August is Vision and Learning month! As we prepare for back to school, make sure you get your child’s eyes checked. Experts say that approximately 80% of what a child learns in school is information that is presented visually. Good vision is essential for students of all ages to reach their full academic potential.

Vision is a complex process that involves both the eyes and brain. Specific learning-related vision problems can be classified as one of three types. The first two types involve visual input. The third involves how a child processes and integrates visual information.

Eye health and refractive problems can affect the visual acuity in each eye as measured by an eye chart. Refractive errors include nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism and are easily correctable with glasses or contact lenses. Eye health problems can cause low vision — permanently decreased visual acuity that cannot be corrected by conventional eyeglasses, contact lenses or refractive surgery.

Functional vision refers to a variety of specific functions of the eye and the neurological control of these functions, such as eye teaming (binocularity), fine eye movements (important for efficient reading), and accommodation (focusing amplitude, accuracy and flexibility). Lack of functional visual skills can cause blurred or double vision, eye strain and headaches that can affect learning. Convergence insufficiency is the most commonly encountered functional vision problem that affects the ability of the two eyes to stay accurately and comfortably aligned during reading.

Visual perception includes understanding what you see, identifying it, judging its importance and relating it to previously stored information in the brain. This means, for example, recognizing words that you have seen previously, and using the eyes and brain to form a mental picture of the words you see.

Symptoms of learning-related vision problems include:

  • Headaches or eye strain

  • Blurred or double vision

  • Crossed eyes or eyes that appear to move independently of each other

  • Avoidance of reading and close work

  • Short attention span during visual tasks

  • Turning or tilting the head to use one eye only, or closing or covering one eye

  • Placing the head very close to a book or desk when reading or writing

  • Excessive blinking or eye rubbing

  • Losing place while reading, or using a finger as a guide

  • Slow reading speed or poor reading comprehension

  • Difficulty remembering what was read

  • Omitting or repeating words, or confusing similar words

  • Persistent reversal of words or letters (after age 7)

  • Difficulty remembering, identifying or reproducing shapes

  • Poor hand-eye coordination

  • Evidence of developmental immaturity

Issues with poor visual acuity can be easily corrected with glasses or contact lenses, while issues with functional vision and visual perception can be treated with vision therapy. Children who grow up with undiagnosed vision problems are often unaware that what they see is abnormal, meaning they don’t know to ask for help. Children with vision problems can be misdiagnosed with ADD /ADHD because they skip lines, have poor reading comprehension, take longer than average to complete homework, and have a shorter attention span. The yearly Vision & Learning Month campaign encourages parents to take their children in for a comprehensive vision exam every year. School screenings provide less than 4% of the eye tests needed to help diagnose vision problems spanning all three categories, and miss up to 75% of children with vision problems. Children with vision problems that are not diagnosed and treated may struggle in school and often go on to be adults with the same vision problems. To find a developmental optometrist near you and schedule an eye exam, visit, and click here for a vision therapy success story!

Sarah Blackwelder, OD

OCOS Public Relations