It begins with the moment your child comes in the door from school. Your first thought is, “What do WE have for homework tonight?” How many hours of tears, yelling and complete frustration will it take in order to attempt to complete the work that the teacher says should only be taking 30 minutes at the most?
How many times will your child make excuses and leave the homework table to use the restroom, look off into space, need to be redirected and write a simple sentence?
You long for an evening that would include a peaceful family dinner and maybe a board game or family walk in the park. But you know that is not going to happen! You are just hoping to get it all done before it is time for bed and then agonize over the fact that it is highly likely that you will repeat this entire process again tomorrow.
So why is it that your bright child cannot get through homework, comprehend anything that is read and would never even consider picking up a book to read for enjoyment?
Maybe, just maybe there is something going on with his/her vision that goes way beyond the ability to see 20/20 on the eye chart.
What if it were physically painful to do near work?
What if the words were jumping around the page so much that it was next to impossible to follow across the line let alone have it make any sense?
What if while doing near work, especially at the end of the day, the words and letters went double?
What if the only way to correct that was to lay your head down on the table, cover an eye or turn your head in a way that you were only using one eye?
Would it not be easier to avoid the work or race through it just to get it done with no worry if it were neat or even correct?
If you had seen this way all of your life, would you even be able to tell anyone that this is happening? You probably think everyone sees this way.
So, What are these Eye Issues?
The two main culprits are Convergence Insufficiency and Pursuit/Saccadic Movement (Tracking) Deficiencies.
Convergence Insufficiency occurs when the two eyes are not able to turn in comfortably for near tasks. Think about reading and any near work. The eyes should naturally come together or converge. Many times they do not. Try holding a pencil in front your child about 12 inches from their nose. Slowly bring it toward the nose and watch the eyes. Do they follow it in all the way? Does an eye swing out? Does the child say it is uncomfortable or makes the eyes water? If the eyes are not turning in comfortably, a convergence insufficiency could be possible.
Pursuit/Saccadic Movement (Tracking)
Now try having your child slowly track a pen or pencil as you move it very slowly first from side to side and then in a circular motion about 12 inches from the face. Are the eyes able to stay on the pen or pencil without jumping or looking away? Do this for at least a minute or two. If you see that the eyes are jumping or jerking, a tracking issue should be suspected. If the eyes cannot move smoothly across a page, or the eyes are unable to stay turned in comfortably for lengths of time, reading and comprehension becomes very difficult and sometimes impossible. Now, if this is how your eyes were working when trying to do homework, would it be reasonable to think that maybe it would take you much longer to get it done or you would want to avoid it at all cost?
Treatment and Solutions
Find a doctor trained in Behavioral Optometry, certified with the College of Optometrists and Vision Development (COVD) in your area. This doctor will do all the testing and evaluation that is needed to diagnose and treat convergence and tracking issues. Typically it will be recommended that the child be enrolled in an intensive vision therapy program. These programs vary in duration and cost, but the doctor you choose will provide you with all this information. There IS hope for an end to homework wars!