ADHD stands for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders seen in childhood. ADHD has something of a bad reputation, but it is hugely misunderstood. It is also sometimes confused with ADD – which is the same condition, but without the hyperactivity element. Instead, children and adults with ADD often appear inattentive and in a daydream-like state. ADD sometimes goes unnoticed because the symptoms can be less obvious.
Unfortunately, its prevalence in school-aged children also means that ADHD is commonly misdiagnosed too. All too often, people assume that a child has ADHD when in fact, they are experiencing vision problems.
The trouble is that many of the symptoms of ADHD are also the same or very similar to behaviors that are displayed by children when they are experiencing problems with their vision. These include:
Many people are surprised to learn that vision problems can affect behavior, but this is a very common occurrence in children. This is primarily because kids with vision problems usually try and distract people around them from the difficulties that they are experiencing. All too often, the easiest and best way to do this is to develop what is perceived as negative behaviors, such as disrupting their peers, zoning out in class, or moving around so that they can avoid doing the tasks that they are set. All too often, these are seen as ‘naughty’ behaviors, when really, the child is embarrassed about the struggles that they face with learning and are simply attempting to avoid addressing them. In many cases, the child may not even be aware that it’s a vision problem that they have, and instead, they feel silly or stupid for being unable to complete the work.
The good news is that any underlying vision problems can be diagnosed and resolved if parents and teachers are made aware that the symptoms the child is experiencing are just as likely to do with the child’s eyesight. If a child is exhibiting signs of ADHD, we strongly advise that they are assessed by a certified optometrist first, before exploring the ADHD route. This assessment can pick up on everything from basic refractive errors like near or farsightedness that could be causing blurred vision, to more complex visual conditions, such as binocular vision dysfunction.
Binocular Vision Dysfunction, or BVD for short, is a condition that occurs when the eyes don’t naturally work in perfect synchronization, and instead, the muscles around the eyes and the brain work incredibly hard to create a single, clear image. This strain can cause many of the problems associated with, or that lead to, ADHD symptoms. This includes eye fatigue, eye pain, attention difficulties, double vision, and more. Since there is no way of telling if someone has BVD just by looking at them, a child who is affected is almost certainly unaware of the condition.
With the right help and support, it’s possible to address virtually any visual issue. If your child is exhibiting behaviors that you believe could be signs of ADHD, rule out vision problems by scheduling an appointment with your eye doctor today. Call the Bernstein Center for Visual Performance in White Plains, New York at 914-682-8886.