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Vision Problems Sometimes Mistaken for Learning Disabilities

Vision Problems Sometimes Mistaken for Learning Disabilities

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reportingSix out of ten children with learning problems actually have undiagnosed vision problems.

Reading used to be something 12-year-old Chris Young did not want to do.

His mom says, "I noticed when he was reading he could read one line and then the next line he couldn't. He would miss words and skip words and was very frustrated."

According to the California Optometric Association, Chris's symptoms are similar to those of a learning disability known as attention deficit disorder. And, it says, some students are getting misdiagnosed with ADD when all they have is an undiagnosed vision problem.

If a child cannot see what the teacher is writing on the board, or his eyes aren't working well together, that child could become distant, not engaged, stressed. And that could make someone think the child has a behavioral problem. It's easy to understand why.

Dr. Clifford Lee/Optometrist: "Often you have children who are somewhat hyperactive. They can't sit still, they can't concentrate."

Dr. Clifford Lee has been examining eyes for 17 years. He first noticed this phenomenon while working at a juvenile detention center.

Dr. Lee: "Ninety percent of the kids had some visual deficit."

Today the San Francisco optometrist is performing an eye exam on five-year-old Ivy Webb.

"I couldn't see, and stuff like that," Ivy says.

Kim Hess/Ivy's Mom: "I thought I was being a paranoid mother. But we took him in and we definitely needed glasses."

As for Chris, a comprehensive eye exam revealed a binocular problem where his eyes did not work well together. He got treated.

"Now I love reading. I read all the time," Chris says.

The warning signs of poor vision include:

  • Squinting or covering an eye
  • Headaches
  • Excessive clumsiness
  • Avoiding work
  • Short attention span

While school screening programs are helpful, doctors say you need a comprehensive exam to detect some vision problems.

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