Vision and Learning – How Are They Related?

Vision and learning are very closely related. It is estimated that 80% of what a child learns in school is presented visually. So, good vision is necessary for students at any age in order to reach their full academic potential. Spectacles or contact lenses make a huge difference in helping children to see the chalkboard and the books on their desks clearly.

Ruling out simple vision problems is the first step in making sure your child is visually ready for school. However, being shortsighted, farsighted or having astigmatism are not the only visual disorders that can make learning more difficult.

Good vision, requires your eyesight, visual pathways, and brain to all work together. When they don’t, even a person with 20/20 eyesight can experience difficulty reading, writing and processing information.

Most people have the wrong idea that if their visual acuity is 20/20 their vision is normal or perfect. Visual acuity is measured by a person reading a line of letters on a chart. It does not require the same type of eye movements that reading does and therefore cannot be used to determine if a child has the visual skills necessary to read.

Types of Vision Related Learning Problems
Eye health and refractive problems

This includes, shortsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism and other more serious diseases of the eye.

Functional vision problems

This includes eye teaming (binocularity), fine eye movements and accommodation (ability to focus from near to far smoothly and accurately). Poor functional visual skills can cause blurred or double vision, eye strain and headaches that can affect learning. Convergence insufficiency is a specific type of functional vision problem that affects the ability of the eyes to stay accurately and comfortably aligned during reading.

Perceptual vision problems

This is understanding what you see, identifying it, judging its importance and relating it to previously stored information in the brain. Example, recognizing a word you have seen before and using the eyes and brain to form a mental picture of the words you see.

Symptoms of Vision-Related Learning Problems
  •  Headaches or eye strain
  • Blurred vision or double vision
  • Crossed eyes
  • Avoidance of reading or close work
  • Short attention span with visual tasks
  • Closing or covering one eye
  • Excessive blinking or rubbing the eyes
  • Uses finger when reading
  • Slow reading and poor reading comprehension
  • Leaving out words or confusing similar words
  • Reversal of words or letters
  • Poor eye hand coordination
  • Evidence of developmental immaturity

If your child shows one or more of these symptoms and is experiencing learning problems, it’s possible he or she may have a learning-related vision problem.

To determine if a problem exists, see an optometrist or ophthalmologist who specializes in children’s vision and learning-related vision problems for a comprehensive evaluation.

If no problem is detected, it’s possible that your child may have a non-visual dysfunction, such as dyslexia or a learning disability. An educational specialist will help rule out these problems.

Treatment of Vision-Related Learning Problems

Treatment generally consists of vision therapy. Spectacles may be given for either full time wear or for specific tasks like reading.

If the child also receives other treatment for a learning disability, all professionals should be in contact with each other in a cooperative effort to address the child’s learning problems and find the best approach in solving the problem.

Also, remember that some children with learning difficulties may have emotional problems as well, such as anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. Reassure the child that learning problems and vision-related learning problems say nothing about a person’s intelligence. Many of these kids have above-average IQ’s and simply process information differently than their peers.

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