The Olympic games connection to vision-based reading and learning research

What do the Winter Olympic Games have in common with vision-based reading and learning research?

The Winter Olympics brings together the finest athletes from around the globe to compete and show the world how there can be a universal interest in Winter sports and desire to be the best. While you may never have tried to do figure skating or snowboarding the half pipe, when you watch the performance of the these premier athletes in the Winter Games you begin to appreciate the magnitude and complexity of what they are doing, and it touches your mind and heart.

The visual system plays a direct role in the magnitude and complexity of individual performance abilities in every aspect of life. For the Olympic athlete, having good visual efficiency, using both eyes to team, good depth perception, tracking, focus, visual processing and visual motor integration skills are all needed to have peak performance.

But, what about when it comes to the proficiency of a child’s abilities in the day-to-day act of reading and learning? Indeed clarity of sight is important, but there are many visual problems that affects a child’s ability in reading and learning that may not be easily recognizable by just correcting a refractive condition with glasses. For example, vision problems that affect binocular vision (eye teaming) and accommodation (eye focusing) are critical to reading and learning even with 20/20 eye sight. But, some may ask, “Where is the research?”

Awareness for visual efficiency problems, such as Convergence Insufficiency (CI) and its impact on reading and learning, has been reaching the research international stage coming in from around the globe including Canada, India and South Korea, to name a few.

Here are a few examples of the latest in the “Research Olympics” on Vision and Learning:

From India:

Published in the Journal of Optometry, January 2018, entitled: Efficacy of vision therapy in children with learning disability and associated binocular vision anomalies, concluded: “Children with specific learning disorders have a high frequency of binocular vision (BV) disorders and vision therapy plays a significant role in improving the BV parameters.”


From Canada:

Published in the Journal of Optometry, September 2017, entitled: Visual and binocular status in elementary school children with a reading problem, concluded: The results in this study show that children with an IEP for reading also present with abnormal binocular and/or accommodative test results. To thoroughly investigate the binocular vision system, we recommend that tests of accommodation, binocular vision, and oculomotor function should be performed on all children, especially those with identified reading problems.”

From South Korea:

Published in the Journal of Ophthalmic and Vision Research, Volume 12, 2017 entitled: Effectiveness of Vision Therapy in School Children with Symptomatic Convergence Insufficiency, concluded: These findings suggest that vision therapy is very effective to recover from symptomatic convergence insufficiency.”

The United States has been the leader in vision therapy research for vision and learning problems thanks to the tireless efforts by the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT)“Olympic Team”. Over the last 2 decades the US (CITT) Team has lead this research and published papers that have been voluminous showing that accommodative vergence problems, such as Convergence Insufficiency and Accommodative Disorder can have a major impact on near visual performance such as reading and attention.

From USA:

Published in Archives of Ophthalmology, October 2008 entitled: Randomized Clinical Trial of Treatments for Symptomatic Convergence Insufficiency in Children, the most notable “Gold Medal” US research project by the CITT Team was a multi-center randomized double blind prospective study concluded: “Office-based vergence accommodative therapy is an effective treatment for children with symptomatic convergence insufficiency.”

Additional “Gold Medal” performances by the CITT Team over the last decade has been published in the following papers:

Published in the Journal of Optometry and Vision Science in October 2009: Academic behaviors in children with convergence insufficiency with and without parent-reported ADHD, concluded: “Children with parent report of ADHD or related learning problems may benefit from comprehensive vision evaluation to assess for the presence of convergence insufficiency.”

Published in the Journal of Optometry and Vision Science in January 2012: Improvement in academic behaviors after successful treatment of convergence insufficiency, concluded: “These data suggest that parents may report a reduction in the frequency of specific adverse school and may have less overall worry about academic performance after children with symptomatic CI show improvement or are successfully treated.”

While, like the Olympics, research is complicated and technical, thanks to the dedication of these  “Olympic Research Teams” from around the world, what we know now should touch our minds and our hearts. Vision related reading and learning problems do exist in every country and there is effective treatment with vision therapy.  No longer should children who struggle with reading and learning problems be overlooked from having a binocular/accommodative or other visual problems.The research is clear, but the bigger question is how will we respond to end this senseless struggle for those with vision-based reading and learning problems?

Wouldn’t it only make sense for any child who struggles in reading or learning to have of a comprehensive eye and vision evaluation because, if a visual problem exists, effective vision therapy treatment could be a game changer in that child’s life!

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D.,FCOVD


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