Is an undiagnosed vision problem affecting your child’s performance in school?

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Most people think that if they can see 20/20, they have “normal” vision. However, there is more to vision than just reading the 20/20 line on an eye chart. We need to have good eye tracking, focusing and teaming skills in order to use our eyes efficiently throughout the day. Imagine how difficult it would be to do school work if you are seeing double vision or if your vision keeps fluctuating. Statistics show one out of four children have an undiagnosed vision problem and may be suffering from such symptoms. These children may not complain because they think what they are experiencing is normal. Unfortunately, I have seen many children misdiagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or being labeled as “lazy”, when in fact their poor attention and avoidance of school work was due to a deficiency in their visual skills.

When I ask parents when their child’s last eye examination was, they often say, “Last year at the pediatrician’s office,” or, “Two years ago when it was done at the school.” It is very important to understand the difference between being evaluated at a pediatrician’s office, a school setting and an optometrist’s office. A pediatrician may have you read an eye chart, whereas a school may conduct a basic vision screening. An optometrist, on the other hand, will perform a comprehensive eye and vision examination, which is the best way to detect problems other than poor vision.

Children with undiagnosed vision problems may experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • Double vision
  • Fluctuating vision
  • Words moving/swimming when reading
  • Skipping words/lines when reading
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Poor attention
  • Avoidance of near work
  • Poor eye hand coordination

These symptoms are present in conditions such as:

  • Oculomotor dysfunction (poor eye tracking)
  • Accommodative dysfunction (poor eye focusing)
  • Vergence dysfunction (poor eye teaming)
  • Visual information processing deficiency
  • Strabismus (eye turn)
  • Amblyopia (decreased vision)
  • Traumatic brain injury

These conditions can be successfully treated with vision therapy. Vision therapy is a customized program of vision procedures aimed at teaching an individual how to use their eyes efficiently to improve their visual skills.

Vision therapy can truly change a person’s life. I have seen children who were falling behind in school, prior to vision therapy, start making straight A’s. Parents have told me their children, who despised reading, will pick up a book and willingly read on their own. Children who struggled with sports, such as baseball, have proudly told me they were hitting home runs. The list of success stories goes on and on.

The earlier these conditions are detected and treated, the better opportunity we are giving children to learn at their highest potential. Many people think that vision therapy is only for children, but it is important to note that it is beneficial for adults as well. I am thrilled to make such a positive difference in my patients’ lives, but it breaks my heart when I have an adult patient or a child’s parent say, “Why did I not know about this sooner?”

For more information about vision therapy, please visit:

– Reena Patel, OD, FAAO