Vision occurs in the brain – not the eyes.
When my kids were in early primary school, I would go and be a parent helper in their classrooms. I mainly did this so I could suss out the teacher and the other kids in the classroom but it was also pretty fun and I quite liked helping kids with their learning. One particular little girl was having a huge amount of trouble with her learning and had started acting up in class. To this wonderful prep teacher’s credit, she suggested to the mum that they get her eyes checked before progressing with any further intervention. Turned out the little girl was quite short sighted and required glasses. I chatted to the mum a few months later and she said the turn around in her learning and behaviour had been phenomenal. She was like a new child.
What this story taught me was that there can be a correlation between vision and behavioural or learning issues. In fact, studies show that there’s a 75% chance that a child’s poor learning skills or learning difficulties are caused by vision problems.
To be clear, I am absolutely not saying that kids are misdiagnosed with ADHD and learning difficulties just because they’re not wearing glasses. The point really is that it’s important to rule out any sort of vision complication before beginning the process of diagnosis of these other conditions. If a simple eye exam at an optometrist could possibly help a child learn better then surely it’s worth a shot!
So how exactly can vision impact behavioural and learning issues?
First up, it’s important to note the difference between vision and eyesight. As ACBO explains, eyesight is your ability to see an eyechart on a wall, whereas vision includes sharpness of sight at distance and near; ability to aim and focus the eyes properly especially for near vision tasks such as reading and computers; the ability to sustain focus for long periods of time for reading and computers; tracking the eye movements for reading fluency and accuracy; processing of the visual information each of the eyes take in; and of course health of the eyes inside and out.
So vision screening is fabulous for picking up eyesight problems but all children should have a comprehensive eye exam to rule out any vision problems.
Why is vision so important?
Good vision is important because studies show that 80% of what we learn is obtained through visual processing of information. There have been numerous studies that show the vision affects behaviour, attention, learning and processing. So if a child’s vision isn’t operating correctly, then it stands to reason that they may have trouble learning.
How can you recognise if there might be a problem with your child’s vision?
A lot of the time, it’s not clear when a child has a vision problem. Kids don’t know that what they see might not be ‘normal’ so parents might not be aware that there is an issue. However, a few signs that might indicate a vision related learning problem include:
- Poor reading abilities
- Problems with attention and concentration
- Poor handwriting skills
- Skipping lines while reading
- Closing an eye while reading
- Letter or number reversals
- Slow at completing tasks
What if my child has a vision problem?
Most eye conditions can be treated easily – but they need to be caught early. Treatment may include prescription glasses, contact lenses and/or vision therapy. It’s important to have your child’s eyes tested regularly (each year is great) and if they are prescribed treatment, do your absolute best to stick with the treatment.
What vision problems can kids have that would affect their learning?
The most common vision conditions that affect learning are:
- Accommodative Dysfunction
- Binocular Vision Dysfunction
- Oculomotor Dysfunction
- Developmental Delays in Visual Information Processing
- Post-Concussion Vision Syndrome
Classroom life can be a huge challenge for some children, so imagine if that was exacerbated by not being able to see clearly! Ensuring children have a full and comprehensive eye exam with a qualified professional – before they even start school – will help set them on the best path to learning success.