Vision & Learning

vision and learning

Childhood is full of years brimming with imagining, learning, and exploring. Ask any parent, and they will likely tell you that they will do whatever they can to give their children a jumpstart in their education. Did you know that up to 80% of all learning is visual? That's a big number! We know through scientific research that 60% of our brains are dedicated to some type of visual information function, so imagine for a moment what it would be like as a child if part of that visual processing isn't functioning properly. Learning just became more difficult than it has to be, right? While school vision screenings and physical exams may spot the untreated nearsighted child, they won't identify the undiagnosed farsighted student or the child who has a mild but necessary prescription. It is important to identify farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism early on so the negative learning impacts can be minimized or avoided altogether. Children with near avoidance and reading problems should be evaluated for farsightedness before they are labeled as "slow learners" or "poor readers" in school. Visual correction can make a dramatic difference in a child's learning and development for their future. 


Some of the mechanical visual skills which are related to reading include focusing or accommodation, and eye teaming, or convergence. Fatigue of one or both of these systems may interfere with reading. There is also a relationship between eye movements such as saccades (whereby we change fixation from one target to the next) and smooth following movements known as pursuits and reading. Children who cannot make accurate eye movements are often found to skip lines and words while reading.

loses place

Reading requires very accurate saccades, which are fixations from one spot to another.  Children who have poor eye movements are easily distracted and lose their place.  

Once information is brought into the eyes, it must be sent back to the brain for appropriate processing. The information must be utilized and integrated with the sensory and motor areas of the brain. Defects in the perceptual (interpretation of visual system) and motor (the integration with output, e.g., hand-eye coordination) may interfere with the reading process. Perceptual motor skills are key in the early acquisition of reading skills. A deficit is important to identify very early on-- i.e., five to seven years of age. Remediation of the skills at a later date, such as age 12, will be less effective for reading. Thus, early identification and treatment is essential. It is evident that there is more to good vision than 20/20.


It has been presumed that children who reverse letters or words see them backward.  This is false.  They have directional confusion.  In the real world, the direction has no meaning.  For example, a chair is a chair no matter which way it is placed.  Changing direction does not change interpretation.  In the world of language, direction changes meaning.  Connect the bottom of a chair and it looks like a "b".  Turn it 180 degrees it becomes a "d", flip it upside down and it becomes a "q", and flip it again it becomes a "p".  Thus, direction changes the meaning.  The difference between "was" and "saw" is direction.


As mentioned previously, we should correct all optical errors of the eyes (glasses); eliminate eye muscle problems; and create smooth accurate eye movements.  In addition, we should make sure that we properly interpret what we see and use it appropriately.  These are known collectively as perceptual skills and include form perception, size and shape recognition, visual memory, and visual motor integration (hand-eye coordination.)

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