Focused boy learning his lessonsMichael Cole, OD, Child and Family Eyecare Center

It is important for parents to know what to do as preliminary steps if they find their child has difficulty reading. Parents may discover their child has eye coordination and eye tracking problems interfering with learning after trying a variety of educational and behavioral interventions and searching for help for years.

When a student struggles with reading and learning it is important to first rule out the possibility of a vision problem. Often this can be an eye coordination problem, which means the child will pass most vision screenings in school or at the pediatrician’s office. Vision screenings typically test for how clearly one can see the letters on the eye chart (“20/20”) which is only one of more than 17 visual skills required for reading and learning.

Most children think that everyone sees the same way they do, so they rarely complain. The way they tell you there is a problem is by their behavior.

“A high Verbal IQ combined with a Performance IQ that is 20 points lower should signal the need for an optometric evaluation,” according to Dr. Linda Silverman, an educational psychologist who has worked with gifted children for more than 40 years.

Further, in The Psych 101 Series: Giftedness 101, by Dr. Silverman, it states: “Large discrepancies between VCI (verbal comprehension) and PRI (perceptual reasoning) are often misinterpreted as signs of abnormal brain functioning (e.g., Nonverbal Learning Disorder). Visual processing weaknesses need to be ruled out and visual remedies sought before diagnosing a child with a more serious Nonverbal Learning Disorder.”

While most people’s concept of vision is based on how clearly they can see things, there is much more to vision. We need to be able to make sense out of what we see — this is done by processing visual information. There is a specialty service within optometry, called “developmental optometry,” where we evaluate all the visual skills required for academic success as well as success in life.

It is vital that parents and educators know the signs and symptoms of a vision problem. Take a look at the five most common signs that a vision problem may be interfering with your student’s academic success:

  • Skipping or rereading lines when reading
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Homework taking longer than it should
  • Reversing letters like “b” into “d” when reading
  • Short attention span with reading and schoolwork

If your child has any of the above symptoms, he or she may have a fully correctable vision problem. Don’t assume that because the results of the last vision screening were good that your child does not have a vision problem. If reading is difficult and homework takes longer than it should, your child may not have all the visual skills required for reading and learning.

To find out more about the link between vision and learning, visit