I earned a degree in education and was an elementary school teacher before my current role as administrator and head therapist for The Vision Improvement and Sensory Learning Programs. I now look back and wonder what kind of teacher I would have been if I knew then what I know now, especially with regard to reading challenges.
I can vividly remember the reading groups. I had them divided up into three-ability levels; high, medium and low. I am sure they were called by some fun names like, “Transformers” or “Flyers” or “Rockets “or some other name that was meant to keep them from knowing their true ability level. I knew they knew, but that reality could be a whole separate article that maybe a psychologist would want to research and handle.
Pursuit and Saccadic Movement Deficiency
While in their reading group, the students took turns reading paragraphs aloud and then would answer comprehension questions. Thinking back, I can remember dreading when it would be certain students turn to read. As they would read, I would hear those..
- skipping words,
- putting words in that were not there and
- re-reading lines that were just read.
The teacher part of me was concerned as to why this was occurring but did not have a clue as to why. The human side to the teacher was thinking, “OMG, will we ever get through this paragraph.” Anyone that has heard a child struggle with reading will know what I mean. Back then, I did not know that this could have anything to do with the eyes. Like most, I assumed that more practice reading would be the answer.
If I knew then that this was a symptom of a pursuit and saccadic movement deficiency, I would have recommended that the parents have the child evaluated by a developmental optometrist.
When I was teaching second grade, one of the goals was to have the students become more independent in writing down their homework assignments from the chalkboard (no smart boards back then) into their assignment pads. I would routinely check to make sure this was done correctly and without fail there were always several students that…
- missed words or whole lines from the text, or
- the writing was so illegible there was no way to decipher what was written.
Again, I never thought this had anything to do with vision, but more than likely the child was just careless or lazy with their copying. Now I know that this is a symptom of an accommodative deficiency. Again, referral to a developmental optometrist would have been helpful.
One of my favorite students, Bryan, was a highly intelligent little boy. My concern at the time with him was his inability to stay in his seat. It was never unusual to see him up from his desk and walking around the room during seatwork time. I figured he was a high energy, possibly ADHD child that just could not sit still. When he was at his seat, he would lay his head down on the desk when reading or doing his work and at times would cover one of his eyes. I assumed he was tired and needed a rest. A vision problem never crossed my mind.
Bryan more than likely had convergence insufficiency that caused it to be painful and uncomfortable to do near work. When he would get up and walk around the room, he was relieving or avoiding the discomfort. He also might have been experiencing double vision; cover an eye and it blocks the vision from the other eye enabling him to see single. He wore glasses, so I would never have guessed that vision was to blame for his difficulties. Proof that glasses to correct an acuity issue provide no help for a binocular vision problem.
So, if I knew then what I know now, would I have been a better teacher? Not necessarily better, just a lot more aware and informed on the possible reasons for why my students struggle in school. If a student of yours or your child is struggling in school, contact a developmental optometrist in your area for an evaluation. Go to COVD.org for more information.