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When A Good Student's Grades Drop

5If your student who has always done well in school suddenly started bringing home poor grades, what would your reaction be? Assume he is not putting forth enough effort, is distracted or playing in class, or missing assignments because he doesn’t understand the work? If the child has always been stable and reassures you he’s trying his best, you might eventually ask if he can see the blackboard clearly.

Unfortunately, you likely won’t ask if he is having trouble reading or seeing up close, getting headaches or eyestrain doing schoolwork, losing his place while reading, or having trouble processing what he reads.

Since one 1 out of every 4 schoolchildren have a vision problem which affects their learning abilities, a vision evaluation is one of the first options you should consider for a child who struggles in school.

Bradley, age 10, was one such student. He’d always loved reading and done well in school. Suddenly he was disorganized and had trouble concentrating on his schoolwork. He began bringing home Cs and Ds, which he had never done before. He was daydreaming in class and developed a poor attention span. Enter the oft-misguided solution to learning problems today – Does he have ADHD? But Bradley also complained of headaches and being too tired to do homework. He was skipping words or re-reading them, often without understanding their meaning. He started having trouble remembering spelling words and doing word problems in math, even though he preferred math to subjects that required more reading.

After exploring several options, Bradley’s parents took him to an eye doctor specializing in evaluation and enhancement of reading vision – a developmental optometrist. We performed an in-depth evaluation of Bradley’s near and far vision skills and diagnosed him to have several conditions which affect reading vision. At least two of Bradley’s issues are very common:

  • Convergence Insufficiency (CI), which affects up to 13% of the U.S. population, is the inability or difficulty of the eyes to work together as a team for near or reading vision. Symptoms include headaches and eyestrain; blurry vision; poor memory, comprehension and attention span; and motion sickness.
  • Binocular Vision Dysfunction is not using the eyes together at the same time, often overusing one and suppressing the other. This causes many of the samesymptoms as CI.

Persons with either condition can pass a 20/20 standard eye chart test, which only tests distance vision. It is customary to be unaware of these vision problems, often going years undiagnosed, due to our natural inclination to adjust to vision deficiencies by adopting improper vision habits.

Bradley was prescribed eyeglasses to reduce his eyestrain and help his reading vision, and he began vision therapy with us. Vision therapy exercises train a person’s eyes to work together better at focusing and tracking words across a page, while improving other skills needed for reading and comprehension. After only eight sessions, Bradley was making all A’s and B’s in school and reported a dramatic decline in his symptoms.
For more information, contact our office so we can help!