Vision Disorders contribute to learning difficulties
Vision may be one of the missing links to helping students learn.
Barbara Scola, a Director of Pupil Services, brought vision therapy to her school. “I was working on my master’s thesis and had the opportunity to work with a student who had excellent comprehension when the material was read to him, but struggled when he tried to read on his own.” As she worked with him she found that he knew his words in isolation, yet when he saw the same words at the beginning of a line in a paragraph he didn’t recognize them because he cut off the first two letters. For example, “Treat yourself to some ice cream” he would read as “Eat yourself to some ice cream.” “This was quite a mystery, so I started researching to see what it could be. I suspected that his vision might be playing a role, so I started searching for information on learning disabilities and vision which lead me to optometric vision therapy,” Scola continued.
Following Scola’s recommendation, the mother took her child to an optometrist who had an in-office vision therapy program. After completing optometric vision therapy, he did very well in school. Once Scola received her Master’s Degree in Education Administration, she joined Moore in the Shamong School District as the Director of Pupil Services and began implementing her new strategies. The mother of one of the first children who went through optometric vision therapy was working on her Ph.D. in Reading. Scola had encouraged her to give vision therapy a try. And it worked!
Scola explains to parents, “It doesn’t matter if your child is gifted or not, if vision isn’t working right, your eyes don’t send the right signals to your brain. It’s like having a real high speed computer, but if the keyboard isn’t working, you get the wrong information, if any.”
Some of the most common signs that a child may have a learning related vision disorder are:
- Homework battles even though the child is bright and may do well in school (because their eyes are tired at the end of the day from straining to focus)
- Tilts head or lays head on the desk during reading
- Short attention span when reading
- Poor reading comprehension
- Skips lines, rereads lines
“We try to do whatever is possible to stop children from needing to be classified for special education services,” Nicole Moore, an elementary school principal, shares. “Parents have told me that optometric vision therapy makes a big difference in their children’s ability to read and learn. Screening and remediation of learning-related vision problems have been a significant factor in reducing the number of children referred for special education services.”