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Vision For School

• Can vision problems impact academic performance?
• Passing the school vision screening means perfect vision... right?
• Can vision therapy help a child with dyslexia?
• Can a child be gifted and still have a learning difficulty?
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Does Hyperopia Impact Learning?

More than 13% of all students have hyperopia, a vision problem that may be impacting their ability to learn.

What is hyperopia?

Hyperopia (farsightedness) occurs when light is focused behind the retina, instead of directly onto the retina, resulting in blurred near vision.

This can be caused by any of the following anatomical reasons: the eyeball is too short, the cornea is too flat, or the lens is too thin.

It is estimated that 1 in 7 children has hyperopia, though many cases often go undiagnosed— resulting in misdiagnosis of learning problems, ADHD and behavioral issues. 

Often, in children under ten years old, the eye’s lens is able to compensate for blurred near vision by utilizing the focusing muscles to yield clearer vision.

However, this involves putting extra stress on the focusing muscles, often leading to eye strain and fatigue, and resulting in academic, attentional and behavioral problems in the classroom.

It is therefore essential to be aware of the signs of this vision condition, as it can save your child from years of academic stress.

Does hyperopia impact learning?

Yes.

The following signs may indicate your child has hyperopia:

  • Reading, learning, or attentional difficulties
  • Headaches or fatigue after prolonged near vision activities, such as reading, writing, or computer use
  • Squinting or other accommodations to keep images and objects in focus
  • Blurred near vision and clear distance vision
  • Holding books, phone or tablet at arm’s length
  • Inward eye turn when trying to focus

In mild cases of hyperopia, visual acuity may not be affected, though they may complain of headaches or fatigue when reading or using the computer.

How does hyperopia impact learning?

Hyperopia can make learning both difficult and stressful for a child—and may even lead to avoidance behaviors and outbursts of frustration, in addition to poor academic achievement.

The increased stress that is placed on the eyes can lead to many academic difficulties, especially when it comes to reading and writing.

Moreover, eye strain, fatigue and headaches can cause attentional and behavioral issues in the classroom, further increasing a child’s academic challenges.

The importance of regular eye exams

Most parents mistakenly believe school vision screenings can detect all vision problems, and therefore do not take their children for regular eye exams with an eye doctor.

However, vision screenings generally focus on vision clarity and may not detect hyperopia, making a trip to the eye doctor absolutely essential for detection of a near vision problem, along with any other vision problems.

During a comprehensive eye exam, your child’s eye and vision will be assessed to rule out or identify any type of vision problem.

With specialized tests and equipment, your child’s eye doctor will be able to provide an accurate optical prescription for glasses or contact lenses that can help your child see more clearly.

If your child is showing signs of a vision problem, or seems to be struggling in school, schedule an eye exam with an eye doctor near you.

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Dyslexia and the Visual System

Around 700 million people worldwide have dyslexia, but could they have an undiagnosed vision problem?

A high number of individuals with dyslexia have undiagnosed visual problems.

Many children and adults are diagnosed with various learning-related vision problems and can sometimes be identified as dyslexia because there are similarities. It is common that children diagnosed with dyslexia also have a visual component that is contributing to their difficulties.

Dyslexia caused by visual problems

Many researchers believe that dyslexia symptoms are caused by binocular vision problems, in particular a condition known as convergence insufficiency.

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Convergence problems occur when the eyes don’t work together as a team effectively, primarily affecting the person’s close up vision. For example, when reading, each eye may be looking at a different letter.

In extreme cases, binocular vision problems can make the text blurry or words appear to move or ‘swim on the page’. The reason for the text to appear as if it’s moving is because the brain is struggling to keep the words clear and single.

Binocular vision problems related to dyslexia

Reversing letters like b and d

When people with dyslexia read, they move their eyes a lot. Their eyes are continually moving left to right and right to left, causing them to wobble. As a result, they read ‘b’ both left to right and right to left, giving it the appearance of a ‘d.’

Skipping words and lines when reading

It’s incredibly easy for children to skip words and lines since their eyes move so rapidly.

Spelling difficulties

When people with dyslexia read, they don’t look at every letter. Even if you only glance at a few letters in a word, you can read it. However, in order to spell correctly, you must recall each letter.

Difficulty copying off the board

When copying from the board, you must first glance at the board, then at your paper, and finally back at the board. When a child has trouble controlling their eye movements and focusing, it makes it difficult to return to the correct location.

Words appear blurry or double, or move

The majority of people with dyslexia have difficulty focusing. One eye is focused on one letter, while the other is on a different letter. This means that their brain is receiving two images at once. The lettering appears to move if the brain alternates which image to process.

Alternatively, the brain might combine the two images and use both of them, resulting in blurry or doubled images.

