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Does Your Child Have Dyslexia

Does Your Child Have Dyslexia or a Vision Problem – Or Both?

Dyslexia is a condition that affects areas of the brain responsible for information processing, limiting one’s ability to decode letters, identify speech sounds and learn how sounds relate to letters and words. Because it adversely affects a person’s ability to read, spell, write and even speak, it inevitably leads to learning difficulties.

But dyslexia is just one reason a child or adult may have trouble learning. Quite often, undetected vision problems impede a person’s ability to read and perform other tasks. If vision is the culprit, vision therapy can often alleviate or even cure the problem.

This is why it’s so important to receive a proper diagnosis to determine whether learning difficulties are caused by dyslexia or a vision problem — or perhaps both. Even if you’ve already received a dyslexia diagnosis, rule out any concurrent vision problems by setting up an appointment with Dr. Dick O'Connor or Dr. Alyssa Fortuna for a comprehensive eye exam.

What Is Dyslexia?

1 in 10 people has dyslexia, which affects areas of the brain responsible for processing language. People with this condition tend to have trouble spelling, and often mix up letters and sounds. They will reverse letters within words: seeing a b and thinking it’s a d, seeing a p and thinking it’s a q, or reading the word cat as tac.

Dyslexia is a learning disability. It does not affect intelligence. With the proper diagnosis and educational support, children and adults with dyslexia can thrive in every setting.

How Is Dyslexia Treated?

While there is currently no cure or medical treatment for dyslexia, it can be better managed with the help of a trained teacher, tutor, or reading specialist.

The teacher or tutor will offer special activities to help the person recognize speech sounds in words (called phonemic awareness) and letter-sound correspondences (called phonics).

Learning Disability and Vision Problems

Learning Disability and Vision ProblemsIt’s often impossible for a teacher or parent to know whether a child has a vision problem or dyslexia because both conditions can manifest in similar ways. Like dyslexia, poor visual skills can hinder a children’s ability to succeed in school. This, in turn, lowers self-esteem and confidence levels.

A Few of the Vision Problems That Affect Learning

  • Problems with eye tracking – the eyes’ inability to follow a line of print
  • Issues with eye teaming – the inability of both eyes to work together as a synchronized team
  • Poor binocular vision – refers to the struggle to simultaneously blend the images from both eyes into a single image
  • Accommodation problems – a decreased ability to converge the eyes and maintain clear vision when focusing on a near object
  • Problems with visual perception – refers to poor visual memory, reduced visual form perception, and poor visualization skills

Any of these can cause a child to struggle to make sense of the information taken in through his or her eyes. This makes it difficult for even the brightest children to grasp the subject at hand, which, in turn, can result in secondary behavioral issues.

Schedule an appointment with Dr. Dick O'Connor or Dr. Alyssa Fortuna to receive a comprehensive eye exam. If, after the eye evaluation, it is determined that your child has certain deficiencies in his or her visual skills, Dr. Dick O'Connor or Dr. Alyssa Fortuna will create an individualized vision therapy program to develop and enhance these skills.

What is Vision Therapy?

Vision therapy is a fully customized program to meet the individual needs of every patient. The optometrist will devise a structured program following an extensive assessment of the visual skills.

This therapy is made up of a series of visual exercises that improve fundamental skills. It teaches the brain and eyes to work together as a team. Better visual functioning leads to improved reading levels, writing skills, and enhanced information processing.

As part of the therapeutic process, vision therapists utilize various tools, such as specialized lenses, prisms, patches, filters, balance boards, and digital simulations. Each treatment session takes place once or twice a week in the office under the supervision of the eye doctor, who will also prescribe daily at-home exercises.

Can Dyslexia Be Treated With Vision Therapy?

Many people mistakenly believe that dyslexia is a vision problem; it is a brain processing problem that cannot be treated with vision therapy. However, undiagnosed visual problems are commonly misdiagnosed as dyslexia. Therefore, it’s important to get a comprehensive eye evaluation by an eye doctor to rule out any vision problems. As mentioned above, if a child with dyslexia also has a vision problem, vision therapy can effectively enhance any deficient vision skills.

To learn more and discuss the ways vision therapy might help your child, please contact Vision Development of WNY in Elma, Western New York and beyond.

Request an Appointment
Find Out How We Can Help You! 716-300-5269

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Optometric Vision Therapy for Kids with ADD or ADHD

Functional vision problems in children can produce a similar set of symptoms to those found in ADHD, such as difficulty focusing in school, tendency to fidget or squirm in their seats and making careless mistakes. Visual integration problems can lead to skipping lines, confusing words and word-order and generally making it impossible to read accurately. This perpetually makes bright children seem like they just don’t get it, and results in secondary behavioral issues.

If your child displays poor attention in school, don’t automatically assume that it’s Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

At Vision Development of WNY, we’ve seen many instances in which a child diagnosed with ADD or ADHD had all the symptoms of the disorder. However, following a thorough vision evaluation with Dr. Dick O'Connor or Dr. Alyssa Fortuna, it was often concluded that the issue may be undiagnosed functional vision problems.

What is a Functional Vision Problem?

