Teachers are often one of the most valuable individuals to help a child discover that they may have a vision problem which is contributing to their difficulty to learn or difficulty learning to read.
Teachers have the advantage that they see many children in the learning environment and many times the teacher will perceive that something is not quite right.
You may make observations such as: the child having extreme difficulty keeping their place when reading, headaches while doing work within arms reach, avoids doing visual tasks, short visual attention span, difficulty copying from the board. If the student is struggling academically or acting out in appropriately in the classroom, teachers can alert parents that a potential vision problem needs to be ruled out.
How can I spot a child with vision problems? Download the Teacher's Checklist of Vision Problems and have your student take the Vision Symptom Checklist.
Vision problems were found in 67% of Canadian children (ages 6 - 12 years old) who were in an IPP program. There are different components of eye exam testing that can be (but are not routinely) performed. Click here for more details.
There is a high likelihood that a child who has already been diagnosed with a learning difficulty with whatever label description, in fact, has a visual perceptual or eye tracking dysfunction that is causing a roadblock in their remediation of learning.
Many of these developmental vision dysfunctions can be remediated through proper vision therapy and then the educators can then better implement their training of filling in the missing educational gaps.
Read about the 20/20 myth. 20/20 too often has been used as confirmation that a child's visual system is working effectively. This misinformation has caused many children to slip through the cracks of successful learning.
Watch this video (a vision experiment with four teachers) to understand why some of your students may struggle with reading.
The Toolbox Analogy
Imagine that we have delivered to a plot of land all of the necessary raw materials needed to build a house. Piles of wood, nails, screws, drywall, cinder blocks, plumbing supplies, electrical supplies, cabinets, doors, windows, roofing materials, etc. are all present in abundance. The child brings to that work site each day their toolbox. The tools in that toolbox have been acquired over the years based on the life experiences that child has had. Some children enter the worksite with a rather complete set of tools to cover most needs, while others have only the essentials or may in fact be missing even a core or fundamental tool. Fundamental or required tools might be considered to be a hammer, a saw, a screwdriver or a tape measure.
In general, schools assume two things. The first is that most children enter with the set of tools that will carry them through their academic career and that the fundamental set of tools that a child brings to school is fairly set or immutable. The child is placed into a series of courses such as Carpentry 101, Plumbing 101, and Electrical Systems 101. In Carpentry 101 they may begin with the simple tasks of measuring and marking lumber to be cut to length, how to start, drive, and set a nail, and making a cross-cut saw cut safely, accurately, and square. To a child coming to the workplace with a basic framing hammer, a handheld crosscut saw, and a Stanley 25 foot tape-measure these beginning classes may come rather easily. To a child missing one or more of these basic tools, failure to achieve basic "educational" goals may become evident rather early on.
Generally in the education system a child comes to the attention of their teacher before testing for a problem is initiated. To qualify for services their performance must have fallen to a certain measurable amount.
Many resourceful and smart children who are missing fundamental tools may find ways to get the job done although they are not using the proper tool. They might find a rock to use as a hammer or they might use a monkey wrench to hammer in the nails. The job gets done but it takes longer, the job isn't done as well and there may be some wear and tear on the child that would not have been present had the child used the proper tool for the job. However, the child, due to a lack of the appropriate developmental experiences is/was lacking the tool. This degree of compensating can often serve to mask the discovery of a missing fundamental tool for quite a while in a resourceful child.
Once the teacher realizes the child is having a problem, the school system will initiate a series of tests to identify the problems. Psychological educational testing often correctly identifies the general category of the problems, such as carpentry or plumbing but may fail to recognize that the lack of a tool may be the problem. Here is where a false assumption dooms the child to an intervention program that will actually work to embed the problem even more. How?
A hammerless child is labeled as "hammerless" or "hammer compromised." The system then looks for special education materials that have been shown to be able to be mastered by those without hammers. The idea has been that the child who does not have a hammer should not be penalized for not having a hammer and we should not ask them to do things that require hammers. Therefore a program has been conceived and produced in, for and by the school, which addresses hammerless children's needs.
The hammerless child will be given activities, which will not require them to use a hammer. Either they will now use screws and screw guns for everything or they will switch to learning to assemble prefab home kits. The child will advance through the rest of their courses but a fundamental tool and basic skill necessary to nearly any home building project will be missing, the ability to use a hammer. The false assumption was that once hammerless, forever hammerless.
