Each year, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development promotes August as Vision and Learning Month. What’s this all about?
With school starting soon, it’s an excellent time for an eye exam. After all, up to 80% of learning comes through the visual system. The problem parents and their kids run into is that many kids have “20/20” visual acuity (meaning they can read the smallest letters on the eye chart) yet still have vision problems that can get in the way at school.
What type of eye doctor evaluates the 17 visual skills necessary for school success? A Developmental Optometrist specializes in testing and treating all of the visual skills necessary in the classroom. Seeing clearly and having healthy eyes (which is tested by your primary care optometrist or ophthalmologist) are important, but just a starting point.
Classroom tasks and required visual skills downloadable chart
There’s still time– schedule your child’s back-to-school eye exam today!
When your daughter is on the soccer field heading a ball, she may help win the game, but she may actually be hurting her brain. While most parents know that their child is at risk of a head injury when playing football, a lot of people don’t know that head injuries can occur even with a helmet from the impact. Also, soccer is also one of the top sports that can also result in head injuries.
A recent study found that 85% of concussions go undiagnosed. Another study found that nearly 63 percent of varsity soccer players had symptoms of a concussion at some point, but only about 19 percent actually knew it. The reason this can happen is because you do not have to lose consciousness to have a concussion, so most players will experience a blow to the head and get right back into the game. However, repeated blows to the head can accumulate and cause just as much damage as a concussion.
When someone has a head injury they typically have vision problems that can be temporary or permanent. When a vision problem is causing or contributing to a problem with reading, balance or movement, the recovery process will move very slowly until the visual component is treated.
Visual rehabilitation is vital, as soon as possible. There are a variety of symptoms which are involved in Post Trauma Vision Syndrome, including:
It should also be noted that sometimes symptoms of a concussion might not even appear for days, even weeks after the accident. Some symptoms may last only seconds, while others linger much longer, months and even years. Additionally, some symptoms might disappear after time, such as eye pain or headaches, and yet other symptoms remain, i.e., blurred or doubled vision. Keep in mind, that when someone is experiencing any of the above symptoms they could also have difficulty with reading and learning, as well as physical activities.
Head injury patients with resulting vision problems are very similar to patients we see at our office who have vision problems that interfere with reading and learning. Vision therapy is very effective at eliminating blurry and/or double vision, focusing problems, poor concentration, and reduced comprehension, to name a few, when they are due to a vision problem.
If you or your child have had a blow to the head, or suspect Post Trauma Vision Syndrome, call us today at 301-951-0320 to schedule a vision evaluation and get on the road to recovery.
April is National Autism Awareness Month, and there has been a lot of information in the news about the rising rates of autism spectrum disorders. The CDC now estimates that as many as 1 in 68 children are now being diagnosed with ASD. This is particularly frightening as it’s not well understood what is behind this abrupt rise.
While such research is ongoing, it’s important to consider what we as parents and providers can do right now to improve the quality of life of those with ASD. The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) has issued a press release discussing the impact of vision in ASD:
“While the search to find the exact cause for ASD is ongoing, the visual link to autistic behaviors provides some answers and help to improve quality of life,” states COVD President, Dr. Ida Chung, O.D., FCOVD.
I recently had a discussion with a parent about behavior and vision problems. A mom of
one of our patients told me that the biggest change she has noticed is that,
“It’s not nuclear war anymore,”
when she tells her daughter it’s homework time. This makes perfect sense to me, and we hear similar stories all the time. If you, as an adult, were asked to do something frustrating,
arduous and painful, on a daily basis, you would eventually refuse. You might even throw a temper tantrum.
Maud at AwfullyChipper wrote to me that
“I really want to make others aware of vision therapy because I know there must be many children out there who’ve just been labelled slow readers (or disruptive, ADD, etc.) when in fact they have vision difficulties. I hope I can help spread the word.”
In fact, studies have been published showing that, indeed, “adverse academic behaviors” decrease following successful treatment for Convergence Insufficiency, one of the more common binocular vision problems we see. The behavior questions used in the study were:
It’s important to note that there are other symptoms that may point you to a vision problem. For a more comprehensive list, see our Weighted symptom checklist.
—Amanda Zeller Manley, O.D., F.C.O.V.D.
It’s always nice when research proves the benefit of what we’ve already been doing in clinic.
For the last several years, as e-readers have become more prevalent, I have been recommending them to many of my patients. In our clinic, we have found that by increasing the font size (which also increases letter/word spacing and decreases the number of words per line), many of our vision therapy patients report that they can read more quickly, with better comprehension and less fatigue.
So I was quite pleased to hear an NPR story a few days ago about a study described in the journal PLOS ONE. Researchers had dyslexic students read on specially formatted iPods or printed text. For many of the students, reading on the iPods (limited to about 3 words per line) greatly improved their reading speed and fluency.
The lead researcher, Matthew Schneps, director of the Laboratory for Visual Learning at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, postulates that the mechanisms involved include visual attention span; saccades (the small word-to-word eye movements we make when reading); and visual crowding. By limiting the amount of text per line, deficiencies in those areas don’t have the same effect as when a person reads a normally printed page.
What I find interesting is that in the article, there was no mention of whether these students had had a comprehensive vision examination to look for oculomotor dysfunction, convergence problems (excess or insufficiency), or other binocular vision disorders. In numerous other publications, there have been links between dyslexia and eye movement disorders and binocular vision problems. In many studies of learning disabilities and vision disorders, it has been found that up to 70% of students who have been diagnosed with a learning disability have a vision problem that may be causing or exacerbating that learning difficulty. It would be interesting to see whether the population described in Dr. Schneps’s study has a similar incidence of vision problems.
Fortunately, vision therapy has shown to be a very effective tool in eliminating the underlying visual problems that interfere with reading and learning. And in the meantime, an iPod fits neatly in your pocket.