Symptoms that may indicated a need for vision therapy

Some vision problems can make words on a page look like this.

Some vision problems can make text look like the examples above.  That is why the vision problems that are treated with vision therapy can make it difficult for a child to read and learn effectively.

Convergence insufficiency

One of the most common eye movement disorders is convergence insufficiency, where the eyes don't work properly when doing near work like reading and other school work. A study funded by the National Eye Institute has found that vision therapy is the best treatment for convergence insufficiency. Convergence insufficiency can make a book look like this:


When Is a Learning Difficulty Due to a Vision Problem?

While learning occurs through a number of complex and interrelated processes, vision plays a key role. Many signs, symptoms, and behaviors associated with learning disabilities are similar to those caused by vision problems. This is why it is so important that a comprehensive vision examination be part of the interdisciplinary evaluation of all children who are failing to succeed in school. For example, a recent study, which adds to a large body of research, found that 60% of students who were on an individual learning plan due to reading or other academic problems failed two or more binocular vision tests.

You can print the Symptoms Checklist and bring it with you to your appointment. It is helpful if you have your child’s teacher review the checklist as well to let you know which signs she is seeing in the classroom.

Symptoms and corresponding vision problems

The following table of symptoms and possible vision problems comes form the College of Optometrists in Vision development. If you or your child exhibits some of these symptoms, you should see a developmental optometrist. If you don't live in the metro Vancouver area, click here to locate a doctor.


Possible Vision Problems

-Complains of blurred vision
-Rubs eyes frequently

Nearsightedness, Farsightedness, or Astigmatism (inability to see clearly in the distance or up close)

- Closes or covers one eye
- Occasionally sees double
- Rubs eyes frequently
- Able to read for only a short time
- Poor reading comprehension

Eye coordination problems (inability to coordinate the eyes together effectively)

- Holds things very close
- Complains of blurred vision
- Poor reading comprehension
- Says eyes are tired
- Able to read for only a short time
- Has headaches when reading

Eye focusing problems (inability to easily refocus eyes or maintain clear focus)

- Moves head excessively when reading
- Frequently loses place, skips lines when reading
- Uses finger to keep place
- Poor reading comprehension

- Short attention span

Possible Vision Problems: Eye tracking problems (inadequate ability to smoothly and accurately move the eyes from one point to another)

- Mistakes words with similar beginnings
- Difficulty recognizing letters, words, or simple shapes and forms
- Can't distinguish the main idea from insignificant details
- Trouble learning basic math concepts of size, magnitude, and position

Faulty visual form perception (inability to discriminate differences in size, shape, or form)

- Trouble visualizing what is read- Poor reading comprehension
- Poor speller
- Trouble with mathematical concepts
- Poor recall of visually presented material

Faulty visual memory (inability to remember and understand what is seen)

- Sloppy handwriting and drawing
- Can't stay on lines
- Poor copying skills
- Can respond orally but not in writing

Faulty visual motor integration (inability to process and reproduce visual images by writing or drawing)

- Trouble learning right and left
- Reverses letters and words
- Trouble writing and remembering letters and numbers

Difficulty with laterality and directionality (Poor development of left/right awareness)




Ggeneral signs and symptoms to look for that may indicate a vision problem.

People with eye-muscle or visual-perceptual problems typically present with one ore more the following symptoms.  However, to know if you or your child's symptoms are caused by a visual problem, you must come in for a doctor's eye health examination.  Remember, the examination is still covered by the provincial government for children 18 and under.

Lack of 3D vision is a major sign of a vision disorder

If you or your child do not experience 3D movies or other images like other people, you may have just diagnosed yourself with a vision disorder. It could mean anything from amblyopia, strabismus, or even a tumour that could be life threatening. It is wise to see your optometrist right away for an eye examination.



Related articles

What is 3D Vision Syndrome? - See for Life
Jul 05, 2012
3d vision syndrome indicates binocular vision problems like convergence insufficiency and is effectively treated with vision therapy.

Don't like 3D movies? - See for Life
Apr 23, 2012
People with 3D vision syndrome don't like 3D movies. At vision Source Vancouver Optometrists, vision therapy can treat the underlying binocular vision disorders. See who watches Titanic 3D without 3D glasses.

3D movies, depth perception, stereopsis and binocular ... - See for Life
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If you or your child don't experience 3D movies they way other people do, you may have a binocular vision disorder that needs to be treated with vision therapy.

Sarah's story - See for Life
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Sarah Slingsby of Mississauga, Ontario can't enjoy a 3D movie like other kids. She can't see 3D because her eyes can't focus together because of retinoblastoma - an eye cancer - and other complications with her sight. Sarah ...

Click to download the vision probelsms symptoms checklist.  Bring it to your appointment!


Vision therapy is an effective treatment for adults with convergence insufficiency

ADHD and convergence insufficiency have similar symptoms.  Vision problems should be ruled out before starting ADHD medication.

Because many visual problems, at least superficially, have symptoms that are similar to other disorders such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorder (ADHD), many children are mistakenly diagnosed and prescribed medication for a problem that is actually vision-related and best treated with Vision Therapy. 

One example is the connection between convergence insufficiency and ADHD.  To learn more, click here.


Vision therapy and adults with convegence insufficiency

"In order for children to learn well, they need to see well. Parents may not realize there is more to good vision than 20/20 and that there are conditions that vision screenings can miss. Two optometrists conducted a visual experiment where common visual problems known to affect learning in kids are simulated in 4 adult teachers, and their experience and reaction are discussed."

-The Canadian Doctors of Optometry



Did you know?  Not all vision professionals are qualified to diagnose and treat eye movement and vision processing problems.

"Patients should be referred to a behavioral [also known as a developmental optometrist] or neuro-optometrist. It was also noted that referrals made to an ophthalmologist may be insufficient, as they are primarily concerned with the health of the eye only, and ophthalmologists are mostly experienced with acute medical problems rather than rehabilitation issues."

Raymond, et al. Rehabilitation of visual processing deficits following brain injury.NeuroRehabilitation 6 (1996) 229-240.


Symptoms and associated vision disorders

This table of symptoms and their associated vision disorder comes from the following study:

Kapoor and Ciuffreda, Vision Disturbances Following Traumatic Brain Injury, Current Treatment Options in Neurology. 2002, 4:271-280.

Complaint Associated vision disorder
Intermittent blur Accommodative dysfunction
Loss of place while reading, skipping, or re-reading words Version deficits
Reduced, inefficient
reading speed
Version deficits
Double vision Vergence deficits
Eyestrain or browache
Vergence deficits
Motion sensitivity Vergence deficits
"Shimmering vision" Vergence deficits

Spatial perceptual

Visual field deficits
(with or without inattention)
Spatial awareness
Visual field deficits
(with or without inattention)
Extreme light sensitivity Photosensitivity