How does vision affect reading?

Published on
April 17, 2022

While we all know we use our eyes when we read, many of us don't realize how crucial visual skills are for successful reading. About 80% of the information our brain receives is through our eyes, and once that information is received, we need to interpret it correctly so we can comprehend what we are seeing. Particularly with reading, it is imperative that all parts of this process work correctly because there are so many small details involved. Although a child may have 20/20 eyesight, they may still have a vision issue that makes reading difficult.

What visual skills are important for reading?

A visit to the eye doctor primarily involves checking the health of the eyes and receiving the correct prescription. However a visit to a developmental or functional optometrist will assess the additional visual skills required for reading. Some of these skills include:

  • Eye tracking - Tracking is the ability to move very precisely from one word to another. It is vital to go from one row to the next, and so on and so forth while reading.
  • Accommodative ability - Accommodative ability is imperative for reading and writing clearly and without any problems. It is common for people with accommodative dysfunction to experience blurred vision up close, particularly children and adults who have extended near-work demands such as reading and writing.
  • Eye teaming - It is also important for us to have great eye-teaming skills, which is when we can get the two eyes to point in the same direction at the same time, so that when those two images reach the brain, it is able to combine them. Poor eye teaming will cause the images to overlap when combined in our brain and lead to blurry or double vision.
  • Visual processing - These skills are vital for understanding the visual information that we acquire, because the work our eyes do is only half of the process of vision, the other half is the processing of that information in our brain. This category of visual skills includes skills like visual memory, visual discrimination, spatial relations, and figure ground (the ability to pick out an object within a busy background), all of which contribute to things like reading comprehension, spelling, ability, and visualization. Therefore, if someone is having difficulty acquiring visual information accurately or efficiently, then it's likely they may also have difficulty processing visual information.

Difficulty reading? Visit a developmental optometrist 

If your child or student is having difficulty reading it is critical that they undergo a developmental eye exam. While a school vision screening or comprehensive eye exam are important, for children whose visual skills are being put to the test with reading, it is crucial that they have developed the visual skills needed to enable them to read and comprehend. We recommend that all children entering into first grade have a developmental eye exam in order to ensure that they are equipped with the tools necessary to succeed in the classroom, in sports, and in life. Schedule a developmental eye exam with Dr. Heather McBryar at Amplify EyeCare Chattanooga today by calling our office at (423) 710 3965.

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