Dyslexia, ADHD, and Vision
Vision and Dyslexia
Dyslexia is a language-based disorder that causes reading challenges despite average or above average intelligence. Individuals with dyslexia often avoid reading, mis-read words, have difficulty retaining sight words, and may have more frequent letter reversals.
Often, individuals with dyslexia are not evaluated for vision problems prior to a dyslexia diagnosis. If the individual has difficulty getting the information into their brain due to a vision problem, then it may significantly compound their reading problem. In some cases, patients are misdiagnosed with dyslexia who actually have a functional vision problem or need glasses.
Dyslexia is not responsible for the following vision symptoms: blurry vision, eyestrain, double vision, or skipping words or lines. These are symptoms of a functional vision problem and are not caused by dyslexia, ADHD, or other learning disabilities.
In fact, there is a high correlation between dyslexia and functional vision problems (eye tracking, eye teaming, or eye focusing issues). A study showed that while 30% of typical learners have functional vision problems, the percentage of dyslexic learners with functional vision problems was 80%. This means that dyslexic learners are working harder than their peers just to see the visual information, and have more barriers to overcome.
Read more about this study on dyslexic learners and vision problems here
We can treat the functional vision problems in patients with dyslexia with a high rate of success, removing significant challenges to reading and learning, and allowing them to fulfill their potential.
Vision and ADHD
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental condition characterized by inattention, hyperactivity, and/or impulsivity. Individuals with the diagnosis of ADHD have a higher chance of also having a functional vision problem. Also, studies show that treating the vision problem in individuals with ADHD does reduce the ADHD symptoms and improves performance.
The diagnostic criteria for ADHD involves a list of symptoms, some of which are also symptoms of a functional vision problem. Some individuals may be mis-diagnosed if a vision problem has not been ruled out prior to the ADHD diagnosis. In addition, individuals with ADHD may have under-developed visual skills due to poor ability to sustain visual attention, which can lead to vision problems.
It is important for individuals with ADHD to have a functional vision evaluation to determine what vision skills are reduced, and to make sure there are no major vision issues that may be exacerbating their ability to sustain attention during reading and other near work activities. Imagine trying to sustain attention with vision that is intermittently blurry, or with eyes jumping all over the place, or with intermittent double vision. These symptoms significantly compound ADHD symptoms! Fortunately, the functional vision problems can be remediated through vision therapy and other means of optometric treatment, based on the patient's needs.