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August is Children’s Vision and Learning Month, for the 20th year in a row! The goal of this month is to help educate parents and educators about the critical link between vision and learning. 

This year, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development is focusing on the link between concussions and visual-learning symptoms. The story of Kelsey Ransom is a perfect example of this link:

Reading was already a struggle for Kelsey and after she received her second concussion playing basketball the change in her academic performance was not as obvious as when she received her first concussion. She had been diagnosed with a Non-Verbal Learning Disorder prior to this concussion and the psychologist had told her mother that her I.Q. was “off the charts,” so her mother thought that Kelsey was just “lacking focus” and she was just experiencing normal “kid” issues when her struggles got worse. 

It wasn’t until Kelsey was seen by a developmental optometrist, “that it dawned on us she had residual effects from the concussion” her mother, Lori Harris-Ransom, shared; “when Kelsey was having trouble doing homework, I would tell her, ‘Kelsey you have to focus and concentrate and put in more effort.’ – I didn’t realize she wasn’t capable of doing so.”

Kelsey was in 6th grade, reading at a 4th grade level. Lori explains, “She had been complaining for a year of visual issues, we just didn’t know they were due to VISION. We thought it was a learning issue.”

In addition, Kelsey shared that one of her teachers would actually chastise her for not paying attention because she was writing and not paying attention to what he was saying; when in fact, she was still trying to copy information from the board before he would erase it. Once she understood her difficulties were due to a vision problem , she was able to explain the situation to her teacher. 

While Kelsey is only halfway through a program of optometric vision therapy , she is already seeing major improvement. Lori shares, “I am seeing dramatic differences in the last couple of months. She avoided studying and felt so defeated before. She has so much more confidence now.”

Before starting vision therapy Kelsey was trying to read To Kill a Mockingbird for school.  As she was improving during her vision therapy Kelsey found it easier to understand the book.  Kelsey proudly shares, “I did not have to focus on what to read and I was fully enjoying it. I read it and understood what I was reading.”

Read more about Kelsey’s story here.

Have a look at this infographic guide to recovery after a concussion:

And some facts about Learning-related vision problems:

  1. The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) estimates that there are 10 million children under 10 years of age in the U.S. that have vision problems.

  2. Up to 25% off all school age children have vision problems significant enough to impair academic performance. The rate may be as high as 60% for those children labeled as having learning problems.

  3. An evaluation of the visual efficiency of beginning readers in a public school found that visual factors were the primary cause of reading failure and that most current school screenings are inadequate to detect these problems.

  4. A study of inner city youths found that poor vision is related to academic and behavioral problems among at-risk children.

  5. Vision problems are often typically misdiagnosed as learning disabilities or ADD/ADHD leading to special education intervention and unnecessary drug treatment of school children.

  6. The 20/20 eye chart test (invented in the 1860s) only measures what you can see far away, not the “up-close” ability to see books or computers, nor the ability of the eyes and brain to work together in processing visual information.

  7. Thorough vision examinations measure eye teaming (how the eyes work together), focusing (ease in sustaining focus for up-close work), and tracking skills (how accurately and smoothly eyes move together across a page of print) as well as visual information processing abilities.

  8. Developmental Optometrists can provide vision examinations that fully assess these vision problems. These doctors are trained in evaluation of learning-related vision problems and treatment using special glasses and vision therapy.

  9. Studies have shown that the correction of vision problems with vision therapy leads to significant reduction in visual symptoms and improvements in reading performance.

Before the school year begins in September, now is the perfect time to discover and begin resolving these issues. If you suspect that your child might have vision-related learning problems, the first step is to take them in for a comprehensive eye exam.

By Dr. Nazima Sangha of Family Eyecare Centre