Does your child have reading or learning difficulties? Has your child been diagnosed with ADD/ADHD?
‘Research shows over 75% of children not achieving their potential at school have an undiagnosed vision problem. In fact, six children in every class have a vision problem.’
‘Children can pass a school eye chart test and still have undetected vision problems which are affecting their school work. The eye chart just checks a child’s sharpness of vision, but reading requires many other visual skills.’ www.visiontherapy.com.au
Recently I completed a Year 7 enrolment application form for my daughter, Lara. One of the questions made me stop and took me back two years to when Lara had just started Grade 3 and to a time when we hit a learning road block.
Lara started Prep brimming with eagerness and found learning to read pretty straightforward. In fact, she sailed along nicely.
In Grade 1, her teacher told me that Lara’s pen grip needed attention and we promptly had some occupational therapy which rectified the problem. Lara unfortunately missed a few weeks of school that year due to sickness and, as a result, started to find maths difficult.
As the year passed she did fine at school but was still struggling with numbers and mathematical concepts. We weren’t overly concerned; we just thought that maths wasn’t her ‘thing’ and perhaps she had missed out on some fundamentals because of her earlier absence when she’d been sick.
I also noticed she found it difficult to follow multiple instructions at once; at swimming lessons she couldn’t follow the coach’s instructions if there were multiple laps with different strokes. Something wasn’t adding up!
At the beginning of Grade 3, I noticed that when she read aloud she would often drop the first or last word on a line. I discussed my concerns with her class teacher and she suggested getting Lara’s hearing and sight tested as a starting point.
The audiologist did all the relevant tests, and although Lara had suffered from over a dozen ear infections as a youngster, all was fine and she didn’t have an auditory processing disorder – phew!
The next appointment was to check her vision. Apart from astigmatism in her right eye, her vision and eye health was fine, but then she had a Visual Information Processing Assessment, which tests for developmental delays in visual perception.
After an hour of testing I could tell that things weren’t too good. Lara had great difficulty with her visual analysis skills and with visual motor integration and visual spatial skills.
During the exam, she had trouble completing a basic shape jigsaw puzzle (as a little child she never wanted to do puzzles – once again, I thought it just wasn’t her ‘thing’). She had trouble reading down a column of numerals without using her finger as a guide, and had difficulty with rapid automatic naming of numbers.
It was explained to me that Lara had difficulty knowing where she was in space, so two dimensional work (especially maths problems on worksheets) would be extremely challenging for her.
The optometrist was surprised that Lara could read to the level she was and told me that Lara was partly relying on a good memory, and was putting in 100% effort and getting out 30% reward.
At this point, I felt dreadful; my child, without complaint, had been busting her gut trying to keep up with her classmates.
The good news is that after completing a ten week program of vision therapy, which included weekly visits to the vision therapist, (who was wonderful) and five sessions a week of ‘homework’ activities, things got much better! Most noticeable was the improvement in Lara’s hand eye coordination and her willingness to join in outdoor sports. She even had a go at card and board games at home, something she’d avoided previously.
Our story has a happy ending and we were lucky, but it makes me wonder if there are other children who are struggling, and are busting their guts or worse because they are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
I suppose the story I wanted to tell is that as a parent you know your child better than anyone. Be vigilant and trust your instincts.
You can do a ‘ten second test’ on www.visiontherapy.com.au or contact a behavioural optometrist if you have any concerns.
We saw Sally Doyle at Flying Fox Children’s Vision at the North Fitzroy Eye Centre.