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  • Pediatric Eye Care and Learning Disabilities

  • "Early detection and prevention is key, because visual systems develop in early childhood, Diane Adamczyk, O.D, who chairs the American Optometric Association EBO Committee says.   "For that, there is no substitute for an in-person, comprehensive eye exam that can lead to prevention or a timely diagnosis and treatment."

    "If you can catch certain eye conditions and diseases early in the course of their lives, you can really change children's lives," Dr. Adamczyk says. "If a child isn't functioning well visually, it can impact his or her performance in school. It can impact his or her behavior, future goals and the kind of work he or she will do as an adult. "The AOA hopes the impact of this guideline will be far-reaching," she adds.

    Children with undetected vision problems are sometimes inaccurately diagnosed as having learning disabilities such as ADD or ADHD. Difficulty in school isn't always a sign of a learning disorder; it may just be a sign that a child's eyes aren't working properly. Studies show that learning is 80% visual, children with untreated vision problems can really suffer when it comes to school. Most people think that good “vision” means 20/20 acuity but in reality, vision is much more complex. Your brain is actually what completes the processing of the visual world around you and visual processing disorders can be present even when there is no evidence of a vision problem.

    The American Optometry Association reports that 2 out of 5 children have a vision condition that affects learning and estimates that 10 million American children have non-diagnosed and untreated vision problems. In Canada, it’s reported that one in 4 school age children have non-diagnosed vision problems, many with no obvious symptoms.

    A major reason for this is that when parents and teachers see issues in school, they often run to learning or behavioral issues first. In reality, difficulty in reading, understanding, focusing, paying attention and even disruptive behavior can all be symptoms of an underlying vision disorder. Undetected and untreated vision problems are of great concern because they can interfere with the ability to perform to one's full learning potential. When these vision problems have an adverse effect on learning, they are referred to as learning related vision problems.

    There are a number of skills that we need in order to successfully see and process the outside world. These include, eye teaming (being able to use the eyes together as a team), focusing, tracking, recognition and comprehension. When these skills are delayed or insufficient, learning, reading, understanding and motor skills can all be affected. Most of these visual processing issues cannot be treated by corrective glasses or contact lenses alone. Sometimes a regime of vision therapy exercises may be prescribed to teach the brain how to properly process the information that is coming in through the eyes.