In a clinical study involving 4th and 5th grade students who had eyesight worse than 20/25, more than 60% of those students suffered from reading difficulties.
Reading is the primary route of learning in school, and 80% of what a child learns first filters through the visual system. Screenings at nurses’ and pediatricians’ offices can miss up to 50% of the visual problems that affect reading, writing and learning.
A yearly eye exam is recommended for every child entering school. In children who are struggling with academics, a more in-depth visual skills exam is needed to investigate how the eyes, brain and entire visual system are working. These visual skills – eye coordination, focusing, fine eye movements, etc… – affect academics. Not every eye doctor – optometrist or ophthalmologist – tests and treats visual skills. With school just right around the corner, start with a yearly eye exam, and then if needed, follow-up with a thorough visual skills exam.
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Here are the results of a clever study: Students who DID NOT have ADHD or visual skills problems, were temporarily MADE TO HAVE a visual skills problem by the research team. Their sustained attention dropped significantly as tested by the Conners CPT compared to before they were made to have a visual skills problem. The research team concluded that visual skills affect sustained attention and that visual skills problems often compound the symptoms of inattention.
Does your child lose concentration easily when asked to read, write or complete near-work? Visual skills might be playing a role in his/her inattention. Schedule a visual skills exam in addition to a yearly eye exam.
Why is a yearly eye exam as well as a visual skills exam potentially so important for students as they enter a new school year? Over the next couple of weeks we will look at well-designed clinical studies to help us understand the importance of vision, which includes eyesight and visual skills, in learning.
We will start with this recent finding. In a study involving students who werealready diagnosed with a visual skills problem, their top 5 most frequent complaints were:
loss of place while reading
needing to re-read
loss of concentration
trouble remembering what was read.
Does your child exhibit any of those five symptoms? If so, then maybe it’s due to an undiagnosed visual skills problem. A yearly exam is a good place to start, but yearly eye exams do not check for the visual skills problems that can cause those symptoms. Schedule a visual skills exam in addition to the yearly eye exam.
Could your child’s vision be affecting his/her ability to read, write or learn? It’s not just about a child failing. Many bright children perform below their potential because they are being limited by their vision issues. These vision issues could include the need for glasses as well as poorly developed visual skills.
The following survey has been tested nationwide. If your child totals 20 or more points on the survey, then he/she is at a much greater risk for vision affecting academics. Visit the following link to check if your child may be affected by undiscovered vision issues: https://goo.gl/forms/rFnkCBreFBdKNjJy2
25-30% of children have vision problems that interfere with academics
Students who failed vision screenings scored worse on standardized tests
In a clinical study involving elementary-aged school children published in 2017, those who had failed a vision screening scored significantly worse on standardized tests of reading, grammar and punctuation, spelling and numeracy compared to students who had not failed the vision screening.
In another clinical study, near visual skills, not just visual acuity, explained 40% of the variance in reading accuracy performance and 30% of the variance in reading comprehension amongst elementary school children. Put another way, near visual skills were contributory factors in every 4 out of 10 children who performed worse than the average reading accuracy score. Near visual skills were also contributory factors in every 3 out of 10 children who performed worse than the average reading comprehension score.
Checking for a child’s need for eyeglasses is important. Investigating a child’s near visual skills is equally, if not even more, important if he/she is struggling academically because most of a student’s visual demand is within 16-18 inches. We specialize in vision development and its effect on reading, writing and learning.
If a normally-sighted child has two or more moderate risk factors for nearsightedness, then he/she should be evaluated every six months. If two or more risk factors are high, then active treatment to slow down the progression of myopia is recommended. If a child is already myopic, active treatment is recommended and he/she should be monitored every six months. Increasing nearsightedness not only requires thicker and thicker glasses, but it increases the risks of other eye diseases such as cataracts, glaucoma and retinal holes and tears.
Another risk factor for developing nearsightedness is the amount of time spent doing near vision tasks such as reading, writing, drawing, computer work and handheld games. Depending on the amount of time spent, your child may be subjecting himself to low, moderate or high risk of myopia.
Here’s another risk factor for developing nearsightedness – focusing inaccuracy. If a child displays inadequate focusing levels, then he or she will be either at moderate or high risk for developing, and worsening, myopia.
91% of kids between the ages of 2 and 17 years play video games
54% of parents say that they have bought a mobile device for their child to support learning
Kids between the ages of 8- to 18-years old spend 53 hours per week on digital media for recreational use
Teachers reported that computers were used in the classroom for instruction 40% of the time
21% of kids 8 years and younger use smartphones
Whether it’s for pleasure or for education, the use of digital devices among kids is prevalent. Digital devices potentially provide multiple recreational, educational and developmental benefits. There are, however, “two sides to every coin”. Much like automobiles provide both “the good” (e.g. mobility) and “the bad” (e.g. pollution), the use of digital devices among children also has some potential precautions.
The effects of light from digital devices has been in the news over the past few years. This light has been shown to: 1) adversely affect night-time sleep, 2) increase the risk for macular degeneration, 3) damage cells in the back of the eye and 4) contribute to the formation of cataracts. In addition, the use of digital devices has been shown to increase eyestrain and, in some children, increase the rate of nearsightedness progression. Children, however, should not abandon the use of digital devices because of these precautions. What this does mean, however, is that every parent should consider ways to protect their child’s eyes while while they benefit from the use of digital devices. The use of prescription lenses that fully protect from the bandwidth of light that causes problems, checking a child’s near prescription to reduce strain and developing healthy visual habits are some ways to protect a child’s eyes in this digital world.
20/60 eyesight is the minimum level of visual acuity needed to see the board in a typical classroom. This level of acuity will only allow for basic recognition, but it won’t be easy or sustainable.
20/20 eyesight is the level of visual acuity needed to physically read a typical 8th grade level book.
20/25 eyesight is the level of visual acuity needed to physically read a typical 4th grade level book.
Someone who only has 20/40 eyesight would only comfortably be able to sustain reading print that is the size of newspaper sub-headlines or a typical 1st – 3rd grade book.
There are visual skills other than eyesight that can affect sustainability of reading. Some children, even if they can see 20/20, have a difficult time reading for lengthy periods of time or reading at a proper rate because of poorly developed visual skills. Focusing accuracy, eye coordination, fine eye movements, focusing flexibility and other visual skills will affect school activities like copying from the board, filling out Scantron sheets, reading comprehension and more. Visual acuity and visual skills are both important in daily school activities.
1. Leone GE, Bigelow CA. Does print size matter for reading? A review from vision science and typography. J Vision, 2011; 11(5): 1-22.
2. Holladay JT. Proper method for calculating average visual acuity. J Ref Surg 1997; 13:388-391.