Dyslexia in Children

Posted by: Invision Optometry in Category Vision Therapy

Frustrated child looking at a book

Dyslexia in children is often confused with other common reading problems. In fact, many children are diagnosed with dyslexia prior to ruling out other potential causes of reading difficulty. Although dyslexia is common, it is frequently confused with other learning and attention issues. For instance, if your child has a visual processing disorder, it may seem like they are dyslexic. However, while a visual processing disorder shares characteristics that are similar to dyslexia, they are not the same. The best advice for parents concerned that their child might have dyslexia, is to rule out other causes first, such as vision, hearing, or instruction problems.

Make Sure You Have Ruled Out Other Causes for Reading Difficulty…

What Is Dyslexia?

Dyslexia​ ​is​ ​a​ ​frequently​ ​overused​ ​term,​ ​and​ ​is​ ​often​ ​mistakenly​ ​thought​ ​of​ ​as​ ​reading​ ​or​ ​writing​ ​letters backwards.​ ​But​ ​the​ ​main​ ​problem​ ​with​ ​dyslexia​ ​is​ ​persistent​ ​difficulty​ ​with​ ​phonics​ (or the​ ​ability​ ​to​ ​attach sounds​ ​to​ ​letters​ ​and​ ​blend​ ​the​ ​sounds​ ​into​ ​words).​ ​Decoding​ ​or​ ​phonemic​ ​awareness​ ​are​ ​also​ ​terms sometimes​ ​used​ ​to​ ​describe​ ​phonics​ ​ability.​ ​Most​ ​dyslexic​ ​individuals​ ​show​ ​difficulty​ ​with​ ​phonics​ ​and other​ ​aspects​ ​of​ ​language​ ​function.​ ​It can​ ​also​ ​make​ ​it​ ​more​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​remember​ ​sight​ ​words. Dyslexia​ ​is​ ​not​ ​related​ ​to​ ​intelligence,​ ​teaching methods,​ ​or​ ​sociocultural​ ​opportunity.​ Children who ​suffer with​ ​dyslexia​ have​ ​difficulty​ ​learning​ ​to​ ​read​ ​in​ ​spite​ ​of​ ​good intelligence,​ ​educational​ ​opportunities,​ ​cultural experiences,​ ​and​ ​normal​ ​sensory​ ​development.

A Visual Processing Disorder Is Not Dyslexia…

What Is A Visual Processing Disorder?

A visual processing disorder, also known as a perceptual disorder, is a deficiency that hinders a child’s ability to make sense of information they see. When a perceptual vision problem is present, understanding what you see, identifying it, judging its importance and relating it to previously stored information in the brain becomes disconnected. When this occurs, everyday activities such as reading, writing, and learning can be very frustrating for a child. Although visual processing disorders are not a learning disability on their own, they are frequently identified in children who are struggling with reading, math, spelling, and other school subjects.

Ruling Out Other Causes…

Dyslexia VS Visual Processing Disorder

To better understand why dyslexia is often misdiagnosed, you first need to understand the similarities and differences between dyslexia and visual processing disorders. Dyslexia involves trouble with processing language, and causes difficulty with reading, writing, and other skills. Visual processing disorders involve trouble with processing information that the eyes see. So, when a child with a visual processing disorder is reading, he or she may have trouble processing the words they see on a page. This is where confusion sets in for those unfamiliar with visual processing disorders. A visual processing disorder, which affects the way the brain interprets what it sees as well as the eye’s ability to maintain focus and work together, can cause reading difficulties. A visual processing disorder is similar to dyslexia in that both can cause reading difficulties. But, for very different reasons, one impacts how one processes language, while the other impacts how one processes the words seen on a page. The therapies and approaches for dealing with each unique situation are not the same.

Vision Problems Can Mimic Dyslexia…

Learning Related Vision Problems

Vision problems can and do interfere with learning. Undetected and untreated vision problems should be everyone’s concern as they can interfere with a child’s ability to learn at their full potential. Learning related vision problems occur when there is a deficit in visual efficiency and/or visual information processing. Vision​ ​problems​ ​can​ ​make​ ​reading​ ​more​ ​difficult,​ ​causing​ ​problems​ ​with​ ​fluency,​ ​speed,​ ​and comprehension. But,​ ​keep​ ​in​ ​mind​ ​that​ ​vision​ ​problems​ ​do​ ​not​ ​cause​ ​dyslexia!

Visual Skills Needed for Reading & Learning

Properly developed visual skills provide the capacity to organize, structure, and interpret visual stimuli, thus giving meaning to what is seen. These are important attributes for every learning situation. Listed below​ ​are​ 3 important ​visual​ ​skills​ ​that​ impact a child’s success in reading​ ​and​ ​learning.

