Monday, August 31, 2009

Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision

In a joint policy statement dated July 27, 2009, “Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision,” the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and the American Association of Certified Orthoptists set out recommendations for identifying and treating dyslexia, a language-based disorder.

The statement went on to say:

  • While vision problems can affect learning, vision problems are not the cause of learning or reading problems, including dyslexia
  • Children with suspected learning problems should receive individualized, evidence-based evaluations and treatments
  • Most experts believe that “dyslexia” is a language-based problem
  • There is no valid evidence that children participating in vision therapy are more responsive to educational instruction than children who do not participate

What does this mean for parents and children?

Learning and reading are complex and therefore when problems are suspected, it is important that diagnostic evaluations consider all of the possible causes and contributors. Assessments need to be individualized, and not limited to one system, like vision or hearing. Of course this approach applies to any problem, not just learning. For example, if you have difficulty walking, you would never ask someone to just examine your knee, even though knee pain may be one of your symptoms.

As the parent of a child with complex learning differences, I know the frustration and the search for that “magic bullet” or “anything that might help." But we all have limited resources and so, it is important to make the best choices that we can based on the best information available. And the best evidence available is that eye exercises, behavioral vision therapy, or special tinted filters or lenses do not improve educational performance.