Vision is Key to Developing Your Child’s Abilities: How Developmental Optometry Can Help
Working with a special needs child to develop skills necessary for success in the classroom and life can be rewarding, but also challenging and frustrating for parents, family, and teams of teachers, doctors and therapists. Collaborating with a developmental optometrist can make all the difference, as children with special needs and developmental disabilities commonly also have a host of vision problems that can directly contribute to their difficulties.
Vision and the Child with Special Needs
Although on the surface these disorders seem to have little to do with the eyes, they in fact can have a huge impact on a child’s behavior and ability to learn and interact with their world. The fact that vision occurs in the brain and not the eyes and that vision pathways mingle extensively with social and emotional pathways in the brain, compels one to look more closely at the role vision plays in the child with special needs and his or her overall development and behavior.
For example, one study performed at the Ratner Children’s Eye Center, Department of Ophthalmology at UC San Diego, found that of patients diagnosed with a common visual problem, Convergence Insufficiency (CI), they also had the diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder with or without hyperactivity (A-D/HD) three times more than would be expected in the general population. This study supports what we see clinically in our practice. Therefore, patients with A-D/HD symptoms should be evaluated to determine if they have CI or any other visual problems that may contribute to inattention when reading or learning.
Because a child does not often know to report visual symptoms, it’s vital that parents know what to look for. Here are some of the more common symptoms that there may be an underlying vision problem: avoids close work, poor eye contact, quick to fatigue, inability to listen and look at the same time, headaches, rubs or pokes eyes, covers one eye or turns or tilts head, eye turn, stares at lights, shinny or spinning objects, confuses lefts and rights, and poor balance, clumsy, difficulty going up or down stairs, or afraid of heights.
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