We just came across this article published in the Washington Post about an “unmotivated” first grader. The story reminds us of so many of the children we treat who have vision problems that can’t be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. These problems need to be diagnosed by a developmental optometrist and treated with vision therapy. Often, the patients we help go from failing to thriving in school. It’s no surprise, as one study found that 82% of teachers notice an improvement in students who have vision therapy.
Here are some quotes from the article that describe so many of the patients we help. It is common for kids with eye movement and eye-brain problems to take much longer than their peers to complete schoolwork. According to the parents of the child in the article:
It often takes him hours to finish a simple class assignment and then he has to miss recess so he can get this work done.
If we leave him with his homework for even a minute or two, however, he begins to doodle in the margins or poke holes in his paper. His interest in reading isn’t any better. He’ll read to us, but he won’t pick up a book on his own.
His teacher says that he is capable of doing the work, but he simply won’t do it. Consequently, she can’t assess his work, and he fails to meet the standards for first grade.
The article saves the best advice for last: go to the optometrist before getting tested for ADD. That’s because the symptoms of many vision problems mimic those of ADD and many children are likely unnecessarily medicated every year.
If your son is still quite distractible and fidgety, and if he still has a short attention span and makes careless errors, he might have attention deficit disorder. But not always. One study says that parents should always have their child’s eyes checked before he gets tested for ADD, because these disorders often have the same symptoms.
Although an ophthalmologist will tell you how well your son can see, it usually takes a developmental or behavioral optometrist to tell you how well his eyes are working when he reads or when he looks back and forth from the blackboard to the printed page. Some children get headaches because they can’t focus well or their vision is blurry, but they don’t complain because they think that heads are supposed to hurt or that the world is a blur for everyone.
If your son has these or other vision problems, don’t despair. Vision therapy is to the eyes what physical therapy is to the body, and it’s effective 90 percent of the time. He’ll just have to wear special glasses for a little while every day, do some eye exercises every day and maybe play a couple of video games. To learn more, go to www.covd.org, the Web site for the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.