VISION AND LEARNING DISABILITIES IN CHILDREN
Our eye is essentially an extension of our brain with an estimation of over 60% of the brain's cognitive processes being from what the eye sees.
The eyes play a key role in every child’s development. It is recommended that a child undergoes eye examinations at reasonable intervals even as a newborn, and as the child grows older.
Based on the child’s age and the ocular and medical history in the family, the frequency and form of eye examination may vary. An eye examination for a child may involve any or all these exercises:
- General review of the extent of a child’s vision in terms of how visible and legible objects appear to them, via a Visual Acuity Test
- Vision screening, to examine and determine the child’s overall ocular health
- Alignment of both eyes and binocular vision exercises to ascertain if the two eyes are in sync in terms of vision.
Learning problems related with poor vision in children will cause them to have trouble reading and writing and may even affect their general daily cognitive performances as a child. This may in turn result in low self-esteem in some children.
What Are Learning Disabilities in Kids?
Learning disabilities are problems associated to a child’s ability to perform certain tasks such as listening, speaking, reading, writing. It is false to say learning disabilities are caused by eye problems. Also, children with learning disabilities do not have more vision challenges than children without learning disabilities. Rather, a learning disability is caused by problems with how the child's brain processes vision and sounds.
Causes of learning disabilities
Usually, the cause of learning disability is unknown. However, some of the risk factors that may be involved with a learning disability are:
- Positive family history of learning disability (hereditary)
- Physical trauma like a head injury or stress during the early years of a child's life
- Premature birth or poor embryological development
- Major problem to the central nervous system, such as an infection like meningitis.
- Poor diet or lifestyle choices like smoking by the mother during pregnancy
- Toxic or abusive environment for the child may sometimes lead to them later developing a learning disability.
After conception, during development in the womb, the fetus can be exposed to many positive and negative influences. Negative influences include the mental/emotional state of the mother, diet, and poor lifestyle choices including tobacco, alcohol, and both legal and illegal drug use. After birth, conditions that are negative to healthy development such as neglect, abuse or a stress-filled home environment can also lead to developmental delays in many areas.
Despite what some people think, poor vision, focusing problems, jerky eye movements, and crossed eyes do not cause learning disabilities.
Signs that a Child may have a learning disability
Children may not give a hint of a learning disability until they are enrolled in school and their teachers starts noticing one or two things. Some of the signs a child with learning disability may show includes:
- Reading difficulty with generally showing no interest in any learning activities involving reading or writing.
- Poor arithmetic reasoning ability_ poor mathematics performance.
- Kids with learning disability may feel withdrawn from playing and interacting with their age groups
- Kids with learning disability may exhibit general difficulty in discerning information and even expressing themselves
- Poor eyes and hand coordination
- Difficulty remembering little things such as their own toys
- Kids with learning disability may also have challenges differentiating right from left.
Examples of Learning Disability
Some of the common learning disabilities common in children are dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, and dyspraxia.
- Dyslexia: this type of disability can affect a normally intelligent kid. Some signs that may be noticed in a dyslexic kid is confusing similar letters or numbers, like calling 35- 53, 6- 9, can't differentiate top from pot. They also read and write slowly
- Dyscalculia: it is also known as 'math dyslexia'. It is a difficulty in a person's ability to discern number related problems and calculations.
- Dysgraphia: kids with this kind of learning disability have difficulty expressing themselves in writing. It is a type of neurological disorder that affects its duffer's motor ability.
- Dyspraxia: this is a type of learning disability that affects a child's physical coordination and is not dependent on a child's intelligence. Kids with dyspraxia usually have delay in walking or sitting during their developmental stages.
Like any other condition, early detection and treatment is what is best for learning disability. Hence, Parents should endeavor to spend more time and pay more attention to their kids so that when they show any sign of learning disability or poor vision, they can detect early and find solution to it.
- Constant engagement of kids by parents/ teachers is also advised.
- Key singing of nursery rhymes, showing them eye-catching objects, and generally making learning fun for them.
Any child that has shown signs of learning disability should be sent for an immediate evaluation by a pediatrician and a learning disability specialist.
Parents or guardians who have noticed any of these signs in their child should have a discussion with that child’s teacher to confirm their suspicions. An appointment with a pediatrician is also highly recommended for such child.
As already established that a learning disability is not due to eye problems, however, it is recommended that a comprehensive eye examination by an Optometrist is done to rule out any presence of refractive error (eye conditions that can be corrected with glasses) that may be mistaken for a learning disability because a child's inability to see well due to an uncorrected refractive error may also affect their learning activities.
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