Are Vision Problems Misdiagnosed As ADHD?

Vision problems can present with symptoms like those of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. If the function of the visual system is not evaluated by a Developmental Optometrist to determine if these symptoms are caused by vision deficiencies, a misdiagnosis of AD(H)D may occur. While a diagnosis related to vision deficiencies like Convergence Insufficiency can exist alongside an ADHD diagnosis, the treatment approach is different. A misdiagnosis can negatively affect your child’s success in school. It can also result in medication that does not address the root of the problem.


Recent studies show that school nurses do not attribute inattention and behavioral issues to vision problems. These children are more likely to get a diagnosis of attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).


Why does this happen? Here is a look at some of the reasons there is a misdiagnosis of vision problems as ADHD.



What Is ADHD?



Attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a condition that presents itself with difficulty in impulse control. It causes hyperactivity, fidgeting, difficulty paying attention, and learning difficulties.


Children with ADHD have difficulty paying attention to fine details as they work. This behavior is similar in children with vision problems, hence the misdiagnosis of children with vision problems.



Can ADHD Affect Your Child’s Vision?



There is a likelihood of this happening, and research shows a high risk of people with ADHD having visual problems. These include poor focusing, color perception, astigmatism, and convergence insufficiency.


An overlap of ADHD and vision problems can compound the symptoms and leave the child with little energy to function. It may also affect their developmental milestones.



How Do You Know There Is a Misdiagnosis?



Teachers and parents may notice that their children are hyperactive and inattentive. However, they rarely consider that the problem could be visual. The first thought is usually ADHD even though vision problems can also make it difficult for a child to pay attention in class.


Due to eyestrain, children with vision problems will fidget or have anxiety when you ask them to read. At this point, they may act out or have an outburst, unlike other times when activities do not require attention to detail. When you notice that your child has difficulty reading comprehensively and fluently, take them for an eye exam with a Developmental Optometrist.



Difficulty Reading and Writing



Functional vision requires more than visual acuity. The eyes need to fixate on words in a book or an object in their environment. When your child’s eyes do not work together, they may have convergence insufficiency. This causes vision problems that make it hard to read and write. Frustration can follow and manifest as outbursts and class disruptions.


You will notice that when they are reading, they skip lines. They may also rush through assignments to avoid double or blurry vision. When you force them to pay attention, they will complain of headaches and fatigue. Switching focus from the board to their books is a tiresome task for such children. It is easier to look away and daydream.



Finding a Solution and Treatment



Convergence insufficiency can be a stand-alone condition or a result of ADHD. When an optometrist finds that your child has this condition, they recommend vision therapy. It will help your child’s eyes to work together. Your child will improve their visual perception and start thriving in school.



For more on the misdiagnosis of vision problems as ADHD, call Clarendon Vision Development Center​​​​​​​ at (630) 323-7300 to reach our office in Westmont, Illinois. You can also call us to schedule a Functional Vision Evaluation or schedule online.

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