“Two in five children have vision conditions which affect learning,” reports the American Optometric Association, and yet it is estimated that over 10 million American children have vision problems that are undiagnosed and untreated.
Why? Because vision disorders are not placed on the list of usual suspects when it comes to learning issues, says optometrist Vicky Vandervort at TEDxLincoln. Though vision disorders can contribute to issues with reading comprehension, attention, concentration and focus for children in school, these disorders go undetected, and children get misdiagnosed, because diagnosing vision disorders can be a tricky matter. “Children can have normal intelligence, 20/20 vision and still have a learning problem caused by a vision issue,” she says.
One of these disorders, convergence insufficiency (CI), occurs when a person’s eyes have trouble working as a team. CI causes double vision, headaches, eyestrain and difficulty reading and focusing, as people with CI often perceive text to be moving across the page as they read. “When eye coordination isn’t on autopilot like it should be, it takes extra thought and concentration [to do things like read a book or a chalkboard],” Vandervort says, “and that depletes the brain’s ability to comprehend [what's been read].”
Despite CI’s negative symptoms, “children usually don’t report [CI symptoms] because they think this is how everyone sees. And if they do, they’re likely to hear, ‘Words can’t move around on a page,’” Vandervort says. “Millions of children suffer silently while the adults in their lives rationalize their symptoms or mistake them for ADD,” she says, “[because] most health and educational professionals are unaware of convergence insufficiency and other learning-related vision disorders.”
“And since 75% of what children learn in school is processed by the visual system,” Vandervort says, “when a child has this condition, it’s devastating.”
Learn more in Vandervort’s talk below:
Insight from the TEDx office — why we like this talk:
The speaker — a trained optometrist — explores a significant problem that affects both her field and the public: lack of awareness of learning-related vision disorders. She presents a talk that is clear, evidence-based and supported by her experience in the field, strong visuals and straightforward language.