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.

Once 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.





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