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An Important Step to Solving Reading Difficulties

01/22/2015 12:56PM ● Published by Hood Magazine

Photo courtesy of Kristi Shanks Photography

by Dr. Angela Gulbranson, OD, Visions Eye Care and Therapy Center 


Most parents find out their children have vision problems after trying a variety of interventions and searching for help for years. In many cases, parents have already spent thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars trying to help their children with learning by the time they find out that a vision problem is contributing to their difficulties.

When a student struggles with reading and learning it is important to first rule out the possibility of a vision problem. Often this can be an eye coordination problem, which means that your child will pass most vision screenings in school and even at the pediatrician’s office. Vision screenings typically test for how clearly one can see the letters on the eye chart (“20/20”), which is only one of more than 17 visual skills required for reading and learning.

Most children think that everyone sees the same way they do, so they don’t know if they have a vision problem or not. The way they tell you is by their behavior.

According to Dr. Linda Silverman, an educational psychologist who has worked with gifted children for over 40 years, “A high Verbal IQ combined with a Performance IQ that is 20 points lower should signal the need for an optometric evaluation.”

Further, in The Psych 101 Series: Giftedness 101 by Dr. Silverman, she writes: “Large discrepancies between VCI (verbal comprehension) and PRI (perceptual reasoning) are often misinterpreted as signs of abnormal brain functioning (e.g., Nonverbal Learning Disorder). Visual processing weaknesses need to be ruled out and visual remedies sought before diagnosing a child with a more serious Nonverbal Learning Disorder” (Silverman, 2001).

It is vital that parents and educators know the signs and symptoms of a vision problem. The five most common signs that a vision problem may be interfering with your student's academic success are:

  • Skips lines, rereads lines
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Homework takes longer than it should
  • Reverses letters like “b” into “d” when reading
  • Short attention span with reading and schoolwork

If your child has any of the above symptoms, he or she may have a fully correctable vision problem. Please don’t assume that because the results of the last vision screening were good that your child does not have a vision problem. If reading is difficult and homework takes longer than it should, be sure your child has all the visual skills required for reading and learning. For more information, visit

Education, Health reading vision