The eyes might have trouble tracking or focusing on the words on a page. In some cases, they might not work together well, and children might see double.
The problems may not be detected on a vision screening test where students identify letters they see on eye chart. In many cases, students with such problems might have 20-20 vision.
But the problems are common, and they can greatly affect a child’s ability to read. Statistics say that about 20 percent of school-age children have a vision-related problem that can interfere with learning.
“Their visual skills are not adequate enough to do what they need to do to complete the task,” said Dr. Kristen Hillis at the Family Eye Site in Cordova, Tenn. Hillis is among the doctors who have vision therapy for children. Your eye-care physician can provide other local vision therapists.
But with therapy, students can overcome their vision-relation learning struggles. That therapy includes exercises that strengthen the eye muscles and get them to work properly.
Hillis said she’s had students who were failing in school when they came for therapy but eventually rose to the top of their class and became strong readers.
Ten-year-old Gracy Barber of Baldwyn underwent vision therapy with Dr. Benjamin Kachelman in Florence, Ala., and said the words don’t move around on a page as they did before.
The problem is that these difficulties are often undetected. Diagnosis requires a comprehensive eye exam that looks more deeply at how the eyes function. Children with double vision may not complain because they don’t realize it is abnormal.
It will require parents or teachers who notice that students are skipping lines when reading or frequently suffering headaches to recommend developmental vision evaluations. They can learn more about vision-related learning struggles at www.covd.org.
“I know teachers are already overloaded with different programs and checklists and it is unrealistic for teachers to have to know everything,” Hillis said, “but the key is to able to recognize the students they know can do better and aren’t doing their best.”
Who knows how many people have dropped out of school because of vision problems. And there is no telling how many students who gave up on reading were thwarted by vision problems that could have been corrected by therapy.
But as Mississippi pushes to increase literacy, we should consider yet another avenue to help our kids thrive as readers.
Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or email@example.com.