Optimally functioning vision includes three layers that might need to be addressed: sight (eyesight or visual acuity), visual efficiency (eyes working together properly), and visual information processing.
If a student is having reading problems, start with a routine eye exam to assess the physical health of the eyes and eyesight. If there is a physical problem with the sharpness or clarity of eyesight, it will be addressed with eyeglasses or contact lenses.
However, a student who has 20-20 eyesight can have visual processing challenges if their eyes are not working together efficiently. “Sight merely refers to eyesight or visual acuity. Vision refers to seeing, processing, and responding to visual information.”
A comprehensive vision exam with a developmental optometrist or ophthalmologist will assess visual efficiency, which includes how well the eyes:
Vision therapy exercises (lasting three to twelve months) might be recommended to help the six sets of eye muscles work together to make reading more comfortable. The College of Optometrists in Vision Development website, www.COVD.org, is the best source for finding a qualified developmental optometrist who can properly evaluate and provide vision therapy to treat these kinds of vision challenges. The website also provides useful checklists and developmental timelines to help parents identify whether their child needs this more thorough vision evaluation.
Other visual information processing issues that vision therapists address include:
Vision conditions that can benefit from vision therapy include:
Dyslexia can co-exist with visual processing disorders. When that is the case, each disorder needs to be addressed separately. A joint statement issued by The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Ophthalmology says that scientific evidence does not support vision therapy as a treatment for dyslexia and other learning and attention issues. Both vision therapy and dyslexia intervention may be necessary. One will not fix problems corrected by the other.
While visual processing and eye tracking problems are not directly about reading skills, if a student has trouble with these they will cause reading difficulties and need to be separately addressed with the help of a qualified professional. This article on eye-tracking exercises provides additional help.
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