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Vision & Learning

Important Facts
  • Optometrists do not treat learning disorders. They do treat vision problems that can affect learning.

  • Learning is affected by vision. NAPLAN scores for kids with vision issues are significantly lower

  • In a recent study, 63% of children with specific learning disorders had vision problems. A large study in the UK showed that children with learning disorders had double the vision problems of their unaffected peers

  • As many as 30% of children have some kind of vision problem that can affect their learning. Most are undetected.

  • Evidence is suggesting that kids with a learning problem may not have just one phonological deficit. The problem may be more complicated than that.

Work Continues

…the literature will reveal that most of the advances in diagnosing and treating focusing and convergence problems are being made in the optometric institutions by vision scientists”

Dr David Lee Guyton, Professor of Paediatric Ophthalmology, John Hopkins University School of Medicine”

Is There A Need For Vision Testing?

There are claims made by various professionals and support groups that there is no need for optometry intervention in the management of children with reading disorders.

There is now clear evidence that dyslexia and other learning disabilities are common in the child population, and that there is an increased incidence of vision dysfunction occurring in the presence of problems like dyslexia.

Most children have normal sight, which involves seeing well on an eye chart at a distance, but many children have (often undetected) problems with vision involving focusing, eye coordination, convergence, and eye movements, for reading and writing tasks at near. Unfortunately, if a child is tested only on a distance eye chart they may be wrongly assumed to have normal vision for reading and writing up close, but often this is not the full story. Problems with focusing and eye coordination can significantly interfere with the child’s ability to use their eyes to read fluently and accurately.

Are Vision and Learning Linked?

There is good evidence that vision and learning are strongly linked.

USA Professor M Taylor Kulp and her colleagues from Ohio State University clearly demonstrated that visual performance was “significantly related to reading performance even in children of average intelligence when IQ was partially controlled.”

A review of literature also in 1996[1] by Professor Kulp revealed that “Many visual difficulties have been shown to be related to reading ability. Efficient reading requires accurate eye movements and continuous integration of the information obtained from each fixation by the brain. A relation between oculomotor efficiency and reading skill has been shown in the literature.


German researchers[2] studied 33 children disgnosed with dyslexia and found vision disturbances in 28 (84.8%) out of 33 children. 26 (78.8%) children showed improved reading after therapy.

Austrian eye specialists3] reviewed over 800 children with learning and reading problems and found that the referred group were statistically more likely to have poorer distance vision, eye deviations and reduced focusing ability, reduced accommodative facility, and a slower reading speed than those in the clinical control group. They confirm the importance of a full assessment and treatment of binocular vision in order to prevent the visual problems continuing to impact upon educational development.


There is much more reading on this very important and interesting subject. To see a full summary whcih is updated regularly follow the link below.



Taylor Kulp M, Schmidt P. Effect of oculomotor and other visual skills on reading performance: A literature review. Optometry and Vision Science 73 (4): 283-292, 1996.


Motsch S1, Mühlendyck H. Differentiation between dyslexia and ocular causes of reading disorders Ophthalmologe. 2001 Jul;98(7):660-4.


Dusek W, Pierscionek BK, McClelland JF. A survey of visual function in an Austrian population of school-age children with reading and writing difficulties.  BMC Ophthalmol. 2010 May 25;10:16. doi: 10.1186/1471-2415-10-16

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