The following scenario may sound familiar. It’s a school night and your child has a reading assignment which he or she refuses to complete. You plead with your child, offering to read it together or incentivizing with a reward. No matter what you do, your child just wants to watch TV or play yet another video game.
Perhaps you’ve already consulted with your child’s teacher, school counselor, and pediatrician about the reading difficulties, just to be told that all seems normal — yet you remain concerned. At Shelburne Primary EyeCare, we understand the challenges for parents and children that accompany reading difficulties, and we’re here to help.
A functional visual evaluation with Dr. Colette Whiting and Dr. Sandra Gillis-Kennedy will determine whether the child’s visual system may actually be at the root of your child’s reading and learning struggles. If a visual problem is hindering your child from reaching their potential, the vision therapy program offered at Shelburne Primary EyeCare can help turn your child into a proficient reader.
Visual Skills Necessary For Reading
There are many visual skills that contribute to academic success. One of the least important skills is termed visual acuity (clarity, sharpness), also known as 20/20 vision, this only assesses how well a child sees at twenty feet away and is part of basic vision screenings in schools and most regular eye exams. However, how well a child sees at a distance of twenty feet has little to do with how well their visual system performs at the reading and learning distance — approximately 11 to 16 inches from the face.
More relevant visual skills required for reading include eye-tracking, eye-teaming, convergence, accommodation, and visual fixation. These skills are assessed during a functional visual evaluation. In simpler terms — both eyes need to work together, move at the same pace, and provide a single and clear image for the brain to interpret. Imagine trying to read when the words are blurry or even doubled? Vision therapy is a customized program to improve these visual skills by training the brain to improve these visual skills —thereby significantly improving the child’s reading, learning, and performance at school.
Early Signs of a Struggling Reader
Although detecting a child’s visual problem can be difficult — either because he or she may not complain about their vision or simply lack the communication skills needed to describe their struggles — several signs may indicate an underlying vision problem. If your child exhibits any of the following behaviors, it may be time to get a functional vision evaluation with Dr. Colette Whiting and Dr. Sandra Gillis-Kennedy.
- Reading below grade level
- Low attention span or excessive fidgeting
- Behavioral issues caused by frustration
- Resistance to attend school or do homework
- Shying away from reading out loud or avoiding reading altogether
- Struggling to summarize or remember what was just read
- Teachers may notice the child takes frequent bathroom breaks during activities involving reading
- Covering one eye, head-tilting, or frequently blinking when looking at far-away objects, such as a blackboard
- Headaches after reading
How Does Vision Therapy Work?
Vision therapy focuses on improving the child’s visual skills. These visual skills, just like walking and talking, are learned skills that can be trained and improved. The brain’s neuroplasticity allows for new learning pathways to be created, making it possible for a child to gain visual skills that weren’t present beforehand. Because around 75% to 90% of a child’s learning occurs through the visual system, any issues with the various visual skills could hinder a child from achieving their potential. On the flipside, enhancing visual abilities can make learning and reading easier and more accessible.
If a vision-related reading issue is the underlying cause of your child's reading and learning struggles, the vision therapy program at Shelburne Primary EyeCare will target and treat your child’s particular issues in a customized program.
Each vision therapy session takes place in-office on a weekly basis under the supervision of Dr. Colette Whiting and Dr. Sandra Gillis-Kennedy. In between sessions, your child will also be expected to perform at-home visual exercises. The length of treatment will depend on the type and degree of the vision-related reading issues. The vision therapist will use various aids and tools, such as prisms, filters, eye patches, balance beams, and digital simulations in the therapeutic process.
Give your child the tools for proficient reading and academic success with vision therapy. If you suspect that a vision problem may be preventing your child from succeeding, contact Shelburne Primary EyeCare today to schedule a functional vision evaluation.
Dr. Colette Whiting and Dr. Sandra Gillis-Kennedy provides vision therapy and other services to patients from Shelburne, Melancthon, Alliston, Collingwood, and throughout Dufferin County.