The Doctor's Pen
Vision's Connection To Learning & Concentration
I've consulted and advised many of my student-patients with their performance in school from elementary to high school regarding subjects including reading, math, science and social studies. I make it a point to have all my student-patients fill out a Student Performance Questionnaire prior to my examining them. I had come to find that many of them, who were visual learners, surprisingly did not approach their math assignments visually. They even tended to learn more in math class with visual teachers than with non-visual teachers and didn't know why. When I revealed to them that they were visual learners, many of them seemed to think it was a kind of weakness, but I instead stressed to them that it was their strength.
The development of a child's ability to spatially perceive the world around them at an early age is fundamental to their further intellectual development. A child explores their spatial surroundings through seeing, hearing and active movement. Their acquired ability to perceive and comprehend space is developed through the multi-sensory information that is received in the brain and further communicated with one another. Spatial Perception is one of the earliest building blocks necessary to help a child begin to understand concepts such as math and language. Optometrists, occupational therapists and pediatricians agree that crawling is a very important developmental step for babies to go through because its action stimulates those multi-sensory associations which help develop their perception of space. You would assume that all babies crawl, but not so. Sometimes due to physical, social, or environmental limitations they skip the crawling stage. These children usually have a lag in their spatial perception development causing them to sometimes see letters reversed or flipped limiting their words or concepts understanding that is referred to as Dyslexia.
The way an infant first begins to see, feel and move in their surrounding world initiates their very first language of physical interaction in which the child communicates or understands the world around them. A child's first learned perception to understand space is why in pre-school or kindergarten math is first presented to children in picture form with numbers and letters placed beside them. For example, a page might have a picture of two cookies on it and beside them the number "2" and then the word "two." The picture of the two cookies in and of itself contains a meaning and understanding in one language. The number two and the word two contain the same meaning but in different or second language. Even though it is not our first language, much of our day to day communications as a student and an adult are actually performed through the second language of words and numbers. From the beginning to the end of elementary school, there is a gradual decrease in amount of pictures used accompanied by an opposite increase in the amount of words and numbers used.
Besides learning development, concentration and attention are also very necessary for a child to learn effectively. However, it is very important for parents to know and understand that vision performance can play an important factor in positively or negatively influencing a student's ability to concentrate. Did you ever wonder why the term focus happens to be used to describe both the performances of sight as well as concentration? Is this just a coincidence? Not likely, since studies have shown that 80-90% of all sensory information used by the brain to make decisions comes from the eyes, which strongly supports the argument that children's ability to concentrate, pay attention and learn is significantly dependent on the performance of their vision.
Much educational and psychological research has been invested into studying how a child learns and the different methods that are used to educate children. Regardless, the fundamental aspect of vision and how important the eyes influence a student's ability to learn will always remain. It is not only critical for parents to understand the importance of their child's visual performance as related to academic performance, but also for them to know how to care for those children who are at risk of having an unfavorable vision performance characteristic.
Too many children with these unfavorable vision performance characteristics (one out every four students) are being mistaken for having a learning disability, ADHD or both. Special education and Ritalin may be suitable for learning disabilities and ADHD, but for an undetected visual problem causing the same symptoms, they offer no solution, only consequences. And believe me there are consequences. I've seen a parent in tears because their child couldn't be taught not by one but two separate special education programs. I've seen those parents with their hearts broken because their children were forced to take ADHD medication that made them feel awful and gave no significant improvements academically. An undetected visual problem misdiagnosed and left untreated could ultimately mean a child's bright future lost.
Is it too great a risk for even just one child to be misdiagnosed? I think so. Refocusing our attention back on caring for how children see in the classroom today may be the answer to the overcrowding issues in special education classes and medicated ADHD children performing poorly in school.
(Chapter 5 from "Unleash the Power of the Student in Your Child" - Written by Dr. Hank Makini)