Children who have visual dysfunctions are often misdiagnosed with learning and behavioral disorders, because the symptoms are very similar. Both can cause them to display problems with eye coordination, focus and tracking.
Dr. Joel Warshowsky is a behavioral optometrist. He says this type of misdiagnosis happens easily.
“Many children with inattention, loss of concentration, not able to keep their eyes on the page, will be looked at as generally inattentive and go the route of ADD, ADHD and medication. And oftentimes these kids can have a visual problem that could be remediated.”
Warshowsky says that while visual dysfunction is very specific to a task, ADD and ADHD can affect all environments. If a child is having visual problems and is inattentive, he suggests a visual evaluation before diagnosing ADHD.
“If I keep looking at something to try and learn, and my eyes keep guarding off and looking away, I’m going to get very frustrated. I may start acting out, because I can’t use my eyes the way I think I should.”
He says lags in vision development are one of the primary causes of visual dysfunctions. Vision therapy can redevelop a kid’s eyes to get them back on track. For example, activities like putting a peg into a peg board.
“It’s teaching the child to line up their eye with what they are looking at, and to be able to reframe the message that teaches their eye muscle to stay on target.”
Warshowsky says unfortunately schools are not equipped to evaluate kids with visual dysfunction.
“They want to be able to have the child function in the classroom. But in so doing they are sidestepping what the problem really could be.”
For parents who think they’re kids may be struggling with visual dysfunction, Warshowsky suggests a trip to their nearest opticians.
This story was voiced by Edel Howlin and written by Nibin Thomas.