Visual function deficits contribute to reading acquisition in children with reading problems a focus of the MVTSG 2019

What did the researchers at Harvard Medical School, Department of Ophthalmology at Boston Children’s Hospital, published in JAMA -Ophthal, and leaders in neuroscience agree upon in 2018?

There is an unmistakable association with vision problems, not corrected with glasses or contacts alone, involving binocular vision, oculomotor, accommodation and visual processing linked with children who have reading problems.  

As written in an earlier VisionHelp Blog post, in July 2018 the Journal of the American Medical Association, JAMA-Ophthalmology, published the research conducted at Boston Children’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, Department of Ophthalmology,  showed a significantly high amount of visual problems, not involving eyesight or need for corrective glasses, rather involving eye teaming (binocular vergence), tracking (oculomotor) and focusing (accommodation). The data that showed this preponderance of vision problems in children with developmental dyslexia was a staggering 79% in those children with developmental dyslexia vs 33% in the control group.

Here is the paper entitled: Frequency of Visual Deficits in Children With Developmental Dyslexia

Furthermore, John F. Stein, Ph.D.,Emeritus Professor of Neuroscience at the Department of Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics, University of Oxford, in his recent paper published in February 2018 entitled, What is Developmental Dyslexia, cites research showing the visual processing deficits, particularly in the magnocellular temporal visual visual processing system as a key in those with a reading disability known as developmental dyslexia.

To bring this important information  to an audience of doctors and vision therapists, our Team presented on January 25, 2019 at the Annual Michigan Vision Therapy Study Group Meeting on the topic of Going Beyond Visual Efficiency Problems in the Effective Remediation of Developmental Dyslexia.  We presented how developmental optometrists can  effectively help children with these visual-based reading problems by utilizing an evidence-based comprehensive model for diagnosis and treatment. This model begins with a thorough eye health and vision evaluation along with key diagnostic tests  that identify  visual efficiency problems (binocular, oculomotor and accommodative) and/or those areas involving visual processing deficits that impact reading performance. For those children who can be identified and treated, once their visual system has been developed with capable visual readiness abilities with vision therapy,  improvements in their reading emerges. Depending on each child’s reading delays, educational therapy may still be necessary to accelerate the reading and learning process. However, once a child has the visual readiness abilities for reading and learning they respond much quicker to reading interventions than with inadequate visual readiness abilities.

Indeed, the focus of this year’s  Michigan Vision Therapy Study Group by all of the presenters and their Teams of Vision Therapists was to demonstrate techniques for office-based optometric vision therapy for developing these necessary visual intake and processing skills for maximizing results in reading and learning.

The Michigan Vision Therapy Study Group is recognized as a legendary 1.5 day vision therapy educational meeting  that has taken place every year in the month of January in Michigan for the last 4 decades.  It is a volunteer project with the intent of bringing together doctors and vision therapists with a passion for collaboration, teaching and expanding understanding of methods for helping patients to acquire better vision development through vision rehabilitation and vision therapy.

This year’s team of presenters were: Dr. Curtis Baxstrom, Dr. Dan Fortenbacher, Dr. Alyssa Bartolini, Dr. Jamie Jacobs, resident, Dr. Kelsey Starman, resident and vision therapists, Dr. Mohamed Moussa, Abeer Ahmed, MBChB  and vision therapists, Dr. Bradley Habermehl, Johann Schlager, extern and vision therapists, Dr. Daniel McIntosh, resident, Dr. Tiffany La, resident, Dr. Corrie Pollock, resident, Dr. Paula McDowell and Dr. Andrea Shank.

Michigan Vision Therapy Study Group – 2019

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD

5 thoughts on “Visual function deficits contribute to reading acquisition in children with reading problems a focus of the MVTSG 2019

  1. Dan,
    While we don’t teach or tutor reading, it is nice to clearly discuss the relationships and the effects on reading of improving vision instead of ducking those references as we did in the past.

  2. The Stein paper is a wonderful read. He implores his colleagues to consider the pathophysiology of dyslexia which the IDA definition does not address. He discusses temporal/spatial processing – both in the visual and auditory systems – mentioning each respective system’s dorsal and ventral stream processing streams.

    • Indeed Barry, I also found the Stein paper to be fascinating and a very comprehensive explanation about why phonological theory, not that it is wrong, can restrict the analysis of other potential causes for dyslexia, not the least of which is visual processing. It is the M-Cell temporal visual processing stream which also influences eye movement and ultimately prefrontal lobe visual processing including visual imagery. Thank you for your comment!

  3. I am a teacher, specifically in elementary intervention. In more recent time, I have began to provide an integrated approach to intervention for students struggling in the classroom. But this discipline is very limiting in what we can attain regarding other disciplines practices/licenses/certificates. Many disciplines that work with children have crossovers of practices and programs to educate themselves on and implement. I have spent a great deal of my own time researching underlying issues to students’ academic struggles, who do not have a “disability” present. Yet there are no programs for teachers to further understand other practices or to be trained in implementing other practices, although it would be greatly beneficial to provide a student. In my research, I have studied many areas of occupational therapy and I am profoundly aware that a majority of the struggles of my students have to do with vision dysfunction. I hope to inform educators, and help to build a bridge to close the gap with both our disciplines. Your patients, our students, deserve a program that is more closely connected. Ultimately, I wish Intervention Specialists would be trained in (at the bare minimum) basic vision therapy to provide appropriate intervention to students struggling, instead of the current model for repeated academic practice – which just band aids the underlying problem instead of fixing it.

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