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Dyslexia & Vision

Behavioural Optometrists Can Help 
But They Don’t Treat Dyslexia or Autism

What they do try to improve, through the application of proven scientific principles and therapeutic modalities, is the underlying and concurrent vision problems that are not helping the child or person with these conditions to achieve their potential. 

The official position of the College of Behavioural Optometrists and Optometry Australia is that optometrists do not diagnose or treat Autism or Dyslexia. They do however have the proven professional capability, and evidence based practices for management and treatment of concurrent vision problems in kids with learning disabilities. And it’s now becoming more clear that these children have a greater incidence of problems than the rest of the population

Children with dyslexia and autism should see a qualified and experienced optometrist. Every child should. That has to be better for the kids?

A Useful Model

A neat way to illustrate the relationship between dyslexia and vision was published by Dr John Griffin in 1997 (Figure 1)[i]. The UK College of Optometry explains, “A general reading problem due mainly to vision problems, such as high, uncorrected hyperopic astigmatism would fall into circle 1. An individual with dyslexia and a concurrent vision problem would fall into area 4. From the diagram, it can be seen that optometric evaluation would be useful for those people who fall into circle1 and in particular areas indicated by and in particular areas indicated in Figure 1 by 4, 5 and 7.”


[i] . Griffin et al. (1997). Optometric Management of Reading Dysfunction. Butterworth Heinemann, Newton

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Improving Vision

Improving vision improves function in all people. For those affected by dyslexia or autism there will also be an improvement. It is easy to  misunderstand what is going on and to interpret the changes as improvement in the primary condition, but quite simply it is an improvement in vision effectiveness. This is no different to any other person with a vision problem. It just happens that this child or person also has dyslexia and the vision deficiency is not helping at all!

Dyslexics Have Vision Problems Too

2 in 10 (or 16%) of dyslexic kids have vision problems (1). These  vision problems occur 50% more frequently than in the general it appears that we have reason to be concerned about these children.

Clearly we have to be careful about what we mean when we discuss these issues, but it is obvious that there is a significant incidence of vision problems in both dyslexic and normal kids that requires intervention.

(1) Alexandra L. Creavin, Raghu Lingam, Colin Steer, Cathy Williams. Ophthalmic Abnormalities and Reading Impairment. Pediatrics, May 2015

A Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Parents looking for reasons and treatment of a child with significant learning difficulties are faced with a confusing choice of ‘experts’. In the absence of organised and cohesive strategies to identify early, assess and remedy factors potentially contributing to the learning difficulty, parents are forced to try one professional after another, through myriad testing and treatment programs and compensatory strategies. Rarely is there one answer to the problems faced by the child with learning difficulties. 


It is the optometrist’s responsibility to provide appropriate assessment and management of any visual factor that may be a significant cause of the difficulty or may contribute to the overall problems in performance. An integral component of optometric care of learning-related visual difficulties should be balanced counselling of all parties involved about the importance of visual factors, the potential benefits of optometric treatment and the possible need for other investigations revealed by the optometrist’s case history and assessments.

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