Vision and Learning
How does vision relate to learning?
75-90% of learning in a classroom occurs through the visual
system. If the visual system is not working properly, this can seriously hinder
a child trying to perform up to their potential.
It has been estimated that 1
out of 4 children in the U.S. have learning problems.
This is roughly 2-7
million children struggling to achieve in school. 25% of ALL children have a vision problem significant enough to affect their performance
in school. According to research on just learning disabled populations, the
number of kids with significant learning related vision problems can soar closer
to 85% in their studies.
Many of these children are officially diagnosed with a learning
disability in part to receive special education services to help them with their
difficulties, and many continue to need special services throughout their school
experience. This can be a pretty expensive load
on the school budget (and on the taxpayer), not to mention on the child's self
esteem and future success. Unfortunately, the number of children receiving special
services for learning disabilities is on the rise.
75% of those identified as learning disabled have their biggest deficit in
reading. Out of those children who are reading disabled, 80% of them have difficulties with one or more basic visual skills. Fortunately,
these visual deficits can be treated successfully by vision training, as volumes
of research studies have illustrated. Though vision is only one factor that
can be associated with learning problems, if the children with primarily vision
related problems were discovered sooner and treated promptly, the number of
children in special education may not be as high.
But what does it mean to be learning disabled?
Traditionally in schools, children are considered learning disabled
when they are about two grade levels behind in reading, writing or mathematics
despite average intelligence, educational opportunity, and fairly normal home/social environment.
They also have been found through standardized testing that their performance
is significantly below their potential. This means they are usually in third
grade before they receive special services (unless they were lucky enough to
qualify for the Title I program, which is another story some of you may be familiar
with) and already at a disadvantage compared to the rest of their peers .
Is there something we can do, as parents, educators and professi onals,
to help these kids obtain the skills they need so they can perform at their
potential before they get so far behind in school?
Learning disabilities can occur for a multitude of reasons.
There may be a physiological, psychological, developmental, environmental,
genetic, behavioral, social or combination of these factors that cause a child
to be diagnosed as learning disabled. Though it is difficult to pinpoint where
the problems stem from, one important factor that is often overlooked is vision.
According to research, many children that are considered learning
disabled have clinically significant visual problems. Yet, these children are often labelled dyslexic or as having a specific learning
disability before vision is ruled out as a possible contributory factor.
For more information on vision and reading, click here.
a child's performance significantly falls below their potential, they are tested
to see if they have a learning disability. To evaluate learning disabled (LD)
children, a series of specialists are called upon to discover where areas of
deficit are occurring and how they can be remediated. This team of specialists
is called a Multidisciplinary Team (MDT). MDT's decide whether or not your child
qualifies for special education services. Unfortunately, eye doctors are not
usually on an MDT and vision problems still go undiagnosed.
If a child does qualify for special education services, they are
fortunate enough to have specialists assist them with their education, but are
now very far behind their classmates. If vision was taken out of the equation
earlier so it was not one of the factors hindering that child's performance,
it is possible that special education services may never have been needed.
Vision, however, is RARELY the only factor in why a child may
not be meeting their potential, though it can be a major contributor. It is important to remember that all our senses
must work together to bring us information from the world around us; a problem
may lie in a single area, such as vision, but usually, learning difficulties occur
are caused by a combination of factors.
So is there something you can do?
There is something parents, educators and professionals can do
to help children obtain the visual skills they need before they fall way behind
in school. Parents can ensure that their children get regular vision exams beginning at 6 months old from a pediatric (behavioral) optometrist who specializes in vision development. Schools can conduct better screenings to help identify students with potential vision problems that can affect learning. These screenings must go beyond a distance Snellen letter chart.
Parents and teachers can also observe and learn to recognize signs and
symptoms of learning-related visual problems. Knowing when a child is having vision symptoms and knowing when
to refer them to an eye doctor that specializes in visual function can significantly
reduce the number of children experiencing learning difficulties.
To learn how some signs and symptoms of visual problems, click here.
The earlier vision problems are detected and remediated, the less time will pass
where individuals fall behind if left untreated.
Vision problems CAN be corrected. Vision does not have to be
part of the learning problem.