Reduced reading comprehension

When reading, people without dyslexia look at roughly 150 points every minute. People with dyslexia, on the other hand, look at roughly 1,000, most of which are in the wrong place.

As a result, individuals expend a lot of mental energy filtering out the incorrect information. Then they won’t be able to comprehend what they’ve read due to a lack of processing power.

Slow reading

The brain of a person with dyslexia takes a long time to figure out what the next letter or word should be because they move their eyes too often. As a result, they reread the text until their brain understands it.

Eye strain or tiredness when reading

Every time your eyes move while reading, you must refocus them. This can happen 1,000 times each minute for a dyslexic person. It’s no surprise that it’s exhausting and might cause eye strain.

Vision therapy for dyslexia

Vision therapy, aims to improve a child’s visual efficiency and processing, to improve the functioning of the visual system.

Vision therapy is a highly successful treatment, especially for people with dyslexia issues, like those above.

To help develop visual skills, vision therapy may include the use of lenses or prisms. Doctors may advise children to wear eyeglasses full-time or as needed for activities such as reading.

It’s possible that your child’s vision is causing their learning difficulties, as well as symptoms associated with dyslexia.

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Essential Vision Skills for College Students

Strong visual skills are essential for academic success in college.

College students have significantly high demands on their visual systems— and the integrity of their visual skills are critical for their success in their studies.

Colleges and universities are known for their large lecture halls and seemingly endless amount of requirements. The great amount of studies that are involved in fulfilling these requirements lead to many hours of reading textbooks, studying, and using computers.

Students spend up to 70 percent of their school day focused on their papers and computers, or taking notes from the board.

Strong visual skills will facilitate a college student’s success in the many years of their college education. Students with reduced visual skills may experience headaches, eye strain and fatigue.

Well developed visual skills are also essential for college athletics.

Essential visual skills for reading

  • Binocular coordination allows the student to use both eyes at the same time, in coordination, for clear and comfortable vision. Poor binocular vision can result in fatigue and can make reading and studying a challenge. In some cases poor binocular vision can result in blurry or even double vision.
  • Saccades allows the student to read sentences in a fluid manner, with the two eyes moving smoothly across the line, in coordination.  Without well developed saccades, words may be omitted from a sentence, making it difficult to understand the text.
  • Pursuits allow the student to read a word, one letter at a time, with slow, smooth binocular movements.  Pursuits enable your eyes to scan across a word in order to read it accurately, sounding out each letter in the word.  Without this visual skill, the word ‘through’ may be read as ‘though’— causing confusion of text as it is read.
  • Focusing skills allow the student to see the textbook and computer screen clearly and comfortably. Just as a camera needs to be in focus to capture a clear picture of an image, the same is true with your eyes when it comes to seeing a word with absolute clarity.
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Essential visual skills for comprehension

  • Visual memory allows the student to visualize, or imagine what was read. If this skill is reduced, a student might struggle to analyze the scene of a historical event, or the anatomy of a cell as it is read about it in biology. Visualization enables increased comprehension and recall of information.

If you are finding it challenging to meet the demands of college – you may have reduced visual skills.

Essential visual skills for computer use

  • Convergence allows the student to focus both of the eyes inward, in order to see a single image of what is being looked at. This skill is essential for reading or looking at a computer screen or tablet for an extended period of time. Poor convergence can result in eye strain or double vision.
  • Accommodation endurance allows the student to maintain focus for all near vision tasks. Without this skill, a student might experience blurry vision and fatigue after a few hours of computer use— resulting in reduced focus for completion of a term paper or assignment.

 Essential visual skills for concentration

  • Peripheral vision allows you to see what is going on around you, without having to turn your head. This skill enables students to concentrate and participate in class, without being easily distracted by noises or movement in their environment.
  • Gross visual motor allows the student to sit in a lecture hall chair or behind a desk, with correct upright posture —enabling increased attention to the lecture. A student with reduced gross visual motor skills will typically slouch in his chair, or lean over his desk— resulting in reduced ability to concentrate properly.

Essential visual skills for class performance

  • Central vision acuity allows you to see distant images with clarity.  This skill is needed in lecture halls where many of the students are sitting far away from the lecturer.
  • Accommodation flexibility allows the student to switch focus from distant to near images, continually, and with ease. This skill is necessary for maintaining clear focus throughout the entire lecture— continually changing focus from the lecturer to a notebook or laptop, and then back to the lecturer.

Essential visual skills for examinations

  • Fine visual motor skills allows you to write easily and comfortably for long periods of time. Reduced fine visual motor skills can cause students to have messy or even illegible writing, and can lead to muscle fatigue in the hand and wrist.
  • Visual perception allows you to accurately organize, analyze, and interpret information that is seen— in order to make sense of it. Poor visual perception can affect a student’s performance on exams, as well as their overall understanding of the material.

