Reading is a very complex process that requires many areas of the brain to work in harmony to allow us to turn these small shapes we call letters and words into meaningful symbols. It is no wonder that many children and even some adults struggle with the process of reading. It also makes sense that the processing and coordination of our visual system which plays a critical role in our reading ability can often interfere with this basic and critical aspect of our daily lives.
From a vision standpoint, reading requires 4 basic areas of function.
1. Visual Perception
The problem is that even though children can experience words blurring and doubling on the page when they read, they often don’t know how to explain these symptoms, and many times assume it is just normal. As parents, we often do not know what questions to ask our children about their vision and assume that if they pass the school vision screening or a vision screening at the doctor’s office then their vision must be okay. In other words, we assume that if our children can read small letters at 20 ft one eye at a time, then they must have the vision needed to read. While these screenings are important in catching obvious reduced vision, they do little to assess how our children’s eyes function for 5-6 hours a day during demanding near visual activity.
Difficulties in the function and coordination of our vision are not rare. Some studies show that as many as 1 in 4 children may have a vision problem that is impacting their learning. Other studies show that over 50% of those children in special education struggle with vision problems. Early intervention and increased awareness are the best defense against missing these treatable vision problems.