When your child is having difficulty reading or doing basic math, you worry about the possibility that behavioral problems or learning disabilities; however, the issue might be a learning-related vision problem. If the letters or numbers on the blackboard, in books or on a computer screen are difficult to see, simple schoolwork becomes complicated.

Other symptoms of learning-related vision problems include headaches, avoidance of classwork and reading, placing the head very close to assignments, difficulty with shapes, poor eye-hand coordination and excessive blinking or rubbing of the eyes.

When any of these symptoms show up, how you do test for related vision problems?

There are three types of vision problems related to learning:

Eye health and refractive problems:
Refractive errors are the problems we’re used to, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Luckily, these problems are easily detected with an eye chart and often treated by prescription glasses or contact lenses.

Functional vision problems:
Functional vision is more about how eyes work, rather than simply what eyes see. According to Dr. Irene L. Topor, associate professor of practice for the specialization in visual impairment at The University of Arizona in Tucson functional vision assessment “paints a picture” of how a child uses vision and what visual skills the child needs to develop further. For instance, if the cause of the function loss is one eye being weaker than the other, a patch may be prescribed to strengthen the weaker eye, says Topor. After the patch therapy is completed for a few days, a teacher who specializes in visual impairment can perform a functional impairment test, she says. The teacher can then help the child figure out how to perform the functions needed to do well in school.

Perceptual vision problems:
Visual perception is using the eyes and brain to form a mental picture of the words you see. Visual perception problems are generally diagnosed by a behavioral ophthalmologist through one of several standardized tests: the Test of Visual Perceptual Skills (TVPS), the Developmental Test of Visual Integration (VMI), Motor-Free Visual Perceptual Test (MVPT).
All of these problems can be diagnosed in a comprehensive eye exam. Dr. Ozzy Aaby recommends children’s eyes receive a thorough examination, in addition to the school vision screening, in order to confirm overall eye health as well as vision correction needs.

Parents should discuss vision problems with both your child’s eye doctor and teachers, in order to keep children focused in school.