Vision and Reading: why your child may be struggling
Children start off using their eyes in school to learn their letters and to learn how to read; this is followed by reading to learn. In fact, most of their learning in school happens through reading.
For most children, learning to read is not a problem, but for some it can be an ongoing struggle. Reading requires not only good vision but also involves both physical and cognitive skills including speech, memory, hearing, psychological development, phonetics, and decoding. They must be able to recognize letters and words, gain understanding from what is being read, and be able to remember what was read and use it.
Good vision involves the ability to take incoming visual information, process that information and obtain meaning from it. Simply having 20/20 vision is not enough. For fluent reading, a child must have clear and sharp eyesight at near by focusing on the page, be able to comfortably keep that focus for a long period of time, and be able to comfortably fixate and quickly shift focus from objects at different distances. They must also be able to coordinate their eye movement so that both eyes are pointing at the same place at the same time and accurately and quickly jump from one word to another or from the end of one line to the start of another. As they read, they must also interpret and accurately process and decode what they are reading to give it meaning.
Reading difficulty is usually due to an accumulation of problems, rather just a single one and all possible causes should be explored.
If a child has poor vision or poor ability to focus up close, has poor eye teaming, or poor control of their eye movements, they may experience symptoms such as blurry vision, fluctuation of vision, headaches, a pain around the eyes, words moving on the page, double vision, skipping words or lines, periodic re-reading, poor concentration, and poor comprehension and memory of what is read. If there are inadequacies in any of these areas, a child will have great difficulty in school, especially in reading and math.
A child with a reading difficulty may not voice any problems because they have never experienced anything else so their actions may be the only indication of the difficulty. They will often comprehend material better if it is verbalized than if they have to read it themselves, perform below their potential, and get very stressed and tired after reading.
If your child is struggling in school, they should be seen for a comprehensive eye and vision examination with an optometric physician, as a vision screening will usually not evaluate all the critical eye and vision components discussed above.