Children Experience Vision-Related Learning Disabilities – Even if They Have 20/20 Vision

scottsdale child learning to read Most schools conduct a basic vision test for their students every year.  Unfortunately, it is not as comprehensive as it should be and fails to detect all potential problems. Most parents don’t realize that their child’s difficulties with learning may stem from vision related learning challenges even if they have 20/20 vision.   

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What is 20/20 Vision?

20/20 vision is a specific term used to describe normal visual acuity (sharpness/clarity of vision). If the person has 20/20 vision, it means they can see clearly at 20 feet.  However, other crucial visual skills including side vision, eye coordination, tracking, focusing ability and depth perception, also contribute to a person’s overall visual ability. 

What Are the Limitations?

Basic visual acuity tests are limited and do not give you all of the information you need to identify a vision related learning challenge that may impact your child’s ability to learn effectively. It’s essential to understand what these limitations are:

  • During the test, a child sits or stands still. The object they look at is also stationary. These conditions are ideal for looking at things and seeing them clearly. It doesn’t test the eye’s ability to track movement, see color, focus on objects at a varying distance, etc. 
  • The person doesn’t have to move their eyes from one side to another to read. When a student is reading a book or the school board, their eyes have to move in different directions. If this movement is hampered in some way, they can experience difficulty in reading or retaining the information.

A comprehensive vision test goes beyond just reading bold letters from a fixed distance. Optometrists carefully examine the structure of the eye, study things like depth perception, accommodation, binocular vision as well as the ability to see color.

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When Should a Child Get a Comprehensive Eye Exam?

As 80% of learning happens through our visual system, experts recommend getting a comprehensive exam before your child starts school. A child’s first detailed eye exam should be schedule around 1 year of age and repeated annually.  

This allows the doctor to monitor your child’s eye health and offer preventive solutions. This is especially important now because most modern kids spend hours peering at the computer and mobile screens, which can strain the eyes significantly.

Signs of Vision-Related Learning Problems

Parents can be proactive and be on the lookout for signs of vision-related learning problems.  Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Poor handwriting 
  • Difficulty focusing on text
  • Double vision during or after reading for an extended period
  • Blurred vision after reading or working closely on something
  • Distractedness during reading
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Avoidance of reading
  • Eye-strain and frequent headaches caused by it
  • Word or letter reversals 

If your child is performing poorly in school, even if they dedicate a reasonable amount of time to studies, they might be struggling with vision disorders. If they display any of these symptoms, it’s essential you contact an expert eye doctor who specializes in vision related learning challenges without delay. 

What Can You Do At Home?

There are some ways to test a child’s vision at home. It can help parents decide whether they should take their child to a doctor for a more comprehensive exam. These tests include:

  • Check the eye movement as the child reads. Do your child’s eyes move smoothly from one side to another? Or do they display excessive head movement?
  • Can your child focus while moving from far away objects to nearby objects?
  • Do both eyes move together in proper alignment in all directions without head movement?

Checking your child’s eyes regularly can help avoid the stress and pain caused by poor academic performance. 

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The Relevance of Handwriting in This Day and Age

scottsdale child learning to write Modern technology and the Internet have made a significant impact on our lifestyle, skills, hobbies, and development. Children have access to smart devices and learn how to communicate through them at an early age. 

They master skills like typing and the use of these devices before handwriting. Most parents don’t consider this a problem because they feel their children will learn to write anyway. How does it matter if they’re typing words on a device instead of writing them on paper?

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Science Proves that Handwriting Does Matter

Before the advent of smart digital technology, writing by hand was considered a vital skill. Schools offered special classes to help kids master cursive writing. The objective was to ensure that kids learned how to hold pens and pencils correctly, shape letters well, and write legibly and evenly. There are several reasons why handwriting matters, and here are some of them:

  • Scientists suggest that the development of fine motor skills early in their academic years can help students perform better in reading, writing, and math in later life. Learning Without Tears conducted a study – ‘Handwriting Without Tears – Get Set For School HWT-GSS.’ The study proved that handwriting helps improve fine motor skills and pre-writing abilities in children. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22026324
  • Cursive writing, print writing, and typing all have an impact on different parts of the brain and stimulate different kinds of development. Children with better handwriting have higher neural activity, especially in the brain’s reading and writing networks. It means these kids have access to more resources when coming up with ideas and tend to be more creative in their writing assignments. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16390289)
  • Better writing also has a positive impact on a child’s ability to communicate, primarily through the written medium. They don’t struggle to find the right words and can express themselves well. Children with better handwriting are more confident in their communication skills, which can help in their personal and professional life in later life.
  • A study involving college-level students for the Psychological Science Journal indicates that taking notes in class improves the student’s ability to understand and recall information. While students who type their notes can record information faster, ones that write down information are more successful. (https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/were-only-human/ink-on-paper-some-notes-on-note-taking.html)
  • A Pew Research survey indicated that there are several benefits of typing information and sharing it on a digital platform, but there are numerous drawbacks to it as well. According to the research, students use informal language in formal papers more often. They take shortcuts and are also less likely to put in effort into their assignments. They’re also more likely to use poor spelling and grammar, become careless and plagiarize. (https://www.pewinternet.org/2013/07/16/the-impact-of-digital-tools-on-student-writing-and-how-writing-is-taught-in-schools/)

Teaching children handwriting has short-term and long-term impacts. It can influence their creativity, ability to communicate and retain information as well as how they express their ideas.

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Cursive and Print Writing 

Whether students need to learn cursive writing is a hotly debated topic. Some educators are opposed to forcing the style on students, while others argue about its merits. Though everyone has an opinion on the matter, learning cursive is fast, efficient, and worth the effort because:

  • It engages the right and left hemispheres of the brain and stimulates better connections between the two. 
  • You don’t need to compel the child to learn cursive writing but should encourage it. It will help make their handwriting legible, and more attractive. 
  • Writing something by hand gives it a personal touch and is less restrictive. The child can experiment with different styles and come up with their writing style. 
  • They can eventually develop the habit of writing down their memories, thoughts, and experiences. 
  • Handwriting helps kids develop and improve their ability to communicate.
  • Improving handwriting, especially cursive, can also help students with dysgraphia. This developmental problem is a symptom of dyslexia and can affect a student’s motor skills and ability to write. 

As you can see, there are many benefits of teaching good handwriting, even in this digital age. Parents that make a concerted effort and encourage their children to handwrite things, find that they benefit in many ways. It is essential to start early to ensure sure that children feel enthused to hold a pen to paper.   

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