Vision Problems Can Masquerade as Learning Disabilities

For Learning Disabilities Awareness Month this October, the College of Optometrists in Vision Development is bringing attention to the fact that vision problems can often masquerade as learning disabilities.

"When a vision problem is at the root of a child's struggles with learning, it is often very correctable," shares Ida Chung, OD, FCOVD, President of COVD; "This is good news for parents and educators. Often years of struggling can be turned around with a program of optometric vision therapy."

It is important to understand that while our eyes take in visual information, that information is sent to the brain where it is processed. If the information that is sent to the brain is faulty, it can make learning very difficult.

While learning disability websites list a variety of accommodations that can help children with Visual Information Processing Disorders, it is important for parents to understand that these are signs that a correctable vision problem is playing a role in your child's learning challenges.

Many individuals with learning disabilities also have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). One of the signs that a vision problem may be contributing to one's learning challenges is a short attention span when it comes to reading and near work. This behavior could easily be mistaken for ADHD.

A study published in the November 2013 issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders states that "attention and internalizing problems improved significantly following treatment for Convergence Insufficiency." 

Convergence insufficiency is an eye coordination disorder which can make reading difficult and cause symptoms such as eye strain, double vision, loss of concentration, and frequent loss of place when reading and working up close, all which play a negative role in learning.

The National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health recently funded a 5-year, 8 million dollar study called the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial - Attention and Reading Study. This will be a national multi-center clinical trial that involves optometry, ophthalmology, psychiatry, and education in evaluating how this eye-teaming problem impacts a child's attention and reading performance. 

There are eight clinical sites participating across the United States and participants are needed. This means that this is an opportunity for parents to have their children receive optometric vision therapy by participating in this study. For information about the requirements and locations for the study visit: 

Research continues to show that optometric vision therapy is effective at resolving a variety of vision disorders that interfere with reading; specifically eye movement (tracking), eye teaming (eye coordination), visual motor skills, etc. 

"If your child continues to struggle with reading, it's time to see an optometrist who provides an in-office program of optometric vision therapy. Doctors who are members of COVD provide specialized testing to evaluate all of the visual skills required for academic success," states Dr. Chung.


"As part of our public awareness program, we are releasing a new Public Service Announcement for people to share through social media." In honor of Learning Disabilities Awareness Month, parents and educators are encouraged to watch this video and to visit COVD's website to learn more about how vision problems can masquerade as learning disabilities.