Part 2: Why Reading is so Important

If there is one area of education that often concerns parents and teachers the most it is reading. We live in a world where being able to read the words on a page clearly and understand what we read is essential to our learning and our future. It’s undeniably a lifelong skill. As a teacher I remember being mystified at times by the few students I had over the years that continued to struggle with reading through the end of third grade. Some students could tell you every single detail about a story if it was read to them, yet couldn’t read on their own. Listening is a very valuable skill, yet so is reading.  We used to say that third grade was a pivotal year for students because they were transitioning from ‘learning to read’ to ‘reading to learn.’ This step in independence is not easy for some, especially if the student, teachers, and parents are putting in extra effort to make independent reading happen and something still isn’t clicking. Maybe these issues will go away on their own, but what if they don’t?

 

Common Reading Difficulties

  • Being able to listen to the story and answer questions about it accurately, but couldn’t read the print themselves
  • Often losing their place when reading, which led to losing their attention easily
  • Skipping words or entire sentences
  • Spending so long trying to read a sentence and make out the words that they had no idea what they just learned
  • Having the ability to make a picture in their head of what is happening in the story
  • Matching the letter or blend to its sound to say words fluently
  • Not being able to find the sentences on the page they volunteered to read aloud

 

 

Reading and Vision Therapy

If I had known about vision therapy I would have asked those students a few questions. 

  1. Do the words seem blurry or fuzzy to you? If yes this could be an accommodation problem. This means the eyes are having trouble maintaining clear focus. 
  2. Are the words moving or overlapping? This could be an eye teaming problem which has to do with the eyes working together to monitor spacing and depth. 
  3. Are you having difficulty keeping your place on the page? This may be an eye tracking problem where the eyes cannot maintain focus while moving to read along a page or following something that is moving. 
  4. Can you make a movie of the story in your head? If not, this may be a visual perception problem and this may impact comprehension and retention. 

What if this is how you saw things when attempting to read? Would you enjoy reading? It’s important to understand that a pair of glasses will NOT fix this issue.

 Vision therapy may be the answer.

Part 1: My Road to Vision Therapy

It is still a shock to me that if I had the knowledge I do now about the visual system and how the brain takes in information, I could have spared some of my students’ continuing struggles. Before 2 months ago I had never heard of the words “vision therapy,” nor even knew that vision was different from someone just needing eyeglasses. As a third grade teacher for 5 years, I figured that with the school screenings we had each year, reminding a student to actually wear the glasses they “forgot” in their backpack, or contacting a parent whose child said they couldn’t see well satisfied their eye needs and any further struggles they had were unrelated.

Now I see things differently, no pun intended. Every parent and teacher wants a child to use his/her God given gifts and abilities to reach full potential. Though everyone will struggle at some point in their lifetime, it is nice to have some extra help along the way, that’s where vision therapy comes in.  I left the classroom behind this summer and began my new journey as a vision therapist. I can say I wish I could check in with some of my past students. Perhaps some of them are doing very well now, others may still encounter the same challenges…I wonder if vision therapy could help.

This will be the first in a series of posts I make about some of the struggles I observed among students from this new perspective. I will go into more detail on some of the reading, writing, math and general challenges I witnessed as a teacher. 

What is Binocular Vision Dysfunction (BVD)?

Before discussing BVD, it is important to understand what binocular vision is. Bi- means both and -ocular means eyes, so binocular vision  means seeing with both eyes. In their post about binocular vision, Vivid Vision¹ discusses how the brain receives separate signals from both eyes, and combines them together in order to see. We can generally coordinate our eye movements when both eyes are well-functioning. Additionally, both eyes see slightly different visual fields, which is why we have depth perception. When the eyes are functioning well this all works seamlessly, but when the eyes do not properly align or team, a number of uncomfortable symptoms can occur. 

 

According to the Dizziness and Headache Optometry Center², binocular vision dysfunction is “…an ocular condition that occurs when the eyes don’t align properly with one another”. Symptoms of BVD result when our brain tries to correct or compensate for this misalignment, which can take a substantial amount of effort. 

Types of BVD³

  • Vertical Heterophoria
    • A vertical misalignment of the eyes
  • Esophoria or Exophoria
    • Tendency for the eyes to drift inward (eso) or outward (exo) during certain tasks
  • Convergence Insufficiency
    • The inability to turn the eyes inward and keep single vision at a near point
    • The #1 cause of eye strain
  • Convergence excess
  • Divergence excess
  • Divergence insufficiency

 

Signs and Symptoms of BVD

  • Double vision or blurred vision
  • Fatigue when reading or doing computer work
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Nausea or motion sickness
  • Poor depth perception
  • Pain in the eyes, neck, back, or face
  • Head tilt
  • Headaches or migraines with near work
  • Anxiety in crowds or large spaces
  • Restless sleep
  • Difficulty with comprehension and attention

 

How Vision Therapy can help treat BVD

In his editorial piece “The Binocular Vision Dysfunction Pandemic”, Dominick M. Maino, OD, MEd, FAAO, FCOVD-A writes that “…Evidence based medicine has shown that the best and most efficacious treatment for convergence insufficiency (a type of binocular vision dysfunction) is office-based optometric vision therapy”. He describes how most other binocular vision dysfunction disorders would also benefit most from vision therapy.

 

Dr. Maino provided plenty of support for his findings through textbooks, case reports, studies, and other qualified individuals: “Dennis Levi, OD, PhD, Dean of the Optometry School at Berkeley, noted that perceptual learning (vision therapy) is a quite successful intervention if it is intensive, engaging and appropriately challenging”.

