School performance is affected by a significant visual issue in 25% of all children.
Binocular teaming - this is a skill that represents how well the eyes are coordinated with each other. It translates as depth perception which helps prevent clumsiness and bumping into things. If there’s a lack of binocularity then it can show up in a student’s behavior as he can have a hard time maintaining concentration and interest in reading. A highly motivated student will push himself to overcome this obstacle but then will complain about headaches, discomfort, fatigue and blurry/ double vision. Poor binocularity also causes lower performance on timed tests because it takes these students longer to read and to maintain their visual attention.
Focusing - it’s important to develop the ability to focus at different distances and to be able to smoothly adjust the focus from one distance to another. This is very important in the classroom because a student must be able to focus on the board which is usually at a distance and then to be able to take notes in their notebook or on their computer which is at a much closer distance than the board is at and the demand to shift their gaze at different distances is constantly required in the classroom.
Other very important visual skills for school performance include:
There are many visual demands in the classroom because so much of a student’s performance depends on their vision skills which can actually be strengthened and developed when necessary. Some of these visual abilities are explained as follows:
Eye tracking - this is necessary for visually monitoring what’s going on in the classroom environment which helps with attention behavior. The six muscles surrounding the eyes must be working properly together to allow for different kinds of smooth eye movements.
A student with undeveloped eye tracking:
Maybe you have a student like Charlie who is able to read and to complete the task, however it is not obvious that this very same student is exerting at least double the amount of energy in order to read and it’s taking him longer than his classmates. If the student has a hard time focusing both eyes together in sync when looking at a target up close, otherwise known as convergence insufficiency, the task of reading could take a lot more time and energy than it does for his peer who does not have this visual challenge. Even though Charlie is able to read, by the time he gets through a paragraph, he could be drained and frustrated and lose his attention span for other subsequent visual demands.
These types of scenarios are much more common than they might seem and with the proper awareness of potential visual challenges, a teacher can make great improvements for their individual students who are struggling which has a ripple effect that can also benefit the entire class.
Regarding writing, your student:
The first step is a very important one and that is being aware of the visual demands of a classroom. Understanding that even a child who can see with 20/20 clarity may be struggling with other aspects of their vision and this knowledge can help your students tremendously.
There is an entire professional field dedicated to helping children develop their visual abilities and that is known as developmental vision care. A developmental optometrist is trained to do a full evaluation of a child’s visual skills and to determine if your student can benefit from treatment which often involves glasses and/or vision therapy.
Vision therapy is a series of sessions in-office, which often include at home exercise as well. The child works with a professional vision therapist doing various activities and exercises which train the eyes to work together properly as a team and strengthens the communication that the eyes have with the brain. This yields effective results as a child’s visual skills can constantly be developed and strengthened. When a child no longer has the visual obstacles preventing him or her from being able to keep up with the demands at school, they can finally thrive with their peers.