  • Sustaining Focus: The ability of the eyes to create and sustain a clear image when reading. Poor focus ability can result in words moving in and out of focus or looking distorted. Frequent headaches, eye rubbing, and visual fatigue may also be experienced
  • Saccadic Eye Movements: The ability to accurately jump the eyes from word to word across the line and change focus to the next line. Difficulty with saccadic eye movements can result in loss of place, skipping words, and frequent rereading of sentences
  • Eye Teaming/Convergence: The ability to coordinate the two eyes together to aim correctly on the page. Poor convergence skills may lead to double vision, complaints of words moving on the page, and confusing letters and words

In​ ​addition,​ ​what​ ​most​ ​people​ ​do not​ ​realize​ ​is​ ​that​ ​reading​ ​and​ ​spelling​ ​both​ ​require​ ​good​ ​visualization and​ ​visual​ ​memory​ ​skills. ​If those skills are not fully developed,​ children​ ​can​ ​struggle​ ​whether​ ​or​ ​not they​ ​have​ ​dyslexia.

Undiagnosed Visual Problem Or Dyslexia…

Visual Skills Assessment

Until​ ​the​ entire ​visual​ ​system, which includes clarity of eyesight, eye movement abilities, and visual perceptual skills ​​are fully​ ​evaluated;​ ​it​ ​is​ ​difficult​ ​to​ ​know​ ​if​ ​a​ ​child​ ​truly​ ​has​ ​dyslexia. Underdeveloped​ ​visual​ ​skills​ ​and​ ​visual​ ​processing​ ​disorders​ ​are​ ​often​ ​misdiagnosed​ ​as​ ​dyslexia​ ​and learning​ ​disabilities. Because a child with an undiagnosed visual problem and a child with dyslexia share many of the same symptoms,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​recommended​ ​that​ ​a​ complete ​visual​ assessment​ ​by​ ​a​ behavioural ​optometrist​ ​be​ ​done​ ​to detect​ ​any​ ​underlying​ ​visual​ ​problems. Behavioural​ ​optometrists​ ​can​ ​identify​ ​vision​ ​problems​ ​in​ ​a​ ​child’s​ ​eyes​ ​and​ ​prescribe​ ​appropriate​ ​lenses and/or​ ​vision​ ​therapy.​ For​ ​example,​ ​astigmatism​ ​that​ ​distorts​ ​words​ ​can​ ​be​ ​eliminated​ ​by appropriate​ ​lens​ ​prescription.​ Difficulties ​with​ visual skills such as ​eye​ ​teaming; ​ fixation,​ ​tracking,​ ​focusing, ​and convergence​ ​can​ ​be​ ​managed​ ​with​ ​supportive​ ​lenses,​ ​prisms,​ ​and​ ​vision​ ​therapy. Visual​ ​perceptual ​ delays in areas ​such​ ​as​​ ​visual-spatial​ ​awareness, visual discrimination, ​ ​and visual​ ​memory​ ​can​ ​often​ ​be​​ successfully treated ​with appropriate​ ​ vision​ ​therapy.

Is Your Child Visually At Risk?

Managing Reading and Learning Difficulties

Although​ ​behavioural​ ​optometrists​ ​cannot​ ​directly​ ​address​ ​dyslexia,​ ​they​ ​can​ ​teach​ ​the​ ​dyslexic​ ​how​ ​to better​ ​manage​ ​any​ ​visual​ ​difficulties​ ​they​ ​might​ ​be​ ​experiencing​ ​through​ ​vision​ ​therapy. Vision​ ​therapy​ ​is​ ​not​ ​intended​ ​to​ ​cure​ ​or​ ​treat​ ​dyslexia,​​ ​​but​ ​​can​ ​be​ ​very​ ​useful​ ​for​ ​improving​ ​eye movement,​ ​coordination​ ​skills​ ​and​ ​visual​ ​processing​ ​deficits,​ ​which​ ​can​ ​make​ ​it​ ​easier​ ​to​ ​manage​ ​reading and​ ​learning​ ​difficulties.

Vision Therapy

Vision therapy can help children who lack the necessary visual skills for effective reading, writing, and learning (i.e. eye movement and focusing skills, convergence, eye-hand activity, visual memory skills, etc.). Any child who struggles with schoolwork, sports, or attention issues may have undetected visual problems (beyond 20/20) that are creating roadblocks to success. Our specialized EYES + BRAIN + BODY Vision Therapy Program can help. We offer a personalized, 1:1 approach, which ensures that all 3 of these areas are connected in a fully integrated and automated way. Call our office to learn more at (619) 222-2020 ext. 205.


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