"Your child may have a learning disability."
These words are shocking to any parent, even one who already suspects that their child may have a problem. But once the news is broken, most parents redouble their efforts to help their child learn and adapt to the challenges that learning disabilities place on the child and family.
Dyslexia. Attention Deficit Disorder. Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder. Even Autism.
Typical treatments involve extra classes and special training, medication, therapy, tutors, and more. A host of trained educators and mental health professionals provide a wide array of services for children diagnosed with dyslexia, ADD, ADHD, and other learning disabilities.
But what if your child really does not have a learning disability, but an underlying vision problem which makes it difficult to actually focus on close subjects such as written or printed material?
Check Vision First!
Even though their eyesight (visual acuity) is deemed to be OK at 20/20 (with or without corrective lenses) there are still a wide range of vision problems which may profoundly affect how your child sees words and writes. Eye focusing, eye teaming, eye movement, and perceptual delay issues may make it difficult for your child to spend a lot of time looking at the written word, despite even their strongest conscious efforts.
In the case of ADD and ADHD, educators focus on the behaviors (restlessness, lack of attention, frustration with learning) but perhaps miss the underlying causes. These same behaviors are often manifested by children with vision problems (VIGS) or problems with the Visual Information Processing System (VIPS)
The trick, of course, is determining the correct underlying causes of the behaviors and treating them appropriately.
One of the signature aspects of ADD and ADHD is excessive running and climbing, and a "go, go, go" type of attitude. Yet, different children all play at different speeds and have different energy levels... so this is not fool-proof.
When a child acts the same at home and school (go, go, go) the pendulum swings toward ADD/ADHD. When the child acts one way in school but differently in the home (and the parents are shocked at the difference) the pendulum swings the other way toward vision based problems.
School is structured so that learning is the primary focus. This means a tremendous amount of attention to close work like reading and writing. Children with vision deficits are simply reacting to the stress the visual system is experiencing at school, while at home the close visual work is not nearly as structured or frequent. TV and video games do not typically stress a child's visual system. A paragraph of small print can.
PARENTS: ADD and ADHD are medical conditions that describe a set of sypmtoms - not a disease. They are supposed to only be used in the absence on any/all other causes for the behavior (medical term is ex anopsia). So, please rule out any vision problems before committing to an ADD / ADHD medication treatment for your child.