Dr. Sims is a pediatric optometrist, and sees many pediatric patients. She sees many situations where children are brought to her office and their parents are reporting that the children are struggling in school with learning and reading. What kinds of issues could be involved?
That’s a great question. I do see a lot of children who may see very well when you check their vision on the chart, and they may even see 20/20. But when I ask how school is going, or if they are getting headaches, and if they enjoy reading, often they answer that there are problems. A lot of times these problems are correlated to the eyes. Much of our learning is done through our vision, and if there are issues with our eyes, that can make learning and reading more difficult. One thing that I check during my eye exam is the focusing system, or accommodation, which is used when we are reading or using a tablet or a phone, or anything up close. If our focusing system is not as strong as we need it to be, words get fuzzy or go in and out of focus. A poor focusing system can even make words move around on the page. Another thing I check is the muscles of the eyes, which have to work well together. Many times there are certain conditions such as convergence insufficiency where the muscles don’t work well together, and that causes children to have double vision while they are reading. Double vision makes learning and school work very difficult, so kids don’t enjoy it. Another thing I check, which is very important, is how their eyes track and move as they read. Kids don’t know if their vision is not working well because they only know what they see – they don’t know what’s normal. There is no way for a parent to know about these vision issues without checking for them. Often when kids are struggling in school there are things like vision therapy that we can do, which helps them.