Defn: Dyslexia is a learning difficulty that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling. Characteristic features of dyslexia are difficulties in phonological awareness, verbal memory and verbal processing speed.’ – dyslexic.com
Dyslexia is diagnosed based on performance on testing that measures the above abilities.
If we put a child through an agility test, and they performed poorly in a bunch of areas, we could then diagnose that child as uncoordinated. But what if that child was determined to have a broken leg? What if the child had very poor depth perception and couldn’t tell where any of the obstacles on the agility course were? The agility test would be an accurate reflection of how they performed at that moment in time. But could you truly say the child is inherently ‘uncoordinated’ or would it be fair to say that there are other variables that would have impacted their performance?
Take it to the extreme with reading. Do you expect a child who cannot see at all to decode words or have fluent reading? Now take a step back. What if their eyes cannot accurately track through the text. If each eye jumps to a different part of the word the the brain gets confusing messages. If the eyes do not track through each word in a controlled or predictable manner then it’s hard to recognize the word the next time you see it.
How about fluency? A quick exercise you can perform is to take a business card and cover up the next sentence, uncovering each word one at a time, reading it out loud as you do. How fluent do you sound when you can’t scan ahead to put context to what you are saying aloud?
Dyslexia is about what happens with lexicons once the brain has the information accurately. But what if the brain isn’t getting the visual information accurately from the page? Could this be why a child does so much better with comprehension when a story is read to them, rather than having to read it themselves? Because it avoids vision?
If a child was diagnosed as uncoordinated, and had a broken leg or bad depth perception, wouldn’t you want to treat those barriers, give them a chance to practice agility and then re-test? Does it mean that they will be highly coordinated after? Not necessarily. Does it mean they will do better? Almost absolutely.
If it’s truly a case of just dyslexia, there should be absolutely no problems with oculomotor function (eye tracking) or binocularity (eye teaming). In the words of someone I really respect ‘you are entitled to have more than one condition.’ So you could have dyslexia AND eye tracking problems. If there are problems with vision, then (similar to the broken leg), treating the vision problems will definitely be helpful.
The problem many parents face is the academics arguing whether vision therapy will help with dyslexia or not. The answer is the same about agility and fixing a broken leg. It will help if the broken leg is part of the problem. So the answer is: ‘only if vision is part of the problem’. This is easily tested for, and very successfully treated. Unfortunately it is most often overlooked.
If you ever want to chat with a parent who has had to navigate these waters with a child, I have many families who are happy to share their stories.
- The testing for dyslexia and learning disabilities assumes that vision works fine.
- Vision is needed to do the testing (like the child needs their legs to do the agility test).
- Problems with vision will impact the diagnosis
- Even with a dyslexia diagnosis, if there are vision problems, then vision therapy can help.
So please have your child’s eye tracking tested by a developmental or neuro-optometrist regardless of a previous diagnosis. If their eyes track properly, then you’ve ruled it out. If it turns out to be a problem, then you may have a huge opportunity.