Good eyesight is not enough for efficient learning
Schools across South Africa are preparing to open their doors again. While many children will continue with their homeschooling, many others are facing a return to school. Homeschooling has advantages – including the fact that children can pace themselves and their learning more flexibly. School timetables tend to be more rigid and classroom tasks may require more from a child.
We don’t often think about the role the eyes play in learning. Of course we know that a child needs normal eyesight to be able to read, write and generally function in the world. But once that eye examination declares that all is well, we tend to forget that learning difficulties may be linked to visual functions not necessarily linked to 20/20 vision.
Many children who present with learning difficulties may have binocular visual dysfunctions (BVD). In fact, some studies show that up to 50% of children diagnosed with ADHD have BVD. Binocularity refers to us using two eyes with overlapping fields of view (due to the fact that our eyes are placed widely apart in our heads) to focus on and interpret slightly different visual images. The brain has to blend these into a single, clear image and keep the image steady, no matter how we move the eyes or our heads. Binocular inefficiencies may make a child tired while reading, cause words to blend together or move on the page as she is reading, skip lines and lose her place when reading and make it hard to concentrate. Eye contact with others may be difficult too, making it hard for her to focus whenever someone is speaking to her.
Other symptoms include poor coordination, dizziness, headache, light sensitivity, car sickness, clumsiness and sleep disturbances.
If a child shows any of these symptoms and they are affecting schoolwork, she might be experiencing slightly misaligned eyes or have eye muscles that are not controlling the eyes adequately to ensure good binocularity. A screening by an ILT practitioner may be helpful and also needed to deal with binocular issues caused by muscular irregularities. It may also help alert to the need for a thorough evaluation by a Developmental or Neurovisual Optometrist.