We see a lot of children in my practice who struggle with reading and/or learning, but it is very important to know that as a developmental optometrist, I treat vision problems, NOT learning problems. It just so happens that the vision problems we treat at Cantwell Vision Therapy Centers will affect how easily a child learns in and out of the classroom environment.
If you put a blindfold on your child and send her to go learn at school or to do her homework, she would have a good deal of trouble.
If you put a pair of prism glasses on your child that distorted her vision and then sent her off to school and asked her to learn, she would again, have a good deal of trouble.
These are extreme examples, but they are important to make, because when I hear someone say that vision doesn’t affect learning, I can’t help myself—I laugh. It’s as silly as saying vision doesn’t affect seeing. Now, it is true, that a child with one or more insufficient vision skills will make adjustments, but he or she will always be working harder than the child that has adequate skills. We see these adjustments in such symptoms as closing one eye to read, tilting the head, developing a heavy blinking pattern, or simply just avoiding the task altogether.
But it’s not just school we’re talking about here—we’re talking about daily life. Those inadequate visual skills will affect a person everywhere they go. It just so happens that a child spends the major part of their day in school or performing school-related work such as homework assignments. But what about the person who has trouble reading for pleasure? The adult whose vision problems were never discovered or treated and now struggles at a visually demanding job heavy in paperwork and data interpretation.
My favorite vision-analogy is of a person who is given a bike that has a bent front wheel and is asked to ride in a race full of people with bikes in good condition. How well will that person perform? Will the person with the bad bike get frustrated? Give up? Now what if we could fix that wheel—straighten it out so well you can’t tell the difference between it and the other wheels in the race? Now the person has a chance. Now the person won’t struggle to keep the bike moving in the right direction.
That’s all we’re doing with vision therapy. We’re correcting visual deficiencies and making life easier.
If you haven’t seen the TEDx video with the bent bicycle comparison, it is worth a watch. CLICK HERE TO VIEW.
Have a great day,
Dennis R. Cantwell