Some children with learning difficulties exhibit specific behaviors of impulsivity, hyperactivity, and distractibility. A common term used to describe children who exhibit such behaviors is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Undetected and untreated vision problems can elicit some of the very same signs and symptoms that are commonly attributed to ADHD. Due to these similarities, some children with vision problems are mislabeled as having ADHD.
A recent study by researchers at the Children's Eye Center, University of San Diego, uncovered a relationship between a common vision disorder, convergence insufficiency, and ADHD.
"[C]hildren with convergence insufficiency are three times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than children without the disorder [...] patients diagnosed with ADHD should also be evaluated for convergence insufficiency and treated accordingly."
- Dr. Granet of the Children's Eye Center
In school, children with ADHD often have difficulty focusing. They may also fidget or squirm in their seat, appear careless in their work, and/or fail to follow through on instructions.
Does this sound familiar?
As you learned above, functional vision problems in children can produce a similar set of symptoms. In fact, the overlap is so profound and distinctive that we’ve compiled a chart comparing the symptoms side by side.
*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s shortened form of ADHD criteria based on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5)
**American Optometric Association
ADHD is a relatively common disorder for kids to suffer from, so when a child presents with the typical symptoms, their doctor may be quick to diagnose it as the cause. However, a number of vision disorders have many of the same symptoms as ADHD. This can result in a child being prescribed medication as a cure, when what they really need is vision correction. If a child has any of the following symptoms, it could be due to ADHD or a vision problem (or both), which is why a correct diagnosis can be tricky:
Due to the similarities in symptoms, if your child is suspected of having ADHD, it is wise to also get them tested for a vision disorder.
Call Calgary Vision Therapy to schedule a Visual Information Processing Evaluation.
When a child has problems with their functional vision, certain visual skills become lacking, which results in symptoms like those of ADHD.
Functional vision is how your complete visual system, including your eyes, brain and the visual pathways between them, work together to make sense of the world around you, and help you understand and interact with your surroundings. It allows you to see objects with depth and dimension (like a ball, for example), and understand how to interact with it (catch it).
Problems with functional vision means the eyes and brain do not work together properly and can result in difficulty with focusing, depth perception, tracking skills, reading comprehension, hand-eye coordination and more. The symptoms of these vision issues, such as loss of concentration, not paying attention in class, rushing through work with careless mistakes, poor sports performance, etc., are often confused with those of ADHD. Therefore, getting your child evaluated for functional vision disorders can help you determine the best course of treatment.