How does it feel to have a vision related reading or learning problem?

imagesSo reading is not your child’s favorite thing to do.  Ok, it is one of their least favorite things to do. Actually it’s like pulling teeth! They hate reading and as a parent you are faced with a dilemma. Your child is struggling and you want answers.

If in fact you are one of these parents, you have already begun to talk with your child’s teachers and started extra tutorial programs. But, what if that is still not working? Now you are beginning to wonder what is going on!? You’re suspicious that maybe it could be their eyes! Could it be a vision problem?  No, it can’t be! The school said your child passed the vision screening with perfect score of 20/20.

And that is exactly what Connor’s parent’s wondered. Connor’s story begins with a bright young boy who at the end of 1st grade was struggling in reading.  His father, who is also a physician, was puzzled. In his father’s words, “Connor had fallen behind in his reading level toward the end of first grade. As his parents,Presentation1 it was unclear to us because it appeared that he was trying to do his best. After careful observation, we noted he seemed to lose his place frequently, would commonly need to use his finger to follow the lines. He also often had symptoms of headaches, eye fatigue and even motion sickness that, in retrospect, were due to his eventual diagnosis of…

Diagnosis of what?

Connor presented with a vision condition that has a medical diagnosis that affects about 1 in 12 children. But, the medical diagnosis name alone doesn’t communicate what it feels like to have this problem.  

Connor’s condition is treatable with evidence-based research. But, the research doesn’t communicate what it feels like to have this problem.

Connor’s condition is recognized by the American Academy of Optometry as being a serious problem and documented with an authoritative organizational Position Paper.  But an authoritative Position Paper does not communicate what it feels like to have this problem.

Yes, all this is true. Connor is like millions of children who struggle with a vision related reading and learning problem. They have a medical diagnosis, there is research that clearly supports the treatment and doctors and the public have been informed with authoritative position papers. Yet, in spite of these facts, the majority of Americans remains unaware of how these relatively common vision problems tragically affects 2-3 children in every classroom. Just having a medical diagnosis, research or authoritative position papers do not draw public attention to the problem. Indeed the seriousness of the problem remains hidden, an unknown, cloaked behind the technical verbiage.

Not sure if you believe it? Ok, Connor’s medical diagnosis is Convergence Insufficiency complicated with an Accommodative disorder

His condition has been thoroughly researched and published in: Optom Vis Sci. 2012 January ; 89(1): 12–18, Improvement in Academic Behaviors Following Successful Treatment of Convergence Insufficiency and other sources

The American Academy of Optometry published in August 2013 a position paper entitled,  American Academy of Optometry Binocular Vision, Perception, and Pediatric Optometry Position Paper on Optometric Care of the Struggling Student for parents, educators, and other professionals

Oh, you say, “Now I get it!” Unlikely!!

But now, sit back, take 1 minute and watch this video. This is what it feels like…


That’s what it feels like, but now is not the time to simply sit back. Please take a few seconds of your time to share this with friends on Facebook, Twitter and other social media. Yes, you can become a part of the solution to a big problem that affects millions of children in the US, and world wide,  who have an undetected vision related reading and learning problem and will struggle in life’s reading and learning challenges because their parents had never heard about this.

Yes, there is a solution but it takes a comprehensive vision examination and a doctor who is performing the necessary tests and looking for these problems. Thanks to Connor’s referring optometrist , Dr. Teresa Seim,  Connor found the help that empowered his life…office-based optometric vision therapy. (Click here for Connor’s story.)


Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD

8 thoughts on “How does it feel to have a vision related reading or learning problem?

  1. There are literally hundreds of Connors all over this and other countries. Optometry is the profession that can turn this around for all the Connors trying to cope with undiagnosed visual function issues, whose parents are often told they just “need to mature”, “learn how to pay attention”, etc. Our job is to get the information out to schools, rehab and reading centers, etc. so the Connors of this world can get the help they need to fulfill their potential.

  2. Thank you Diana for your comment and helping to emphasize the importance of us all spreading the word! The shame is there are too many children who struggle needlessly. The research is there. The authoritative organizations say it is important for doctors, teachers and parents and other professionals to be aware. What keeps the “Connors of the world” from obtaining the help they need largely depends on public awareness and informed parents who demand that their struggling child is seen by an optometrist who will do the binocular and accommodative testing and when the problem is found, properly direct the child for treatment.

  3. As I explain to all my parents, we do not try to put them (the parents) in the role of being a vision therapist. The reason is, first of all they are usually not trained in this complex field and second, our children do not respond to us as parents as well as they will to a professional. It is just not realistic to give parents a lot of complex things to do and expect them to get it done. So, you are not alone! But, we do give them easy things to do at home that put them more of the role of a coach and not a therapist. Yes, when they do their 10-15 minutes of home activities each day the child will make faster progress. But, if they can not do their home activities, we do not place a guilt trip on them. It just takes a bit longer to get through treatment.

    Since the bulk of what is accomplished in treatment is during the office-based component, it is essential that we have good raport and therapist interaction. Rarely do we have a problem with cooperation in the office as our team approach brings the talents of many different therapists who have skills in working with the most challenging kids. So yes, Connor was very cooperative because he had fun!

  4. Wonderful article. But do you ever have parents who are in complete denial? Parents who insist their child is making all of this up just to be a problem?

    How do you get parents to acknowledge reality?


    • The best way to help a parent understand is to demonstrate their child’s visual problem to the parent so they can see how their child is seeing. If it is a binocular dysfunction you demonstrate with prisms the effort and double vision that occurs. If it is an accommodative dysfunction you show how challenging it is to visually read through (-) lenses. The point is, unless the parent can not only see what it’s like, but feel what it’s like, they may not understand how the visual problem is affecting their child and therefore not accept the doctor’s explanation and treatment plan.

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