By Stephanie Malench
Researchers estimate that 25% of school aged children have an undiagnosed vision problem interfering with their ability to learn.
With parents spending more time helping their children with remote learning, they are discovering that their children are having difficulty with reading and staying focused on virtual learning lessons. Staring at the computer for long periods of time can also lead to eye strain, making vision problems more prevalent during remote learning.
Because 80% of a child’s learning is done through vision, if a child is struggling it may be due to something other than a lack of motivation or a chemical imbalance.
Dr. Thomas Unger is a Developmental Optometrist in Troy who has been providing visual therapy services to children and adults throughout Southern Illinois for 25 years encourages parents and teachers to look for the following signs that a child’s difficulties in school are due to a vision problem.
Headaches when reading
Slow or incomplete copy work from board or paper
Avoidance of reading
Covers one eye when reading
Poor reading comprehension
Frequent loss of place while reading
Complains words move on the page or computer/tablet screen
Short attention span
Smart in everything but school
Labeled ADD, ADHD, or dyslexic
Working below potential
If a child exhibits any of these symptoms, a developmental optometrist such as Unger can determine what the exact problem is and prescribe an individualized therapy based on the problem.
Most referrals Unger receives come from teachers who have seen improvement in another student who has received vision therapy, eye doctors who do not offer vision therapy services, or parents who have begun noticing their children struggle as they work with their children more at home.
The most common condition is called convergency insufficiency, which can make eyes tired, words run together, or words move on the page.
Unger says that just because a child tests 20/20 or their eyes look straight does not mean he or she does not have a vision problem. “When a child sees 20/20, that means that they can see a certain size letter on an eye chart at a distance of 20 feet, but that’s all that it means. There are over 20 visual skills required for reading and learning besides being able to see the eye chart”, according to Unger.
Vision therapy has two components, an in office component where a therapist supervises activities such as moving objects in a certain way to challenge the eyes, and an at home set of activities that work in conjunction with each other to help the brain lean how to work properly and subconsciously over time.
In addition to interfering with academic performance, vision problems can slow down overall development and possible result in lower self-esteem. This comes from the individual having difficulty maintaining eye contact when talking to someone and therefore avoiding social situations.
Parents have told Unger and his staff that they have noticed personality changes in their children as they become more confident.
With the addition of a new location in Edwardsville, Unger is now able to provide vision therapy to more clients while remaining socially distanced.
In addition to children, adults often benefits from vision therapy if they have sustained a stroke, concussion or other head injury.
Therapy can last several months, and typically requires two visits to the office each week plus doing prescribed activities at home three or four days a week.
For more information call Dr. Unger’s office at (618)667-2020.