October is Dyslexia Awareness Month!
I think it is important for me to start by outright saying that vision therapy does not treat dyslexia. According to the International Dyslexia Association, dyslexia is a “language-based learning disability and refers to a cluster of symptoms that result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading.” Because dyslexia is a problem with language, not vision, vision therapy is not a beneficial treatment option.
It is very common to think otherwise for several reasons. A functional vision disorder can be misidentified as dyslexia because they share many similar symptoms. Those with dyslexia struggle to read despite generally having normal to high intelligence. The same is also true of those with functional vision disorders. In both cases, their struggle with reading does not seem consistent with their cognitive skills in other areas.
Many parents come to us saying they think their child is dyslexic because they consistently reverse letters (such as b,d,p,q). In reality, this could actually be a visual processing disorder in which they struggle with laterality/directionality, which means they have trouble distinguishing right from left. It manifests itself in reversing their letters and/or numbers. This is relatively common in first grade children and younger. But if the problem persists past the second grade, they may have a visual processing disorder or dyslexia. The only way to know for sure is to get them evaluated by a developmental optometrist in order to first rule out a vision problem.
Functional vision disorders such as strabismus, convergence insufficiency, and accommodation insufficiency can cause slow, choppy reading. This happens because the attempt to compensate for these orders can cause major visual fatigue. An oculomotor dysfunction, which is the inability to accurately control eye movements, can cause one to skip words, lines, and words to appear jumbled and floating around on the page. These setbacks can often lead to poor reading comprehension as well. Dyslexia shares these same symptoms, making it increasingly difficult to determine what the exact issue is.
According to the International Dyslexia Association, other symptoms of dyslexia include difficulty with:
- Learning to speak
- Sounding out letters and words
- Recognizing commonly seen words
- Organizing written and spoken language
- Learning a foreign language
- Correctly doing math operations
- Remember certain facts
If your child is struggling with reading and learning and you are unsure what the cause is, it is important to first rule out a vision problem! You can do this by visiting a developmental optometrist for an evaluation. There is no one solution to dyslexia, but there are recommended treatment options such as multisensory reading programs that focus on using all the senses to learn. If you believe dyslexia may be the problem, have your child evaluated by a reading specialist and/or doctor as soon as possible!
-Emily Thompson, Vision Therapist