Vision and Learning Disabilities

Learning disabilities are not caused by abnormal visual function, but an undiagnosed visual disorder can make a learning disability worse.

Reading and learning disabilities in children are a matter of great concern to many parents. Reading is a complex function that involves processing visual information received by the brain. However, it is important to remember that reading and learning disabilities are not caused by abnormal visual function, but by problems processing and integrating the visual information in the brain.

Treatment of children with learning disabilities

Children with learning disabilities often have normal eye exams at rates statistically similar to children without learning disorders. Treatment of a child with a learning disability requires a multidisciplinary approach involving:

  • Physicians
  • Psychologists
  • Teachers

No single educational approach is successful for all children with learning disabilities.

Vision problems and school performance

If a child does have a visual problem that remains undiagnosed or untreated, he or she may do poorly in school. With this poor performance, teachers may incorrectly suspect that the child has a learning disability. However, if the child does have a true learning disability and a visual problem, the uncorrected visual problem will make the learning disability worse and make it harder to treat.

Pediatric eye exams for school performance issues

For this reason, any child with difficulties in school should be referred for a complete pediatric eye exam to rule out co-existing visual problems. The role of the eye care professional is to establish if the eye exam is normal or to diagnose and treat any vision problem that is found. If a learning disability is still suspected, the child should be referred back to the pediatrician for multidisciplinary care.

Can vision issues cause learning disabilities?

Children with learning disabilities or dyslexia have problems processing information received by the brain. Treatments that seek to remove a vision-based cause of learning disabilities remain controversial:

  • No scientific evidence supports the claims that the academic abilities of dyslexic or learning disabled children can be improved with treatment based on visual training, tracking exercises, or glasses with tinted or colored lenses.
  • These treatments are often carried out in combination with traditional educational techniques, which makes analysis of their benefit difficult.
  • A more detailed position statement on learning disabilities, dyslexia and vision can be reviewed at the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus website.

At Henry Ford, patients come first.

The Henry Ford Department of Ophthalmology is committed to providing our patients with compassionate, personalized care. We feature the most advanced treatments in eye care and are dedicated to vision research – always staying at the forefront of innovation. A leader in Michigan, as well as one of the largest ophthalmology practices in the United States, we treat more than 55,000 patients per year at 12 locations throughout southeast Michigan. In addition, our team works closely with Henry Ford Medical Group physicians in other departments, providing multidisciplinary, coordinated care for those patients who need it.

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