Dear Doctor Homeschool,

QUESTION:

I am concerned that my child has difficulty in reading.  We did go to a local corporate optometrist and they claim he has 20/20 vision.  If his eyesight is so good, why would he have difficulties in reading?

 RESPONSE:

Believe it or not, this is a far more common problem than most people realize.  We are often fooled into thinking that vision and sight are synonymous terms.  The truth of the matter is that they represent two different components of a child’s ability to read.  When we encounter a child with reading issues we automatically want to determine if vision problems are the root of the problem.  To provide a professional opinion on this matter we solicited the opinion of Dr. Karen Chao, a developmental optometrist.  The following is her response to us:

Inadequate Vision Screenings Contributing to Epidemic of Children with Learning Problems

by:  Dr. Karen Chau

 In her book, “Red Flags for Elementary School Teachers”, Katie Johnson, a teacher for over 35 years, discusses the huge need for teachers and other school professionals from all areas, to better understand the need for identifying eye coordination and focusing disorders in children.

Optometric research continues to show that more than 10 million children struggle with reading and learning because of eye coordination and eye focusing disorders. Research also clearly indicates that these vision disorders are very treatable with optometric vision therapy.

Ms. Johnson was amazed at the answers she heard when she asked her struggling readers, “What do the words do when you are trying to read?”  “I remember one girl who said, ‘I start on the side of the page and then the words start moving, when I get to middle where the staple is and the book is bending, the words fall in there and I can’t read.’  I would never have known this was happening if I didn’t ask her.”

 The most important thing for parents to know is that children rarely complain. The way they tell us that there is a problem is with their behavior.  Therefore you need to know the various behavioral signs that signal a vision problem; for example, does your child:

  • avoid reading?
  • prefer to be read to?
  • turn his or her head at an angle when reading?
  • have more trouble comprehending what is read the longer he or she reads?
  • have trouble seeing 3D effects in movies or video games?

If your child continues to struggle with reading, it’s time to see an optometrist who provides an in-office program of optometric vision therapy. Doctors who are members of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) provide specialized testing to evaluate all of the visual skills required for academic success. For a more in-depth checklist or to find a doctor, visit:  covd.org

This is Doctor Homeschool again.  We experienced this problem with our youngest daughter who experienced delayed reading issues and one of the major factors contributing to her improved reading skills was to see Dr. Chao.  In the case of our daughter she was experiencing eye teaming issues which made reading very difficult.  Today as a young adult she has excellent reading skills and more importantly she loves reading.  Through proper assessment and therapy your struggling reader will discover the wonderful world of reading as our daughter did.

In future blogs we will be discussing other factors that contribute to delayed reading skills.