Vision and Learning
LEARNING-RELATED VISION SKILLS
Scientists estimate that in the visual system alone, there is more than a million channels from the eyes to the brain. These same channels bombard the brain with one hundred million bits of information per second. Vision is indeed a complex process. Just as complex ls the relationship between vision and learning.
Most classroom learning comes either wholly or partially through the visual system. Therefore any interference in this system may affect a person’s ability to live up to his or her learning potential.
IMPORTANCE OF VISUAL SKILLS
Basic visual skills are present to some degree in all children. However, it is essential that these skills be develop to certain levels by the time the child enters school. If not. the Child is behind the day he starts school. Problems in some areas may make it difficult for a child to learn, whereas, problems in other areas may prevent a child from becoming efficient at a particular task. Visual perceptual disorders not only make it difficult to organize and store visual information, but also to develop concepts as well.
PEDIATRIC VISION EXAMINATION
The pediatric vision examination is an attempt to determine basic visual function.
In addition to eye health, the optometric examiner is concerned that vision be as clear as possible. This means that REFRACTIVE ERRORS such as myopia (nearsightedness).
Hyperopia (farsightedness), or astigmatism should be corrected.
Evaluating the BINOCUIAR COORDINATION of the two eyes is essential. Such tests will insure that both eyes work well together with minimum of effort. Any visual skill that requires excessive effort may result in reduced performance.
FOCUSING ABILITY must be adequate so that it may be used for extended periods of time with no blurring or discomfort. Focusing must be flexible enough to allow attention to be shifted to any distance effortlessly – such as from the blackboard to a book, to the teacher, and then back again to the book.
EYE MOVEMENT skills are extremely important and play a significant role in early learning problems. Research has shown that there is a high degree of eye movement control present at birth. An infant will aim his eyes toward objects that move, are bright, or of certain special patterns. These movements are not completely voluntary, but are dependent on the physical characteristics of the stimulus itself. However, in school, the youngster must be able to selectively control eye movements to objects that the teacher feels are important.
Distractibility may be due to the inability to override earlier behavior and voluntarily maintain eye control.
In addition to basic pediatric vision testing, neuropsychological tests may provide insight into how a child interprets visual information. It is imperative that the child be able to discriminate form so that he can differentiate between various letters and words.
An awareness of right and left spatial orientation (a.k.a. laterality/directionality) is critical for the prevention of letter reveals and in learning to read. Some children are mistakenly diagnose as having ”dyslexia” when, in fact, their problem is deficient laterality/directionality skills.
The child must develop a strategy for picking out important aspects of an object from its background material. This is known as figure-ground discrimination. The child must all learn to visually sequence materials so that he can organize his environment. Without such skills, the child may appear distracted and disorganized.
The child must have adequate visual closure. This is the ability to form a complete ”mental picture” using only limited visual clues.
Visualization is an ability which we all use in order to remember desired material as well as to formulate higher concepts.
Eye-hand coordination (visual-motor integration) skills are required both in athletics and in the classroom. Without adequate skill In this area, handwriting is difficult and peer relationships may deteriorate since the child cannot participate equally with his friends in many games.
Auditory-visual integration, as well as integration of all the senses is imperative for proper performance. If a child cannot properly integrate information from the various senses, he may require input to several senses before he understands. He may have to see it, hear it, and touch it before he understands.
Since neither parents nor teachers can fully observe how a child’s visual abilities are developing, it does require special testing. Once deficient areas are identified, an individualized therapy program can be designed to correct existing anomalies. Some children may also respond to a “shotgun” approach; review and train all necessary visual skills in sequential steps. As visual skills are developed, the child’s visual learning process ultimately becomes dominant. He then is ”visually ready” for school, where approximately 85 percent of all he will learn will be acquired through the visual system.
Vision therapy does not replace the educator or educational system. The goal of vision therapy is to develop visual abilities so that the child can benefit fully from classroom instruction. It is to provide the child with visual skills necessary to meet the demands placed on him or her by society.
SYMPTOMS OF VISUAL DIFFICULTIES
The following is a partial listing of symptoms that may indicate visual involvement:
- BLURRED VISION
- DOUBLE VISION OR GHOST IMAGES
- WORDS BLUR TOGETHER
- LETTER AND/OR WORD REVERSALS
- FREQUENT TRANSPOSITION OF NUMBERS SUCH AS “15” FOR “51
- LOSES PLACE WHEN READING
- TENDENCY TO OMIT SMALL WORDS WHEN READING OR WRITING
- CONFUSES SMALL WORDS
- EXCESSIVE AMOUNT OF GUESSING WHEN PRESENTED WITH VISUAL TASKS
- AVOIDANCE OF NEAR WORK
- SLOW TO LEARN VISUALLY-ORIENTED MATERIAL