Many parents mistakenly assume that if their children have excellent eyesight, their visual system is functioning normally. Yet even if children have 20/20 vision, they may experience problems with their functional vision — how the eyes and brain work together to perform many everyday tasks.
Being aware of your child’s functional vision problems and addressing them is vital because well developed visual function means the eye and brain are communicating effectively. This is key to learning in class and throughout life. Functional vision problems can leave children feeling frustrated, cause difficulties with maintaining concentration and hinder their ability to reach their potential.
Symptoms of Functional Vision Problems
Children who have a visual function problem may:
- Frequently rub their eyes
- Experience persistent headaches
- See double images
- Seem overly fatigued
- Cover one eye in the classroom, especially while reading, and doing homework
- Tilt their head to see
While reading, they may:
- Read slower than their classmates
- Have reduced reading comprehension
- Lose their place on the page
- Hold written material or a digital screen too close to their faces
- Avoid reading altogether
Problems with functional vision may force children to compensate by covering one eye or tilting their head to avoid the symptoms and make a task easier.
Such struggles cause fatigue of the eyes and body, along with headaches.
Possible Causes of Functional Vision Problems and How to Address Them
Your children’s functional vision requires the following visual skills. During a comprehensive visual function examination we will check for:
Convergence. Both eyes looking at and focusing on a nearby object, such as a book or computer screen
Tracking. Both eyes moving together as a task demands, such as following the words across a page or the arc of a basketball shot
Accommodation. Both eyes maintaining focus on an object as it moves closer or farther away
Alignment. Both eyes properly lining up so that they see the same object and send the same image to the brain
Fortunately, we can get your child back to enjoying school, reading and other activities. Bring your child in for an eye exam with Dr. Sophie Jobin, who also will conduct a comprehensive examination for functional vision. This test is different from the standard vision screening your child likely receives in school, and is more extensive than a regular eye exam.
If we detect the shortfalls mentioned above, we’ll recommend vision therapy and then prescribe a customized program. Vision therapy is a month-long program made up of in-office and at-home exercises. These exercises, when done regularly and diligently, will significantly improve your child’s convergence, tracking, accommodation, and alignment, and get their visual functioning where it needs to be to enjoy daily activities and succeed in school.
When that happens, expect your child to request many more trips to the library!
Eye Health Centre provides vision therapy for children with functional vision challenges from St. Albert, Edmonton, Spruce Grove, St. Albert, and throughout Alberta.