The education system is not in the business of tools. They are in the business of tool usage. "Missing tool? Oh well you'll just have to learn to accept your hammerless condition and arrange things differently so that you don't encounter hammering demands in school life." Real life then becomes another matter.
The key factor in behavioral vision care is that our assumption is that the presence of a missing tool is only evidence of not having had the appropriate meaningful experience to have developed or acquired that tool. We are in the business of identifying the missing tools and then putting together treatment protocol. The purpose of which is to provide the child with the necessary meaningful experiences to acquire the tool.
In essence, we take the child shopping. We know that hardware stores exist. We know the fundamental classes of tools. We know the order which people generally acquire tools. One would not start their saw collection with learning how to use a coping saw or a compound miter saw. One starts with a hand held crosscut saw and learns by cutting basic lumber to length. A rip saw may follow. Then a circular saw, jig saw, table saw, band saw, coping saw etc. each experience being built on the prior knowledge base all which came from the hand held crosscut saw. This process of tool acquisition and attaining fundamental competence in the use of the skill is the domain of optometric behavioral vision care. We turn over to the school system a child who now possesses the correct array of tools to perform the tasks required of them. When the school system moves on to fundamentals of balloon framing houses or the proper method of trussing up a floor the child will have the tools necessary to execute the demands of the class, understand the concepts, and to use the proper tools for the proper job.
Behavioral vision care/Developmental Optometrists do not teach carpentry, plumbing, or wiring. Behavioral vision care/Developmental Optometrists do not teach reading, writing or mathematics. Behavioral vision care/Developmental Optometrists do identify missing tools and take the child shopping to acquire and gain competency with the new tools. Then, and only then, will the school system find a child who is ready to be taught using conventional methods and who will achieve in a variety of educational settings and following a variety of teaching methods.
Vision problems were found in 67% of Canadian children (ages 6 - 12 years old) who were in an IPP program. Eye-teaming deficits hindered these children's ability to stay focused ...
Click here to read more
Our program includes a once-weekly in-office 50-minute session of treatment with 20-30 minutes of home practice on the days that the child does not come to the office. Of course some more home practice may be helpful but we find that the 20-30 minutes assigned is adequate. We don’t see a need to use your valuable class time to address these concerns for an individual child. After families have successfully gone through our vision therapy program, we ask them if they feel that, now knowing what they know, if this is something that could be done in schools by well-meaning teachers or educational assistants. The consensus is no.
Teachers/schools are trained to look for accommodations to help the student. While accommodations do have their place in the classroom, accommodations don't develop the missing skill but rather tend to us other skills to compensate for the missing skill. When it comes to visual skill deficiencies, Calgary Vision Therapy is providing the experiences to develop the lacking or missing visual skills.
As part of our weekly treatment session, we also teach the home assistant the procedures that we need the child to be playing and practicing at home. In virtually every case where we had a non-parental assistant guide the home therapy, we consistently discovered the following difficulties:
• Many crucial items were missed when the information was passed from the assistant attending the teaching therapy portion of our weekly program to the non-parental assistant (such as a well-meaning resource teacher or occupational therapist assistant). This creates additional unnecessary work for our therapists and delays the progress of the child.
• Frequently the procedures were modified to "suit their current abilities" rather than allowing the child to fully experience and develop the skill being presented. Our vision therapists adjust the difficulty level of the procedures to suit each child's current ability. By modifying the procedures, it stunts the visual development growth that our therapists are achieving.
Now if you should want to look for group activities, particularly in the early grades (K-3) to do with your children, I can highly recommend the book, "Thinking Goes to School" by Furth and Wachs. This is published by Oxford Press and is available at www.oepf.org. This book details an educational curriculum and program for the early grades based on the Piagetian principles of learning.
Some children show this right away, but this is not to be expected. Typically the first change in the ability to sustain visual attention on near tasks begins around the 10th to 12th session of their treatment. Certainly by the 16th session or about four months into treatment I would expect the child to be attending much better than before, assuming of course that this was a problem before.
Generally this is not necessary although some children benefit from this if you stay fairly stationary in the front of your room. This is because with fewer children between you and the child there are less possible distractions for the child. As well, the volume of your voice and the size of your movements and gestures are larger, which helps the child in question attend better. If for any reason there is an optical reason that is causing a decrease in visual acuity, most frequently lenses will be prescribed to improve visual acuity to at least the 20/40 level, which should allow a child to see anything of importance from any place in your classroom.