Why is there a lack of vision for children with ADHD when there is so much evidence?

Tired boring boy don't want to do his difficult school homework

If you are a parent whose child struggles to concentrate and read and the task of homework is a family battle, there can be an immediate assumption that he or she has ADHD. According to the World Health Organization in 2013,  ADHD affects about  39 million people and is defined  as a neurodevelopmental psychiatric disorder in which there are significant problems with executive functions (e.g., attentional control and inhibitory control) that cause attention deficits, hyperactivity, or impulsiveness.

In school-aged individuals inattention symptoms often result in poor school performance and yet too often these ADHD behaviors are assumed to be due to a defective ADHD brain that needs psychostimulant medication to normalize. Click here to see the surprising truth about the history of psychostimulants for ADHD.

Close-up portrait of a very angry screaming boy

However, when there is over 50 years of  scientific evidence published in optometry, medicine and neuroscience in the US and internationally that shows a direct connection between developmental vision problems having a causative relationship to ADHD, why is there not a public health outcry to insist that all children be tested for vision-related problems to rule out certain forms of visual problems before placing them on psychostimulant medications? Click here to see a sample of 7 of the best research papers from medical, neuroscience and optometry journals, US and International from 20 years ago to less than 6 months ago that show the vision and ADHD connection.

Indeed,  if the majority of these ADHD behaviors are triggered with visual tasks, might there be a vision connection to ADHD? And if there is, what targeted treatment can be done to help the patient overcome this disorder without the need for drugs?

To explore this patient health issue, developmental and rehabilitation optometrists and vision therapists from around Michigan, Illinois and Indiana met for the Annual Michigan Vision Therapy Study Group on January 22-23, 2016 and this year conducted at the Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University. The theme of the meeting was dedicated to the Role of Vision and Attention.

Because this is  a prevailing patient issue for not only our practice but for optometric vision therapy offices worldwide, our lecture addressed Understanding ADHD and the research connection of treatable vision problems in ADHD and using advanced VT techniques for targeting ADHD behaviors. Click here for an abridged version with featured content.

To be clear, the behaviors found with ADHD are often due to multiple factors. As a result the best approach to ADHD should involve a multidisciplinary approach, including developmental optometry for effective management. But, how long will it take before the role  of vision development is considered to be a priority in the assessment a child with ADHD? Only time will tell…but only with knowledge and understanding comes empathy and action.

Please join with us and be a part of the VisionHelp mission to help end the senseless struggle. Vision based ADHD behaviors can be effectively treated but only if properly identified and treated. You can help “sustain the focus” for children when you share this post with others. Thank you!

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD

2 thoughts on “Why is there a lack of vision for children with ADHD when there is so much evidence?

  1. I’m glad that folks are looking at these connections (because it helped me find more information that might be useful) but I can tell you why we are more likely to treat our child for ADHD than for vision problems. We *know* she has convergence issues. She also has trouble holding still. But there is no way we can afford vision therapy for her. I’m actually online trying to figure out what I can do cheaply at home to help her with her convergence problems. Treating ADHD is relatively easy (and cheap!), whether or not we choose to use medications. Vision therapy is something the rich kids get. Sorry to be blunt about that, but I thought being blunt might be helpful.

    • Treating the cause of ADHD behaviors when based on a visual dysfunction can be critical to a child’s long term well being. Yes, while stimulants will help anyone “focus” they do not resolve binocular vision problems. While there is a cost associated with the treatment, in many ways office-based vision therapy is much less expensive than the accumulated costs of other supportive procedures that will not correct a binocular vision problem. However, this is not to dismiss the fact that financial hardship is a reality that we must all confront in support of our patients. This is why our office, like many other vision therapy practices around the US offer treatment to those with financial hardship at significantly reduced fees. In our office we have a compassionate care program and scholarship program that can reduce the fees nearly 50% for those who qualify. I would suggest you inquire to those practices near your location to see if they have something equivalent.

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