Results of a study of sixth grade students with below average reading scores found that providing visual attention therapy can significantly improve their attention and reading comprehension.
The study, reported in the November/December 2003 Journal of Learning Disabilities, found that as few as 12 one-hour sessions of computer-based vision therapy can enhance reading ability and improve a child’s overall attention in the classroom. “Results of this study support previous research that found visual attention and eye movement abilities contribute significantly to a child’s ability to read”, according to Harold A. Solan, O.D., M.A., FCOVD, Distinguished Service Professor of Optometry at the State College of Optometry, State University of New York and lead researcher for the study. “This newest research confirms that visual attention can be improved through vision therapy resulting in enhanced reading comprehension.”
“Far too often, children with reading and learning difficulties may struggle in school because of undetected vision problems”, stated Dr. Solan. “Difficulties with maintaining visual attention and processing visual information in the classroom doom many children to reading failure. Results of this and other studies now confirm the significance of good visual abilities to reading and learning. Vision abilities needed to succeed in school can be developed through programs of vision therapy which can lead to improvements in reading and learning as found in our study”, he stated.
The program of vision therapy provided to the children in the study included specific procedures to improve perceptual accuracy, visual efficiency and visual search and scanning abilities. Additional procedures to enhance how the eyes and brain process visual information were also conducted. Children in the study were tested before and after the therapy using standardized measures of attention processing. The children receiving vision therapy showed significant gains in standardized attention scores and reading comprehension. In terms of learning rate (LR), these students reading skills progressed 1.1 years or 220%.
Visual attention therapy procedures, a part of optometric vision therapy services, have often been used in treating patients with learning-related vision problems. “This study further confirms the benefits of vision therapy that developmental optometrists have clinically reported in their patients for many years. Vision therapy, a prescribed program of visually guided procedures or ‘exercises’, is used to help the eyes work together and with the brain to properly interpret visual information”, reported Dr. Solan.
According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), many children have difficulty getting their eyes and brains to work together. Most often these problems are not related to how clearly they can see the board at the front of the classroom – 20/20 visual acuity- but how effectively their eyes and brain acquire and process what they are seeing. “Parents and teachers need to consider vision problems first when children continuously struggle with their school work or have behavior problems”, says Leonard J. Press, O.D., FCOVD, President of COVD. To learn more about how vision problems can affect learning visit www.covd.org.