Back to School Reading Help

As the start of school in Nanaimo gets closer, many parents start thinking about the reading problems, learning disabilities, or trouble focusing that the teacher was talking about last year (dyslexia, learning disabilities, ADD or ADHD).  What needs to be done to make this year better?  What are tools or approaches that can help your child succeed?  There are a few very important, and often overlooked fundamental factors to reading success that I will share, that have shown to be part of 80% of reading struggles.

If you were asked to learn to ride a bicycle, yet the bicycle that you were given had flat tires, bent wheels, and the handlebars were crooked, it would be much more difficult, right?  How much would you enjoy riding it?  Do you think that you would underperform compared to the expectations people had of you given your other athletic abilities?  How do you think you’d fair relative to your peers?  Odds are that your bike riding would be below expectations, you wouldn’t enjoy it after a while, and you’d have trouble keeping your focus (sustaining riding) because it was so much more tiring compared to the kids with a good bike.

Why does this matter for reading?  If the eyes cannot track accurately or work together properly when reading and learning, it can cause everything from mild difficulty, to severe disability.  Just imagine, trying to read when your eyes jump where they shouldn’t!  Sometimes it can cause skipping lines or losing place, so many kids read with their finger or a ruler to try to compensate.  It can even make it so that they can’t consistently see a word, so that they don’t recognize a word that you just taught them three lines earlier.  This is frustrating for everyone.  These visual conditions cause the same symptoms as attention deficit disorder (ADD or ADHD), as well as dyslexia, dysgraphia, developmental coordination disorder and other learning disabilities.

These visual conditions are not tested for on vision screenings, routine eye exams, or surgical appointments, so chances are good that your child has never been tested.  So what do you need to ask for?

Ask for a referral to a developmental or neurological optometrist.  This needs to be someone who treats eye movement conditions in children and adults.  The testing needs to include eye tracking, focusing, teaming, processing and more.  Be wary of treatments that involve doing everything only at home, or only on a computer.  They have been shown to be less effective.  Like many things in life, you may have to really work to get what you want.

If it is a vision problem, treatment will often include specially prescribed glasses.  Prescribed in a way that improves efficiency, not just clarity.  This can help the eyes learn to track better, as well as improve ability to focus.  Treatment may also include optometric vision therapy, or vision training, to help improve how the brain and the eyes are working together.  This generally takes 4-12 months, and should involve weekly sessions with home training done most days of the week.  What is worked on each week changes as the skills develop and integrate.  In our experience, this is the only way to get substantial results with vision therapy.

So if your child has a learning disability, struggles to focus, or is underperforming at school, make sure to get their eye tracking checked.  Treatment may involve just special glasses (don’t worry they look like normal glasses!) and/or vision therapy, or vision can be properly ruled out.

At Opto-mization Neuro-visual Nanaimo performance, we can test to see if vision is a part of your child’s struggle, and if it is we can formulate a plan to see them succeed.  Coupled with our Victoria location, our experience and leading approaches have made us Western Canada’s largest vision therapy provider.


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