Vision and learning are intimately connected. Some may have learning problems caused by underlying vision problems while others with eye and vision problems may be misdiagnosed as having learning disabilities, ADHD, and/or Dyslexia. These same behaviors or symptoms can be found under different diagnoses. This can be especially true for children who rely on their vision not only to navigate the world but also to learn from it visually.
Many parents may argue that their child “passed” a vision screening conducted at their child’s school, but this is a false sense of security as these blanket vision tests often miss more than they can find. Undetected and untreated vision problems can greatly impact a child’s ability to learn and socialize with others comfortably.
This month we would like to call attention to several conditions and how they might affect your vision and learning abilities, specifically Autism, Down Syndrome, and Dyslexia. We would also like to highlight an essential program we offer known as InfantSEE, which provides high-quality vision care to infants to ensure their vision is developing as it should be. This is an amazing program that comes at no cost to you regardless of income or insurance and we are proud to offer it here. Our very own Dr. Larson is the sole spokesperson for this program in the entire state and we take great pride in educating you on all our services that can benefit both you and your loved ones.
Autism is a spectrum of disorders that is characterized by difficulty processing and responding to information gathered from ones senses as well as communication. Children can become symptomatic as early as 6 months of age, but signs can also appear later making diagnosis at times difficult. Though many with autism have 20/20 vision, over 90% of children with autism experience developmental delays in visual skills. Signs of vision problems can be masked by behaviors that those with autism may use to cope with sensory overload. These visual patterns can interfere with the ability to see and interact properly with their surroundings. Common visual problems for those with autism include, but are not limited to:
- Poor central vision
- Difficulty maintaining eye contact
- Looking at objects sideways or peripheral glances
- Sensitivity to light
- Difficulty with depth perception
- Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and/or astigmatism
These behaviors may be the result of poor visual teaming, vision tracking, abnormal eye movements, trouble with visual motion skills, spatial awareness, and poor visual perception. Testing may vary depending on the individual but is often done with a patient being asked to perform specific activities while wearing special lenses. These tests help to determine how the patient sees the world and how we can best accommodate their needs. Corrective lenses and vision therapy can be used to strengthen their vision and help them to feel more comfortable with visual stimuli, learning, and socializing. Treatment may also use multi-disciplinary practices.
Down Syndrome is caused by a duplication of all or part of chromosome 21. Individuals diagnosed with Down Syndrome are at an increased risk of a variety of vision and eye disorders. However, most of these can be treated successfully when detected at an early age.
There are some features of the eyes that are unique in those with Down Syndrome. Many people with Down Syndrome have upward slanting eyelids or folds of skin between the eye and nose. Some patients may also experience tear duct abnormalities that can result in frequent discharge or tearing. Common eye and vision disorders for those with Down Syndrome include but are not limited to:
- Nearsightedness, farsightedness, and/or astigmatism
- Strabismus (misaligned eyes)
- Esotropia (eyes that drift inward) and Exotropia (eyes that drift outward)
- Difficulty changing focus and teaming
Another common condition is congenital cataracts. If visually significant cataracts are present early in a child’s eye, clear images will not be delivered to the brain preventing it from learning to see properly. Early detection is crucial for infants and children as they grow and develop visual skills. It is recommended that children with Down Syndrome undergo annual comprehensive exams. Sometimes even with glasses vision may be impaired and visual acuity can be compromised. A good way to compensate is to make the world around them “big and bold”, especially in learning environments as many patients with Down Syndrome are visual learners.
Dyslexia has been described as a language coding problem as many diagnosed with dyslexia experience difficulty with reading, spelling, comprehension, speaking, writing, discerning left and right, and remembering words or directions. It is estimated that over 40 million Americans suffer from dyslexia, which is often diagnosed during childhood. However, diagnosing dyslexia can be challenging as there is a wide range of symptoms that can overlap with other conditions such as ADD or ADHD. The eyes play an important role in sending visual signals to the brain, and this is a crucial skill for children in school as most of the information taught is presented visually.
Poor visual processing, eye tracking, vision motor skills, or poor binocular vision can make school a challenge for children. Corrective lenses and vision therapy can help many symptoms of dyslexia disappear or become more manageable. For this reason, it is important that your child continues to see well and attends routine annual exams with an optometrist.
Our doctors will often collaborate with other members of a patient’s health care team to get a better understanding of what his/her needs are and to set appropriate goals. We believe that an individualized plan will help to treat any issues and enable the patient to reach his or her full potential.
InfantSEE is a no-cost public health program that works to provide professional eye care for infants up to a year-old nationwide, offering early detection of potential eye and vision problems regardless of a family’s income or access to insurance coverage. Comprehensive eye and vision care are important to ensure your baby has the opportunity to develop the visual abilities they need to grow and learn in the world.
Our optometrists understand the visual system and the impact vision has on one’s ability to learn. 1/5 preschool children have vision problems that may be undetected and when left untreated can result in barriers to learning and child development. Vision problems can cause difficulties in reading, writing, socializing, communication, and other activities such as sports. Even if your child can see clearly, there may be other visual problems that can hinder their ability to learn. Visual tests include evaluating eye-hand coordination/visual motor skills, visual memory, perception, directionality, laterality, visual discrimination, audio-visual skills, and more to ensure your child can achieve their full potential.
This program gives parents peace of mind that their child’s vision is developing properly and being closely monitored by highly trained professionals. We recommend scheduling an infant’s first eye exam around 6 months of age and maintaining annual eye and vision exams following the initial exam.
Our team is fully prepared to help our patients achieve their full visual potential. We take a holistic approach to diagnose and treat vision and eye disorders. Though many of our patients can be children, we offer the same comprehensive evaluations and services to adults. For more information please contact the Optometry Center for Vision Therapy today.