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5 Reasons Why Ruling Out Vision Impairment is Vital for Children with Learning Challenges

For the first 29 years of my life my impaired vision issues went undetected. This was despite the fact I had intelligent, caring parents who were focused on my health and well-being. My vision issues have had a huge impact on my life, and its diagnosis literally changed how I viewed the world I don't think I would have earned my Doctorate in Psychology if not for help with my vision issues. This is a quick introduction to vision impairment to get a parent up to speed.

1. Catch It as Early as Possible

Catching this issue at an early age can mean the difference between success and aggravation for a student. Many ophthalmologists do not regard vision impairment as a real or treatable condition. I respectfully disagree n my experience it is both. I want all parents to have a general understanding of what impaired vision is and how it can affect a child both in and out of school.

2. Eyesight and Vision Are Different Things

Most people use the terms eyesight and vision interchangeably – this is incorrect. Eyesight is how well one's eyes focus to see clearly and take in visual information. Vision is the brain-based process of assembling that information into usable images and mental awareness. The brain and the eyes work together on tasks. Together, they employ about 20 visual skills to manage activities such as reading and writing. An impairment in the normal developmental path - whether it is caused by a difficult birth, genetics, or another outside source - can retard the development of some of those skills. When issues arise with the muscles that control the eyes, the outcome can be devastating.

3. Without Proper Diagnosis, Vision Impairment Leads to School and Self-esteem Problems

People with vision impairment often go undetected and undiagnosed. They perform poorly in school and are often dismissively branded as “lazy.” This can lead to a child developing low self-esteem. Some of the signs and symptoms associated with vision impairment:

  • Poor attention and inability to concentrate.

  • Inability to follow through on assignments.

  • Organization issues.

  • An inability to focus when spoken to.

  • Short attention span or easily distracted.

4. Vision Impairment Is Easily Misdiagnosed as ADHD/ADD

Do these look familiar? You, like many, may have mistaken these as the symptoms of ADD/ADHD. In fact, these are so close to the symptoms for ADD/ADHD that there is frequently a misdiagnosis. This can result in improper medication for vision impairment that may exacerbate or fail to solve the issue. On top of that, vision impairment, ADD/ADHD and other learning disorders often co-exist and can amplify each other’s symptoms. Learning and Vision problems can easily make each other worse and put your child at a tremendous disadvantage.

5. Getting Help for Impaired Vision is Vital

Vision Impairment and its impact is so important that I made understanding the experience and needs of those with vision impairment the focus of my doctoral dissertation. For parents with an interest in reading an in-depth analysis of vision impairment, I recommend delving into my dissertation: Developmental Vision Impairment. Chapters 1,2,5, and 6 may be of particular value.

Getting your child assessed for vision impairment is vital. It is better to rule it out than keep guessing. Normal optometrists usually do not check for vision impairment, rather they look for visual acuity – how your eyes focus – so I suggest finding a professional who focuses specifically on the diagnosis and treatment of vision impairments. To learn more about one potential solution (one I am benefiting from even as I write this), go to the Vision Specialists of Michigan website to learn about Binocular Vision Dysfunction.

- Dr. G

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