October is dyslexia awareness month. As your vision-care professionals, we wanted to take a few minutes to talk about dyslexia and vision. Our hope is that every person impacted with dyslexia gets appropriate treatment that helps them achieve their goals at home, school, and work.
Dyslexia was first recognized in the 1890s. Dyslexia is the selective impairment of reading skills despite normal intelligence, sensory acuity, and instruction. This means that people with dyslexia have trouble with reading even though they are smart, their senses work, and they have good teachers.
While dyslexia is a reading disorder, it can also impact how a person processes visual information. A person with dyslexia may also have trouble with fine or gross motor skills including catching a ball or maintaining balance.
Many of the symptoms of dyslexia are also present in functional vision problems like convergence insufficiency, or poor eye teaming.
Because so many visual systems and skills are involved with reading, it is important that struggling readers are evaluated by a developmental optometrist who can check not only visual acuity (how clear things appear) but also functional vision (how the eyes work together to provide information to the visual processing centers of the brain.)
If the eyes have trouble working as a team, they may be sending bad or flawed information to the brain and words may appear to be floating or moving. If the eyes have difficulty maintaining focus up close, a person may fatigue quickly when reading or doing other close work. If the eyes have difficulty with tracking, one may lose place or skip words when reading, which ends up impacting reading comprehension.
If a vision problem exists, treatment may include glasses, vision therapy, or both. Often dyslexia and a vision problem are present at the same time. Vision therapy or therapeutic lenses alone do not treat learning disabilities or dyslexia. Instead, what vision therapy/performance lenses do is improve visual efficiency and visual processing. Then the person will be more responsive to educational instruction. By treating the vision problem, the learning strategies and interventions designed to alleviate dyslexia symptoms can be more effective.
Functional vision problems are very treatable. If your child has received a diagnosis or is being evaluated for dyslexia or any reading problems, please make an appointment for a comprehensive eye exam soon to also assess their visual acuity and functional vision. If a functional vision problem is identified, treatments such as vision therapy can be started while educational interventions are also addressed.