2012-08-02 / Lifestyles

Focusing on children’s vision

Story highlights vision and learning month

MANISTIQUE – Despite being told by five different eye doctors that her eight year old daughter Shelby’s vision was fine, Lynn DeVore of Yokima, Wash., continued to search for reasons why her daughter continued to struggle with reading. The pediatrician said that since the eye doctors said Shelby’s vision was fine that Lynn “was just being paranoid”. She continued to search until she found the answer and now DeVore is stepping forward to help other parents by sharing her story for National Children’s Vision and Learning Month.

“We knew there was a problem early on, but we were told she would read soon,” said DeVore. “We struggled and struggled and still reading was a fight. Shelby was very frustrated with reading and had very little confidence in all areas of her life.”

Fortunately, she saw an ad in a local magazine that listed out all the things Shelby struggled with. The ad was for a developmental optometrist who provides an inoffice program of optometric vision therapy.

The evaluation confirmed that Shelby did in fact, have a vision problem, but it was convergence insufficiency, an eye coordination problem that can make reading very difficult. After completing the prescribed program of vision therapy, Shelby went from reading at first grade level to reading on grade level.

How could so many eye doctors have missed this? A very good question. When parents suspect their children have a vision problem that is contributing to their learning difficulties, they often go to the pediatrician or the pediatric ophthalmologist only to be told their vision is fine and that they can see 20/20.

Despite volumes of evidencebased research, many pediatricians and ophthalmologists continue to state that vision has nothing to do with learning, referring parents to psychologists learning specialists, etc. However, limitations caused by convergence insufficiency and similar visual disorders can be disabling during reading and computer use according to the definitions of disability in the Americans with Disability Act, but those disorders are all easily treatable with optometric vision therapy.

The five most common signs that a vision problem may be interfering with your student’s ability to read and learn are:

1. Skipping lines/ rereading lines

2. Poor reading comprehension

3. Taking longer to complete homework

4. Reversing letters like “b” into “d” when reading

5. Displaying a short attention span with reading and schoolwork

Any one of these symptoms is a sign of a possible vision problem. A more in-depth symptoms checklist is available on COVD’s website at www.covd.org.

It is vital that parents take time to learn all of the signs that a vision problem may be interfering with academic performance. When a child has a vision problem, they do not outgrow it, and despite extensive tutoring or special services at school, very little improvement occurs.

“We see patients in our office with stories similar to what these parents have experienced,” said Dr. Shelly Baker, a developmental optometrist based in Manistique. “The best thing parents and educators can do is become familiar with the signs and symptoms which indicate a vision problem may be contributing to the child’s difficulties.”

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