October is National Learning & Development month, as well as National Dyslexia Awareness Month and National ADD/ADHD Awareness Month. While many educators and parents view learning and development in children as purely a brain activity, the eyes play an important factor in a child's education.
At every step of learning, the eyes are constantly involved since vision is one of the key components of both comprehending and retaining information on a subject. Specifically, we can break down eyesight as it relates to learning into three broad categories:
1) Visual Acuity - Sharpness of vision both in the distance and up close
2) Eye Teaming - The ability of the eyes to work together
3) Eye Motility - the ability of the eyes to move in certain ways
These three broad categories of eyesight must all be working at an effective and efficient level in order for a child to achieve his/her maximum potential when learning. So how do these three categories work in synergy to allow for learning? Let's take a look.
Visual acuity refers to an individual's ability to see clearly at a distance and up close. Obviously, if either of these are hindered, a student's ability to learn drastically decreases since the visual material is not legible. Often, children do not complain about reduced visual acuity (blurry vision) because they view their vision as normal. Reduced visual acuity can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
Eye teaming is the ability of the eyes to work together and is often referred to as binocular vision. Eye teaming also is responsible for "3D vision" or stereopsis. When eye teaming does not work properly; eyestrain, headaches and sometimes double vision can result. In children, these symptoms often manifest as disinterest in reading or learning, since a constant discomfort is felt when trying to read, write or focus on a given object. Eye teaming issues are dealt with through prescription glasses and sometimes through vision therapy.
Eye motility is the ability of the eyes to move in certain ways. In general, we categorize eye motility into two movements: 1) pursuits, which are smooth tracking movements and 2) saccades, which are quick jerking movements from point A to point B. Efficiency and efficacy of these two movements are vital for reading. Pursuits are used to read across the page and saccades are used to jump from line to line. When one or both of these are lacking, students often find reading and following along with lessons difficult. This in turn leads to frustration and disinterest. Eye motility issues can be fixed through vision therapy programs.
In conclusion, eyesight plays an important role in children's learning. Often, the underlying problem for a child diagnosed with a learning deficiency is actually related to vision. This is why it is vital to schedule school aged children for an eye exam once a year. Not only is eye health checked, but key components for effective learning and happiness are examined to ensure a positive growth experience while in school.
Schedule an appointment for your child with us today!
-Dr. Aaron Neufeld
Dr. Aaron Neufeld is the Chief Optometrist at Los Altos Optometric Group and primary author and editor of The EYE Digest.
To contact him with questions or make an appointment call: (650) 948-3700 or send him an email: firstname.lastname@example.org