It is important to note that while many college students prefer to take notes on a laptop, legible handwriting for taking notes on paper is still important.  There are times when you may not be able to bring your laptop, and in most cases, tests or exams are still handwritten.

Essential visual skills for visual arts

  • Visual thinking or processing allows you to analyze and form a mental image in your mind. Visual thinking is essential for painting, drawing, and all forms of visual arts— enabling the student to visualize the artwork they plan to create, before beginning the project.
  • Color perception allows you to distinguish between different colors. This skill is necessary for appreciating the detail, depth and complexity of what is seen.

It is important that all college students receive regular eye examinations and have well developed visual skills.

The college years place significant demands on the student’s eyes and visual system, the earlier a vision problem is detected and treated, the higher the chances for optimal results.

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Can Vision Therapy Improve Reading Fluency? FAQs

If a child is bright and intelligent, but their reading is still below grade level, they may benefit from vision therapy.

As 80% of learning is visual any problems in the visual system can impact a child’s reading.

If a child has any type of visual problem, it could prevent them from achieving academic success and affect their reading fluency.
Why does my child not like reading?

Problems with a child’s visual skills can make it difficult for them to recognize the words they read.

Children with reduced visual skills often find reading to be tedious and exhausting, so they see reading as a chore rather than an enjoyable and enriching activity.

What many people don’t realize is that even when our brains understand the meaning of a word we see, difficulties with our visual system can make words hard to recognize and interpret.

What is reading fluency?

Reading fluency refers to a child’s ability to read accurately, smoothly and with the proper expression, tone and comprehension.

If your child has not yet mastered reading fluency, they may read slowly. They may also spend too much time decoding the individual letters and words, impacting their comprehension.

Fluent readers easily recognize words, interpret the meaning and gain clear comprehension.

This is an indispensable skill as your child learns and gets more comfortable with reading. Reading fluency also connects the child’s word recognition to their comprehension.

Students with good reading fluency have the time and ability to focus on what the text is saying and concentrate on making connections between what they are reading and their own background knowledge.

How do I know if vision problems are impacting my child’s reading?

It can sometimes be hard to identify if your child’s learning issues stem from a vision problem.

If the underlying issue stems from vision problems, here are some possible telltale signs:

  • Your child tilts their head to one side, or covers one eye while attempting to read
  • Your child fidgets excessively, has behavior problems or exhibits a limited attention span at school or at home
  • Your child is reading below grade level, has comprehension issues or avoids reading altogether

If your child is displaying any of these symptoms, it is important to visit an eye doctor for a comprehensive evaluation.

If vision problems are found, your eye doctor can create a thorough vision therapy plan to help your child get back on track.

How are vision and reading fluency connected?

Reading fluency depends heavily on the strength of basic visual skills. These include visual fixation, accommodation, convergence, binocular vision, and saccades.

If your child does not have a mastery of any of these vital visual skills, they may have reading difficulties.

Reduced visual skills can significantly affect a child’s ability to read.

Reading glasses are often a big help for some children, while others benefit much more from a thorough program of vision therapy to improve the above visual efficiency skills.

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Which visual skills are necessary for reading?

Good reading fluency involves many different basic visual skills, among the most important are:

1 Binocular fusion

The brain’s ability to create a single image using clear visual information received from both eyes.

  1. Convergence

The eye’s ability to focus on books, screens and other close objects.

  1. Visual fixation

The ability of the eyes to accurately fix their focus on a specific image or object, such as a word in a book.

  1. Saccades

The eye’s ability to rapidly move across two or more points of focus. This is an important skill when reading a sentence across a page or moving the eyes from one word to the next.

  1. Focusing

The ability of the eyes to switch focus between two distances while keeping the target images at each distance in focus, such as changing focus from the board to the book and back.

What is vision therapy?

Vision therapy is a personalized regimen of therapeutic eye exercises designed to develop or improve visual skills and abilities.

The goal of vision therapy is to improve visual comfort, ease and efficiency and boost the interpretation of visual information.

These exercises are prescribed by your eye doctor based on your child’s individual needs.

A full vision therapy plan takes place over the course of several weeks or months, depending on the visual skills being worked on.

In addition to exercises, various vision therapy aids may be used. These include lenses, prisms, filters, patches, electronic targets, or balance boards.

Can vision therapy help reading fluency?

Just like basketball skills or learning ballet, your child’s visual skills can also be trained and strengthened. 

The more your child practices, the better their overall performances will be.

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Vision-Related Learning Problems: Top 6 Myths and Facts

Visual skills are a vital pillar of learning.

