An article by a freelance news writer from “Optometry Advisor” newsletter made its way around the DOC-L (or VTOD) listserve last week on the topic of vision and dyslexia.
The article was based on a poster presented at the American Academy of Optometry last week by a group affiliated with Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School. This was a follow up on a study that the group published in 2019 in the journal Vision Research. Our VisionHelp colleague Dr. Dan Fortenbacher added to the discussion with a timely reference to a VHG blog post he did at the time referencing a Michigan Vision Therapy Study Group meeting on the subject.
It seems like there’s nothing like the topic of dyslexia to stir the passions of the vocal minority in both optometry and education who doubt the existence or relevance of the term. I recall a prominent behavioral optometrist (now deceased) whose name I won’t mention who loved to stir the pot as a dyslexia denier in the late ’60s and early ’70s. And just two years ago a prominent literacy expert (now retired) engendered headlines in Educations circles by denying that dyslexia exists. An insightful article that goes beyond rhetoric on the topic was published in Optometry and Vision Development in 2005 by Christenson and Griffin. It reviews the optometric management of dyslexia, and revisits some of the long-standing controversies.
It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the Eides published The Dyslexic Advantage (nine years for the paperback). But it’s worth revisiting what they wrote about vision (pages 180-181):
“Fluent reading also requires a well-functioning visual system, which is something many persistently slow readers lack. There’s considerable controversy in the reading community about the role of vision and visual interventions in dyslexic reading challenges. We reviewed this controversy in detail in our book The Mislabeled Child, and as we wrote there, there really does seem to be a subset of individuals with dyslexia whose inadequate visual skills delay their reading progress, and who can benefit from visual evaluation and treatment … visual treatments can enhance the rate of reading development for people with severe problems with eye movement control and focusing. For some, the differences can be dramatic and can prevent prolonged underperformance or often uncomfortable symptoms like eyestrain or headache while reading; or behaviors like squinting, tilting the head, closing one eye, or putting the head very close to the page. Individuals with dyslexia who often experience visual symptoms while reading or doing other forms of fine-detail close-up work deserve a thorough visual evaluation. The appropriate specialist to perform this exam is a developmental optometrist who has speciality training in the kinds of functional eye skills that allow the eyes to work well for fine-detail work. These specialists usually have the letters F.C.O.V.D. in addition to O.D. after their name, and many can be located at www.covd.org.”
The Boston Group cited in the research above is making a nice contribution toward the guidance provided by the Eides. They are suggesting that the CISS (Convergence Insufficiency Symptom Survey) should be used more routinely in children with developmental dyslexia.