 

Those who have binocular vision issues due to brain injuries, autism, or other developmental, genetic, or intellectual disabilities can also greatly benefit from vision therapy. 

 

If you suspect you or your child may have Binocular Vision Dysfunction, contact our office to schedule an appointment at  

https://www.visualintegrationcenter.com/request-appointment/ 

 

 

Sources:

Vivid Vision

https://www.seevividly.com/info/Binocular_Vision

Dizziness and Headache  https://www.dizzinessandheadache.com/blog/what-causes-binocular-vision-dysfunction.html#:~:text=Binocular%20vision%20dysfunction%20is%20an,are%20associated%20with%20the%20condition 

https://www.dizzinessandheadache.com/binocular-vision-dysfunction.html

The Binocular Vision Dysfunction Pandemic

https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.covd.org/resource/resmgr/ovd41-1/editorial_binocularpandemic.pdf

What is Vision Therapy?

Vision Therapy is a specialized field of optometry that works on developing and enhancing basic visual skills, therefore allowing vision to become more comfortable and efficient. Furthermore, vision therapy positively influences vision thinking skills by improving eye-brain connections. 

What We Treat

At our office, we provide treatment for a variety of vision issues through the use of specific procedures programmed by Dr. Gates. Examples of vision issues include

  • Amblyopia (lazy eye)
  • Strabismus (eye turn)
  • Blurred or double vision
  • Eye tracking or teaming
  • Eye-body coordination 
  • Visual thinking and information processing

Before beginning therapy, Dr. Gates will perform evaluations to determine the best course of action for the patient. During a patient session, Dr. Gates and the vision therapists work together with the patients on activities that target their specific visual needs. 

What Vision Therapy Can Do for You

    • Reduce or eliminate visual deficiencies
    • Improve work and classroom performance
    • Aid in reading and writing skills
    • Aid in perceptual skills
    • Aid in attention and focusing
    • Relieve symptoms like eye strain or fatigue, headaches, or stress through the use of light therapy
  • Overall, improve integration of the visual system with the body and mind

How Do I Know If Vision Therapy Is Right for Me or My Child?

According to COVD.org, 1 in 10 children have a vision problem significant enough to impact learning, and normal eye screenings can miss up to 50% of visual problems. Eyeglasses, medication, and surgery can sometimes help visual issues, but are not always the answer to improving basic visual skills.

vision therapy learning reading

If you suspect you or your child may need vision therapy, contact our office to schedule an appointment at: https://www.visualintegrationcenter.com/request-appointment/ 

Explore some common symptoms caused by vision problems here: https://www.covd.org/page/Symptoms 

Check out our blog post “Vision Therapy is Not Just for Kids” to learn why vision therapy can benefit everyone: https://www.visualintegrationcenter.com/vision-therapy-is-not-just-for-kids/ 

What is Your Learning Style?


Did you know that there are different ways of learning?

There are 3 main learning styles. Everyone is going to learn slightly differently. Knowing how you or your child learns best gives you the tools to help you to succeed.

The 3 main learning styles are:

Auditory: Learning by hearing and listening.

Visual: Learning by reading or seeing pictures.

Tactile: Learning by touching and doing.

All individuals will be a combination of each of these. You will have some ways of learning that will be easier for you and some that will be more challenging. An example would be an individual who is 65% tactile, 25% visual, and 10% auditory.  So to support their most appropriate mode of learning, they should be encouraged to move and be physically involved in the learning. The auditory score being so low means that it is a struggle for this individual to learn just from someone talking or listening to something. They may have to work a lot harder to learn using only an auditory-style of learning. However if they were able to include tactile or visual aspects, this may allow for easier learning. 

If this individual were listening to a lecture, and taking notes, they may struggle to retain a lot of the information being given. However, if they color code or draw pictures in their notes that may help them to better understand and remember what is being said. Then they can review the notes later and will have the visual clues in the colors and pictures added into the notes.

Do you know how you/your children learn best?

Would you like to? Click HERE to answer a 20 question Questionnaire, where there are no right or wrong answers. The website will break down what percent out of 100 you are with each of the three styles of learning.

After you finish the questionnaire the website will explain each one in more detail as well as give examples of ways to learn more efficiently. Below are a few examples of ways to utilize your preferred learning style to your benefit, by Dr. Michael W. Kirst of Stanford University.

Visual– Draw pictures and diagrams in the margins while reading and write out questions you are working on. Underling and highlight text as you read and make flashcards for studying (use different colored cards). Copy over your notes to help with recall. Preview a chapter before reading it by first looking at the pictures and section headings.

Auditory – Listen to the words you read and read aloud or talk through the information. Record lectures, tutoring and study group sessions, etc. Make up and repeat rhymes to remember facts, dates, and names. Study in groups and particulate in class discussions and debates. Have a friend or classmate quiz you on vocabulary words and recite the word and definition out loud frequently. After you read a section, summarize it out loud.

Tactile/Kinesthetic – Walk around as you read and listen to recordings of lectures and notes. Engage your fingers while studying by tracing words and re-writing sentences to learn key facts. If you have a stationary bicycle, try reading while pedaling and studying with music in the background. Try squeezing a Nerf ball or bouncing a foot on the floor.


Just because you know your learning style does not automatically mean you will be able utilize it to its fullest potential. In our office we see people with a wide range of visual difficulties. Quite a few of our patients could be primarily visual learners due to the way their brain is wired. However if the eyes are not working quite right it can greatly impact the ability to learn at the highest potential.