When some Optometrists test a child with learning problems, the result often conveyed to parents is something along the lines of, “This child has 20/20 vision”, or “This child sees perfectly well.” The underlying implication is that, if a child can see, they should be able to learn, but anyone who has worked with learning disabilities as long as I have realizes that nothing could be further from the truth!
Learning and Vision are Related
Let’s be clear from the outset, sight and vision are different. Whether a child can see the print or not; that is sight. But vision goes way beyond this, because vision is not only how a child sees, but how they interpret, understand and absorb the visual information.
Let me illustrate. I am a fairly intelligent guy, university trained and quite experienced in life. My distance vision is good (20/20 at least), yet on a recent trip to Singapore, I saw a street full of signs in Chinese, and I could not understand ANY of them! Not even one. In fact, I could not even attempt to pronounce them. I saw them, but I don’t understand Chinese.
In a sense, I don’t have the code for the written Chinese language. I can see it, but I cannot understand what the symbols mean. I can even copy it, but it is without meaning to me. And for many children with learning problems, they experience something similar with English words.
Improve Vision and Learning Can Improve Too!
If a child sees the print, I cannot really improve their sight. But if a child struggles to hold their focus, or coordinate their eyes as a team, or if they cannot remember the code or symbols, these we can help with. If a child cannot move their eyes efficiently, misreads or misunderstands words, or even if they struggle to concentrate on reading, these we can help.
If we can help the child to view information and absorb it comfortably and efficiently, then we can certainly improve their reading, writing and spelling.
This is the domain of a behavioural optometrist, and this the profession that I have passionately pursued, because I want to make a difference in the lives of children with learning disabilities.
If we can help a child with their vision, as opposed to just their sight, then we can help them overcome incredible odds when it comes to learning.
Improving vision can often be the key to solving learning problems, and my joyous task as a behavioural optometrist is to help children improve their vision and learning together.