Another approach to help kids who struggle to read

Does your child skip lines? Reverse words while reading out loud? Does your child complain about reading? Has your child been called inattentive, dyslexic, ADD or ADHD? Do test scores reflect your child's intelligence, but not doing well on day to day school work? Does your child often become distracted while reading? Does he or she skip over punctuation? Does your child have 20/20 eyesight, but has reading problems? Does your child re-read things he or she just read? Does your child know a word on one page but can't sound it out on the next? Does he or she complain of eye strain or headaches at the end of the day. Does he or she hold the print close to his or her eyes or close one eye to focus even with corrective eyewear or 20/20 vision? Has your child ever complained that the words on the page jump, move or become out of focus?

While these symptoms can be an indicator of ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or a learning disability, there is another possibility to explore. Many children struggle with vision based learning problems & suffer needlessly as the condition goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Since school screenings and pediatricians only check a child's distance vision, weak visual skills go undiagnosed. There is encouraging news for parents. Vision therapy is very effective in treating vision based learning problems.

What is vision therapy?

Vision therapy is like physical therapy for the visual system. Modern vision therapy began in the 1930's. There are several kinds of vision therapy. This area of vision therapy aims to treat difficulties of visual attention and concentration. Children may exhibit an inability to sustain focus or to shift focus from one area of space to another. Vision therapy treats vision problems children experience while focusing their eyes on close objects, especially print. Problems with tracking, eye teaming, and focusing make it difficult for children to read & remain on task. This condition can cause such problems as difficulty reading, double vision, headaches, eye strain, and short attention spans. For these children therapy can improve visual skills so they can function with more ease in the classroom.

Are home-based remedies enough to improve my child's visual system?

It's important to know that a home based regimen, such as 'pencil push ups' while helpful is not considered a complete program of vision therapy. A 2004 study found that a home based regimen of pencil push ups was ineffective among children with vision based learning problems. The same study found that a 12 week program of supervised, in office vision therapy improved a child's visual system in over half of the children who received this treatment. This in turn improved reading comprehension, attention & an over all improvement in school work. A follow up study in October 2008 found that among 221 children ages 9-17 with a weak visual system, 73% receiving office based vision therapy combined with home exercises had successful or improved outcomes, compared with 43% of those who performed only pencil push up exercises at home.

What do I do next?

Before a child can begin a vision therapy program, he or she must be seen by an optometrist or opthamologist for a complete developmental vision evaluation and diagnostic workup. This will be in addition to procedures performed for eye health and prescription for corrective eyewear. Be sure to mention your need for the Dr to perform the evaluation for vision therapy as well as your concerns. It's important for the Dr to understand that your child is having a difficult time reading & focusing. It's also important that he or she be aware of other methods that have been taken to improve your child's reading & focusing as well as tests performed to rule out ADD, ADHD & dyslexia. If the Dr recommends ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or a learning problem may be to blame, politely explain that you would like the evaluation completed anyway or ask for a second opinion. Many optometrists support the use of vision therapy as part of an approach to treat certain types of learning disabilities, not all Dr's agree. The goal of vision therapy is to treat vision problems that cannot be treated successfully with eyeglasses, contact lenses alone, and help children achieve clear, comfortable vision.


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