During the school years, there are big demands placed on a child in the classroom. The most challenging and possibly the most important task a child faces is learning to read.
Reading requires children to accurately use all of their language, decoding, phonetic, and visual skills to successfully recognize words and gather meaning from the written text. Unfortunately, about 20% of school-aged children struggle to read. Some of these children suffer from learning disabilities or dyslexia, the inability of the brain’s verbal language or auditory processing centres to accurately decode print or phonetically make the connection between the word’s written symbols and their appropriate sounds. However, a large portion of children struggling to read are not dyslexic at all; their phonetic awareness and language processing skills are fine. It’s their vision that is interfering with their ability to read.
Vision plays a vital role in the reading process. First of all, children must have crisp, sharp eyesight in order to see the print clearly. School vision screenings routinely check children’s sharpness of vision at distance–measured by the 6/6 line on the eye chart–and refer children for glasses if they have blurry far-away vision and can’t see the board from the back of the room. Unfortunately, this is all school vision screenings are designed to check, yet a child’s vision involves so much more.
For success in school, children must have other equally important visual skills besides their sharpness of sight, or visual acuity. They must also be able to coordinate their eye movements as a team. They must be able to follow a line of print without losing their place. They must be able to maintain clear focus as they read or make quick focusing changes when looking up to the board and back to their desks. And they must be able to interpret and accurately process what they are seeing. If children have inadequate visual skills in any of these areas, they can experience great difficulty in school, especially in reading.
Children who lack good basic visual skills often struggle in school unnecessarily. Their “hidden” vision problem is keeping them from performing at grade level, yet teachers and parents often fail to make the connection between poor reading and the child’s vision.