“Vision problems can interfere with the process of learning; however, vision problems are not the cause of primary dyslexia or learning disabilities. Scientific evidence does not support the efficacy of eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses for improving the long-term educational performance in these complex pediatric neurocognitive conditions.”*
When their child has difficulty reading, many parents naturally think that the problem is with the child’s eyes. While there’s little doubt that impaired vision can interfere with a child’s ability to read, dyslexia is not a vision problem and, as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clearly states, cannot be solved through “eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses.”
I mention the issue of vision because it comes up so often in conversations with concerned parents who are looking for causes and solutions to their child’s reading problems.
As the AAP points out, many dyslexic children enjoy prolonged game playing on computers or hand-held game devices. Such games require the same visual acuity as reading, and “Thus, if visual deficits were a major cause of reading disabilities, children with such disabilities would reject this vision-intensive activity.”
Of course, every child should have routine vision screening at school or at well-child appointments with their pediatrician or family doctor, and, as AAP suggests, “Children who do not pass vision screening should be referred to an ophthalmologist with experience in the care of children.” The ophthalmologist (not an optometrist) will recommend options for correcting the child’s vision, but those corrections will not alter the reading ability of a dyslexic child.
Unfortunately, some unscrupulous people with no credentials and/or with flat-out misinformation about dyslexia say they can diagnose and treat dyslexia. The most egregious example of this is the very expensive and entirely unproven vision therapy done by some optometrists. The AAP minces no words: “Ineffective, controversial methods of treatment such as vision therapy may give parents and teachers a false sense of security that a child’s learning difficulties are being addressed, may waste family and/or school resources, and may delay proper instruction or remediation.”
“Learning disabilities are complex problems that require complex solutions,” says the AAP policy statement. “Dyslexia is a primary reading disorder and results from a written word processing abnormality in the brain.” Professionals who are qualified to test for, diagnose and treat dyslexia include psychologists, speech-language pathologists, and clinical educators.
If you would like a referral to a qualified professional or if you have questions about dyslexia or language-learning disorders, request a free consultation with one of our expert therapists.
Sandie is a speech-language pathologist with more than 30 years of experience in the private practice sector. She is Visiting Assistant Professor of Communication Sciences & Disorders at University of North Carolina Greensboro, and founder/owner of the Language & Learning Clinic, PLLC, a private practice in Elkin, NC, and Greensboro, NC, specializing in communication disorders, including disorders of reading and written language.