Teacher’s guide to vision problems that affect learning

October 15, 2016
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Are you struggling to help that child who is bright, but is just not reading at grade level?


Vision problems may be contributing and they can affect learning. Reading difficulties stem from a combination of problems, rather than just one. Learning to read and then reading to learn involves a number of visual skills.

reading is frustrating

vision problems can affect reading

In the classroom, 80% of learning comes through visual pathways, so vision problems can affect learning.


The 5 most common signs of vision problems that affect learning are:

  • Loses place and skips lines, or rereads lines
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Homework taking much longer than it should
  • Reverses letters like b and d
  • Short attention span with reading and schoolwork

 Vision skills required for reading are:

  • visual acuity
  • visual fixation and attention
  • eye tracking
  • accommodation (eye focus)
  • binocular vision (eye teaming)
  • visual perception

The typical school eye chart test only evaluates distance visual acuity.

I worked with a young boy a few years ago. He was bright but struggled in school. Reading frustrated him to no end! He soon became disheartened and started to believe that perhaps he was just dumb. This worried his parents and the constant battles over homework made everyone in the family miserable.

His teacher could not understand why he did well in everything, except school. In her search for a solution, she came across vision therapy and recognized many of the signs of vision related learning problems. A developmental eye exam revealed that he had difficulty with eye tracking and eye teaming. Vision therapy retrained his brain to use his eyes efficiently and expanded this boy’s learning potential. It enhanced his self-esteem and improved the family dynamics. He developed confidence at school, better grades and a love for reading.

So what can you do as the educator? Keep a lookout for the common signs and symptoms of vision problems that impact learning. 80 percent of what children learn comes through their visual processing of information. If you suspect a vision problem may be interfering with a student’s ability to learn, bring it to the attention of their parents. Help them to find a developmental optometrist who will test for those specific skills.