Children: Vision and Learning

It is currently estimated that 1 out of 4 school age children and 7 out of 10 juvenile offenders suffer with undiagnosed vision problems that effect performance in school and in life. According to the American Foundation for Vision Awareness, vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the United States and the most prevalent handicapping condition in childhood.

Seventy percent of what a child learns in school is processed through the visual system. Even a minor visual processing problem will interfere with a child or adult performing to their potential.

Good vision is more than just the ability to see clearly. It is the ability to understand and respond to what is seen - from whatever source - for hours on end. The vision skills that served our ancestors -- seeing animals and enemies at a distance -- are not enough for youngsters in today's school environment

A large part of learning is done visually - reading, chalkboard work, and computer use are among the tasks students tackle all day long, day after day. Each involves the visual abilities of seeing clearly and understanding visual information - usually at less than an arm's length from the eyes. Such near vision work demands very different skills from the distance vision tested by the 20/20 chart.

Just as many of us don't have good 20/20 distance vision, many of us also have problems with the skills required to sustain near vision tasks. Near vision requires that your eyes work as a team - called binocular vision -

  1. to converge -- aiming together to combine the images from each eye into one,
  2. to accommodate - curving the lens to bring images into clear focus,
  3. to fixate - moving the eyes across a page fluidly and then jumping to the next line.

Learning can be impaired if eye movements are slow or clumsy if the eyes jump, "stutter" or lose their place when reading a book or from a computer screen.

If your child does not have adequate near vision skills, eyestrain may occur. It's not a seeing problem, so glasses alone won't fix it. It's an eye muscle problem.

If good visual skills have not been developed, learning is difficult and stressful. Children may react in one or more ways, including:

  • avoiding reading and other near visual work as much as possible,
  • attempting to do the work but with decreased understanding,
  • being an "underachiever,"
  • having a short attention span, or
  • getting fatigued easily.

While vision problems do not "cause" learning disabilities, poor near vision skills can impede remedial efforts by interfering with the learning process. Vision therapy has been proven to be an effective tool in helping people with vision-related learning problems.

Children's Reading Problems

Here are some of the symptoms of children who have reading problems that may be assisted with vision therapy for children.

  • Head turns as they read across the page
  • Loses place often during reading
  • Needs finger or marker to keep place
  • Displays short attention span in reading or copying
  • Too frequently omits words and/or puts in words that don't exist
  • Repeatedly omits "small" words
  • Rereads or skips lines

Dr. Grossman is co-author of Magic Eye - A 3D Guide (Andrews and McMeel, 1995), Natural Vision Care - An Encyclopedia (Keats Publishing) printed in April, 1999, Greater Vision (McGraw Hill) printed in September, 200, and "Natural Eye Care: A Comprehensive Manual for Practitioners of Oriental Medicine", which is a 230-page manual describing both the Western and Eastern approaches to preserving eyesight for over 20 specific eye conditions. His newest book was just released in June, 2004 and is entitled Beyond 3D : Improve Your Vision with Magic Eye by Marc Grossman (Author), Magic Eye Inc. (Author)

Dr. Grossman lectures nationally on topics such as Natural Vision Improvement, Vision and Nutrition, Psycho-Emotional Aspects of Visual Conditions, Vision & Learning, Holistic Integrative Visual Therapy, and Chinese Medicine and Vision Care. Point. For more information and for a free copy of his Eye Exercise E-Booklet, visit his website at or call (888) 735-8475.

Also take a look at our Recommended Reading List.

DISCLAIMER: These vision therapy programs should not replace competent optometric or medical care, but should be used as an adjunct to your eye doctors near-sightedness.