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Are Hidden Vision Problems Causing a Student's Learning Challenges?

Posted by on in What If?
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child with glasses

If a child can’t see well, he or she likely will have some trouble with learning. That’s a bit of a “duh” statement. But what if the child’s vision problems go undetected? After all, vision problems aren’t as easily observed as are, for example, hearing or speech problems.

Still, you might wonder how vision problems could go undetected when so many children have their visual acuity screened every year in school. Well, Wendy Rosen, author of The Hidden Link Between Vision and Learning, and a recent guest on Studentcentricity, tells us that there is a difference between vision and eyesight – and that vision-related learning problems affect one in four school-age children. She goes on to say these problems “are not recognized as a disability in need of attention because a staggering portion of our population does not know that they exist.” 

I certainly didn’t, which is why I found my conversation with Wendy, along with educator Jason Flom, so fascinating.

Wendy later added:

Few people are aware that a breakdown in the visual system can be at the core of a learning disability. Many symptoms of vision-related learning problems can mimic other conditions such as AD/HD and dyslexia. There are, consequently, countless numbers of children who are classified as special education students or are medicated, or both, who may be wrongly diagnosed and are not getting the help they need in order to succeed in school.

Vision-related learning problems can affect every child, from those outwardly struggling the most to those who may be at the top of the class. 

As you might expect, when a vision problem goes undetected, behavior issues arise in addition to learning challenges. Wendy contends that vision-related learning problems are present in three-quarters of the juvenile delinquent population. “When this problem goes unrecognized and untreated,” she states, “lives spiral downward.”

Fortunately, fixing these problems is doable, as Wendy documents throughout her book.

Among the simpler, proactive approaches that can be employed in the classroom are the following:

            1. Ensure that students live more often in 3D than 2D (i.e., limit digital devices).

            2. Enable students to take breaks, as it improves their visual health.

To learn more, including clues for which teachers should be watching, click here.

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Rae Pica has been an education consultant specializing in the development and education of the whole child, children's physical activity, and active learning since 1980. A former adjunct instructor with the University of New Hampshire, she is the author of 19 books, including the text Experiences in Movement and Music and, most recently, What If Everybody Understood Child Development?: Straight Talk About Bettering Education and Children's Lives. Rae has shared her expertise with such groups as the Sesame Street Research Department, the Head Start Bureau, Centers for Disease Control, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, Nickelodeon's Blue's Clues, Gymboree, Nike, and state health departments throughout the country. She is a member of the executive committee of the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences and is co-founder of BAM Radio Network, where she hosts Studentcentricity, interviewing experts in education, child development, play research, the neurosciences, and more on teaching with students at the center.

  • Debra Pierce | @easycda
    Debra Pierce | @easycda Wednesday, 31 August 2016

    Good reminder, Rae. The same goes for hearing loss, for whatever reason. Children are often pigeonholed into disability categories unnecessarily, when it is only a hearing or vision issue. What is disturbing is the fact that medications may be prescribed for these "disabilities," when all that really was needed was vision correction or tubes in the ears for reoccurring ear infections.

  • Rae Pica | @raepica1
    Rae Pica | @raepica1 Wednesday, 31 August 2016

    Sadly, Debra, we are a quick-fix society. If there are pills that we think will make things easier for us, we dole 'em out without considering the long-term consequences.

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