New Theory by Child Development and Vision Experts
A technical report entitled, “Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision,” published in the March 2011 issue of Pediatrics by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Ophthalmology, the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, and the American Association for Certified Orthoptists, emphasizes that language processing and decoding issues are the cause of primary learning disabilities, not physical eye problems.
The report states that proven education and language-based interventions are the best use of parental and education resources, while suggesting avoidance of ineffective costly treatments such as vision therapy. The report updates and expands upon a policy statement on this subject issued by the four groups in August 2009.
Learning disabilities constitute a diverse group of disorders in which children who generally possess at least average intelligence have problems processing information or generating output. Their origins are multifaceted and generally reflect genetic influences and/or a dysfunction of the brain systems.
Often learning disabilities are difficult for the public to understand and for educators to treat. As a result, a wide variety of scientifically unsupported, vision-based diagnostic and treatment procedures have emerged over the years. These treatments are often misused by unsuspecting parents, educators and pediatricians once the child is diagnosed.
Vision problems can interfere with the process of reading, but children with dyslexia or related learning disabilities have the same visual function and ocular health as children without such conditions. Learning disabilities, including dyslexia, are not caused by physical eye problems but rather complex language processing difficulties.
According to the experts cited in the report, reading disability or dyslexia are receptive language-based learning disabilities that are characterized by difficulties with decoding, fluent word recognition, rapid automatic naming, and/or reading-comprehension skills. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the sound structure of the spoken word and will not be corrected by vision therapy or eye exercises. The scientific evidence does not support claims that visual training, muscle exercises, ocular pursuit-and-tracking exercises, behavioral/perceptual vision therapy, “training” glasses, prisms, and colored lenses and filters are effective direct or indirect treatments for learning disabilities. Additionally, there is no valid evidence that children participating in vision therapy are more responsive to educational instruction than children who do not participate, states the report.
Early recognition and referral to qualified professionals for evidence-based evaluations and treatments are necessary to achieve the best possible outcome for any disability, the experts stress. Anyone playing a part in a child’s development must use correct scientific data in order to avoid the pitfalls of expensive and unproven therapies. Being armed with the current and proper information will also prevent the wasting of valuable time – the child’s, pediatrician’s and parent’s.