Every student needs strong visual skills to excel at school. Your child’s ability to learn in and out of the classroom depends on a number of factors, including the strength of their visual skills. Here are 6 top myths and facts about vision-related learning problems.
Myth #1: Our sense of sight is equal to the other 4 senses

Fact: According to the American Optometric Association, as much as 60% of the entire brain is involved with the gathering or interpretation of visual information.

This means that our sense of sight takes more brain capacity than all the other senses combined.

Because of this, it should come as no surprise that children who have vision difficulties often have difficulties with learning as well.

Myth #2: My child’s vision is 20/20, so their learning issues can’t be vision-related

Fact: 20/20 vision is important, but it is by no means the only consideration parents should have when assessing if a child’s learning problems are vision-related. 

Even if your child has 20/20 vision, they may still be struggling with mastery of certain functional vision or visual processing skills that can seriously hinder their ability to learn.

Functional vision skills involve the coordinated, efficient and accurate eye movements required to gather visual information. This visual information is then interpreted by the brain to create a single unified picture of the world around you.

If your child has problems with these skills, they may have difficulties with depth perception, keeping their spot on the page while reading or keeping objects in focus as they come closer and/or move further away.

This can cause symptoms such as blurry or double vision, headaches and eye strain, especially during activities such as reading or writing.

Visual perception skills involve the correct and efficient interpretation of visual information sent to the brain from the eyes.

If your child is having difficulties with these skills, you may notice that they have a hard time retaining information they read, or spelling on grade level. This could be due to problems with perception skills such as visual memory or visual processing.

Myth #3: Only ADD/ADHD impacts my child’s attention, not vision problems

Fact: Many of the symptoms associated with ADD/ADHD are also features of certain vision issues that can cause attention difficulties.

Difficulties with reading retention, attention span and apparent hyperactivity are symptoms of vision issues that can easily also be mistaken for ADD/ADHD.

If your child has been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD or you suspect they may have it, it is worthwhile to consult an eye doctor to ensure that certain vision disorders aren’t at play in your child’s learning difficulties.

Further symptoms of vision problems that can be mistaken for ADD/ADHD and other learning disabilities include:

  1. Reading slowly while using a finger
  2. Trouble keeping their place while reading texts
  3. Avoidance of close work and reading
  4. Problems with development of eye-hand coordination
  5. Difficulties retaining things that they read
  6. Falling behind socially or academically compared to the rest of their class
Myth #4: School vision screenings will identify any vision issues that can impact my child’s learning

Fact: School vision screenings are often mistakenly believed to be the same as the yearly comprehensive eye exam your child receives with their local optometrist. 

Unfortunately, while these screenings are able to diagnose cases of myopia and similar refractive errors, they are not equipped to detect the vast majority of vision problems that could cause learning difficulties.

Your child’s eye doctor is equipped and trained to run important tests as part of a comprehensive eye exam to check your child’s mastery of functional vision skills that would be missed at a school vision screening. These skills include eye teaming and tracking, convergence/divergence and visual accommodation.

Your optometrist will also check your child’s eyes for signs of amblyopia and strabismus that can cause permanent vision loss if untreated.

If your eye doctor diagnoses your child with a refractive error, they can prescribe eyeglasses or contact lenses.

If they diagnose your child with functional vision or visual perception difficulties, your optometrist can recommend a number of solutions, including vision therapy.

Myth #5: You can spark a child’s interest in reading by just finding the right book

Fact: Sometimes, a child’s disinterest in reading has nothing to do with the types of books given to them.

If they’re not able to read properly, or reading is uncomfortable due to vision issues, it can often be easier and more comfortable for your child to simply give up on reading.

Refractive errors such as myopia or astigmatism can lead to blurry vision while reading, as well as headaches from the constant need to squint to keep text in focus.

Functional vision issues can make reading a chore as well. Convergence insufficiency, for example, makes it difficult for your eyes to converge on a single spot up-close. This leads to double or blurry vision and headaches from the constant effort to maintain single vision while reading.

Visual tracking issues can also cause them to constantly lose their place while reading, leading to reading comprehension difficulties.

A comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor can help identify vision problems getting in the way of your child’s enjoyment of reading. Treating these problems can get them back on track and make reading fun.

Myth #6: Vision therapy will not help boost a child’s learning ability

Fact: Vision therapy is an evidence-based treatment regimen to improve both functional visual skills and visual processing. 

Since problems with these two types of skills can have a detrimental effect on your child’s ability to learn, fixing them can boost their learning potential.

Vision therapy involves a doctor-prescribed series of scientifically-proven in-office and at-home eye exercises that strengthen the eye-brain connections.

Depending on your child’s needs, vision therapy aids such as balancing boards, prism lenses and wolff wands may be used to further promote the effectiveness of the therapy.

While each case is different, vision therapy generally takes about four to six months to be fully effective.

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