A critical question for every school-age child who struggles in reading


A critical question for every school-age child who struggles in reading is: 

“Do you ever see words come apart like this when you read?” (while showing them the following)

If they respond yes, it is highly likely that they have a binocular vision problem that is interfering with their reading fluency. 

Unfortunately, too often children will “pass” the basic school or health department vision screening eyesight (20/20) test, but  still have a significant vision problem that involves coordinating their two eyes and focusing on the print when reading. They may have an undetected binocular vision problem. In fact, newly published research out of the the University of Waterloo has found that the chance of a child who qualifies for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) has a much greater likelihood of having a binocular vision problem.

But, what is a binocular vision problem? Simply stated, we have two eyes and they must work together as a coordinated team. If a child has trouble with this fundamental skill to coordinate their two eyes effortlessly, especially for near vision tasks such as reading, then they will typically have trouble with sustained attention on reading, exhibiting ADHD behaviors and/or they will see print overlap (as shown above) and when they try to overcome with effort, they experience headaches and often emotional side effects.

Surprisingly, most children who have a history of seeing the print double while reading never tell their parents. When asked why they never told their parents most say they thought that was just normal! This is why it is important to show them the example and ask them directly, “Do you ever see print come apart when reading?”

However, even if a struggling child states that they don’t see words “come apart” when reading, another step you should take is to complete the VisionHelp Vision and Learning Checklist. If you see a significant number of “3’s” and “4’s” be sure to make an appointment for your child to have a comprehensive eye and vision evaluation and show your eye and vision care provider the completed Vision and Learning Checklist. This will help your Doctor know that he/she should be alert to the concern and run the necessary testing that can identify a child with a vision related reading/learning problem.

For more information, take a look at the VisionHelp Vision and Learning Project. This site is dedicated to helping parents,vision care doctors and professional partners on how to diagnose and effectively treat these vision conditions that can improve a child’s reading, learning and overall quality of life.

Please help share this “critical question” so that a child with a binocular vision may be more easily recognized and helped. Imagine how, with greater awareness, we might end the senseless struggle for those children with vision-based reading/learning problems.

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD

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