Approximately one in ten students aged 6 to 16 in Ontario (Canada) school boards have an individual education plan (IEP) in place due to various learning disabilities, many of which are specific to reading difficulties. The relationship between reading (specifically objectively determined reading speed and eye movement data), refractive error, and binocular vision related clinical measurements remain elusive.
One hundred patients were examined in this study (50 IEP and 50 controls, age range 6 to 16 years). IEP patients were referred by three local school boards, with controls being recruited from the routine clinic population (non-IEP patients in the same age group). A comprehensive eye examination was performed on all subjects, in addition to a full binocular vision work-up and cycloplegic refraction. In addition to the cycloplegic refractive error, the following binocular vision related data was also acquired: vergence facility, vergence amplitudes, accommodative facility, accommodative amplitudes, near point of convergence, stereopsis, and a standardized symptom scoring scale. Both the IEP and control groups were also examined using the Visagraph III system, which permits recording of the following reading parameters objectively: (i) reading speed, both raw values and values compared to grade normative data, and (ii) the number of eye movements made per 100 words read. Comprehension was assessed via a questionnaire administered at the end of the reading task, with each subject requiring 80% or greater comprehension.
The IEP group had significantly greater hyperopia compared to the control group on cycloplegic examination. Vergence facility was significantly correlated to (i) reading speed, (ii) number of eye movements made when reading, and (iii) a standardized symptom scoring system. Vergence facility was also significantly reduced in the IEP group versus controls. Significant differences in several other binocular vision related scores were also found.
This research indicates there are significant associations between reading speed, refractive error, and in particular vergence facility. It appears sensible that students being considered for reading specific IEP status should have a full eye examination (including cycloplegia), in addition to a comprehensive binocular vision evaluation.