words and expressing ideas.

Recognition:
The ability to tell the difference between objects and letters like “b” and “d”.

Comprehension:
A “picture” in the child’s mind of what is happening in a story they are reading or hearing.

Retention
: The ability to remember and recall details of what we read or see.

Signs that may indicate a child has a vision problem include: complaints of discomfort and fatigue; frequent eye rubbing, squinting or blinking; short attention span; frustration with or avoidance of reading and other close activities; frequent headaches; covering one eye; tilting the head to one side; holding reading materials close to the face; an eye turning in or out; seeing double; losing place, reversing or skipping lines when reading; difficulty remembering what they read.

Dr. Randy Schulman, MS, OD, FCOVD has her Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, a Doctorate in Optometry and Master’s in Vision Science. Schulman specializes in behavioral optometry, vision therapy, pediatrics, learning disabilities and preventative, integrative and alternative vision care for all ages. She practices at EyeCare Associates, with locations throughout Fairfield County. Connect at 
CTEyeCareAssociates.com. See ad, page 20.

Eyecare Associates PC Institute for Integrated Vision - 444 Westport Avenue Norwalk CT

Eyecare Associates, PC; Institute for Integrated Vision - 444 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, CT

We offer behavioral optometry, comprehensive vision exams, contact lenses and vision therapy. Read More » 

 

Eyecare Associates PC Institute for Integrated Vision of Stamford - 1425 Bedford Street 1M Stamford CT CT

Eyecare Associates, PC; Institute for Integrated Vision of Stamford - 1425 Bedford Street 1M, Stamford CT, CT

We offer behavioral optometry, comprehensive vision exams, contact lenses and vision therapy. Read More » 

 

Eyecare Associates PC Institute for Integrated Vision of Southport - 2600 Post Road Southport  CT

Eyecare Associates, PC; Institute for Integrated Vision of Southport - 2600 Post Road, Southport , CT

We offer behavioral optometry, comprehensive vision exams, contact lenses and vision therapy. Read More » 

 

Eyecare Associates PC Institute for Integrated Vision of Trumbull - 6515 Main St Trumbull CT

Eyecare Associates, PC; Institute for Integrated Vision of Trumbull - 6515 Main St, Trumbull, CT

We offer behavioral optometry, comprehensive vision exams, contact lenses and vision therapy. Read More » 

 

Coming in DECEMBER
Deadline: The 12th of the month. Contact [email protected] for cheerful and efficient help with your marketing!



Follow Us On Facebook
2022 Editorial Calendar