Functional vision is the set of visual skills that a person uses to gather and process vision information. In other words, functional vision is how your entire visual system — the eyes, the brain, the visual pathways — work together to help you accurately interpret and interact with your environment.

Does My Child Have ADD, ADHD, or a Vision Problem?

Studies show that children with functional vision issues are twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD as compared to their peers.

Does My Child Have ADD

When the visual skills in children don’t operate properly, certain symptoms and behaviors can appear:

Difficulty paying attention in class: regular classroom tasks become much more challenging for those with functional vision problems. As they struggle with the tasks, students may become more frustrated, tired, fidgety, or stop trying altogether and stare into space.

Trouble reading. Difficulty with eye teaming can make the act of reading difficult and uncomfortable on the eyes. Certain kids may push past the discomfort and read at a slower rate, while others may just stop trying altogether.

Not responding normally when spoken to. A child with a functional vision problem needs to work much harder than the typical student when attempting to focus on the board. As a result of focusing their energies so intently, they may not be able to process the information in their surrounding environment, such as when being spoken to. These children may also become understandably frustrated affecting their attitude in the classroom.

Inattentive to details. Kids with functional vision problems typically have a limited window of time in which they can complete near work, such as reading and writing. They tend to feel rushed to get through their work before developing blurred or double vision, eye strain, or headaches. As a result of this rush, the student may skip important details and make careless mistakes along the way.

Poor performance when playing sports and other physical activities.

Children with functional vision problems may experience difficulty seeing a ball fly through the air or assess their physical distance to others on a playing field. This can be perceived as poor sports performance and can affect their social lives and confidence levels.

Further symptoms associated with Functional Vision Problems

While the following reactions can be blamed on stress or attention problems, they’re most likely the result of vision difficulties.

  • Avoids reading activities
  • Excessive squinting
  • Feelings of low self esteem
  • Frequent rubbing of the eyes
  • Lack of interest in hobbies

How Can Optometric Vision Therapy Help My Child?

Optometric Vision Therapy is a personalized set of vision-developing exercises that improve and strengthen visual functions and retrain the brain to interpret visual input more accurately. It’s usually compared to physical therapy, but improves the functioning of the eyes and visual system.

Optometric Vision Therapy develops the skills necessary for:

  • Eye teaming
  • Focusing
  • Convergence
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Visual perception
  • Visual tracking

Example: Your 3rd grader is intuitive and intelligent, so they move on to 4th grade. Only now, they’re expected to read more challenging books and do more complex schoolwork. This becomes a struggle as they cannot make sense of the words on the page. That’s where Optometric Vision Therapy can help.

Do you think your child’s ADHD-like symptoms may be the result of a vision problem? Schedule a functional vision evaluation with Dr. Dick O'Connor or Dr. Alyssa Fortuna to find out. If it is determined that the issue is in fact vision-related, a customized Optometric Vision Therapy program will be recommended, based on your child’s own unique needs.

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What If My Child Was Misdiagnosed With ADD or ADHD?

An incorrect diagnosis can result in serious repercussions. Your child may be prescribed strong medications, such as Ritalin or Adderall. These medications alter dopamine levels in the brain in order to increase your child’s focus and concentration levels. However, their side effects are notoriously unpleasant. Not only is the child taking medications and dealing with unpleasant side effects, but any undiagnosed vision problems haven’t been resolved.

Moreover, if your child has been misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD, they can be subject to stigmas and negative behaviors from their peers, which can harm their self-esteem and confidence levels well into their adult years.

Give your child the tools they need to succeed in school and in life and schedule an appointment with Dr. Dick O'Connor or Dr. Alyssa Fortuna at Vision Development of WNY.

How Quickly Will We Notice Results?

Often there are gains seen within days or weeks. However, It can take up to 6 months to see the full results, although this may depend on each patient and their specific therapy regimen. In addition to techniques, visual aids, or eyeglasses, the Optometric Vision Therapy plan includes close monitoring and follow-up appointments. Over the course of the program, the doctor will determine how many visits are needed in order to achieve the best results.

How We Can Help

Understanding the difference between actual attention disorders and similar behaviors caused by vision problems is of utmost importance, and can save you and your child the frustration of being placed in the wrong camp and treating the wrong problem. Thanks to the breadth of knowledge and experience, Dr. Dick O'Connor or Dr. Alyssa Fortuna will be able to determine if any underlying functional vision problems are impacting your child.

At Vision Development of WNY our goal is to ensure your children’s visual health develops correctly so that they excel in school and in life. We do this by teaching them a variety of techniques to strengthen the functioning of their eyes, focus on images at both near and far distances, eye teaming and more. As the young patient learns and practices these skills and techniques, they will retain what they’ve learned throughout adulthood.

Even if you’ve tried medications, alternative therapies, or feel as if you’ve exhausted every avenue to help your child, talk to us. Vision Development of WNY exists to provide hope and healing for those with vision-related learning problems and provides customized Optometric Vision Therapy for our young patients in Elma, Buffalo, SouthTowns and Western New York. Let us use our passion to help your child maximize their visual skills and reach their full potential.

For more information:

Please visit our website and take the Optometric Vision Therapy Quiz

Visit College of Vision Development for more information:

Request an Appointment
Find Out How We Can Help You! 716-300-5269