Dyslexia and Reading Problems
It is estimated that at least 15 to 25% of school-aged children struggle with reading problems or dyslexia.
There are many reasons why a child may have such difficulties. Every child’s neurological system functions a bit differently. This is what makes each child unique and gives one a special personality. Some children, because of their unique neurological system, do not process visual and auditory information as well as others and this makes learning to read difficult. They may not be able recognize letters and words or put together meaningful mental images of what they are reading. Words or letters may get mixed up (such as reversals) making a chaotic visual mess that is hard to sort.
If learning to read is difficult, these students often decide they don’t like reading and avoid it whenever possible, further distancing themselves from their peers who practice regularly.
While dyslexia and reading problems may originate from the unique way the brain processes information, it does not mean that learning to read is impossible! Imagine two students. Sam has an innate gift for music, while Sandy has only an average musical ability. Sandy had piano lessons for years. Sam never had the opportunity for music lessons of any kind. Who is the better piano player? Sandy, most likely, because she had both the training and the practice.
Dyslexia and reading problems make it more difficult to learn to read
With developmentally appropriate training and consistent practice these students can still become excellent readers. Some even have the potential of becoming a better reader than a gifted student with poor educational experiences and lack of practice.
Vision plays a leading role in the reading process. Vision can not be taken for granted when trying to determine why a student struggles with reading. Vision is much more than the ability to see detail clearly. Most students with reading problems have 20/20 eyesight but still have a vision problem that affects their ability to read.
Vision is an active process that gathers meaning and understanding from the world
Vision can be compared to the arm and hand. To know what is in your hand by feel alone you first have to grab hold of the object. You have to hold on to the object just right (not too tight, not too loose). And finally you have to manipulate the object in your hand. You have to FEEL the object to know what it is. The eyes work the same way.
- First, you have to grab hold of the object at which you are looking.
This involves orienting the eyes toward the object you are looking at (Eye Tracking Skills), coordinating the two eyes together as a team (Eye Alignment Skills), and focusing the eyes on the object so it isn’t blurry (Eye Focusing Skills).
- After all of this, you still don’t have meaningful vision unless you FEEL the object with Visual Perception Skills.
In the reading process, all of this has to happen sequentially, efficiently, and consistently. The eyes move across the page picking up word chunks one after the other at a rate of less than 1/3 second to orient, grab, and feel the chunk. If there are any problems in the student’s eye tracking, binocular teaming, eye focusing, or visual perception skills, the whole process breaks down and becomes extremely frustrating.
A Developmental Optometry evaluation at Hope Clinic will reveal whether visual factors are contributing to a student’s reading difficulties.
When functional vision difficulties are found, they may be treated through a program of Vision Therapy. Vision Therapy is aimed at developing basic eye tracking, binocular teaming, eye focusing, and visual perception skills that are essential to the reading process. In addition to assuring that the visual foundations are in place, specific therapy addressing decoding words, information processing, and fluency skills can be helpful. These skills are developed through specialized individually prescribed curriculum and technology.
For further study and specific information on Dyslexia and Reading Problems, please visit the following websites:
- Children with Special Needs
- American Optometric Association
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Vision Therapy Stories
Contact Hope Clinic to begin the process of learning how Vision Therapy can help you or your child! Hope Clinic offers two online options: Schedule a Free Screening or Schedule a Full Functional Vision Evaluation, or call us at (425) 462-7800.