Foundations for Learning Centre

The Vision and Learning Connection

Vision problems that cause learning interference are treatable – 9 out of 10 students improve their visual skills through vision therapy and achieve success in school.

Vision and Learning

Group of Kids SmilingSeeing is our dominant sense and about 80% of learning channels through our eyes. Vision problems may have a profound effect on learning, and how we make sense of what is seen. Deficient visual skills can cause learning interference; students may be struggling in school, or working twice as hard to achieve academic success.

For some children, the effortless process of making sense of what is seen is not robust; one or more visual skills may be fragile and lose their auto-pilot mode with stress or while in the course of learning to read. For other children, just a single or a few visual skills may have not developed causing learning interference.

Overcoming Learning-Related Vision Problems

Vision problems that are related to learning are treatable – 9 out of 10 patients are successful at driving their neuro-plasticity to improve their visual skills, given diligent effort. If vision problems are left un-treated then the learning-potential gap widens, students continue to work harder than necessary for academic success, and this may even restrict the progression of other remediation efforts.

What Symptoms to Look for:

  • Working twice as hard to reach their academic success
  • Poor reading performance
  • Difficulty finishing written-work in the allotted amount of time
  • Distractibility
  • Poor attention
  • Difficulty copying from board to paper or from book to paper
  • Responds better verbally than in writing
  • Seems to know the material but does poorly on written tests
  • Better comprehension when story is read to them
  • Struggling in school
  • Not reaching their academic potential
    • blurred vision
    • eye strain
    • burning or tearing eyes
    • eye rubbing
    • tired eyes
    • double-vision (covers one eye)
  • Holds near work close
  • Loses place when reading
  • Uses ruler, guide or finger when reading
  • Letter (number) reversals
  • Difficulty spelling
  • Difficulty learning simple words
  • Difficulty recognizing the same word repeated on page
  • Mistakes words with similar beginnings (eg. ‘search’ for ‘season’)
  • Sloppy handwriting or drawing skills
  • Poor spacing between words
  • Difficulty writing numbers in columns for math

LEARNING AND CONCUSSION

A CONCUSSION IS A FORM OF MILD TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY.
Concussions are a result from a direct blow to the head, or indirectly from something such as whiplash.
The impact causes the brain to hit against the inside of the skull causing brain bruising. It is estimated that nearly ½ a million (~500,000) concussions occur yearly in the Canada.

CONCUSSION SYMPTOMS CAN PERSIST.
10-20% of concussions result in symptoms that can last weeks, months, or more. When these symptoms persist, a condition known as Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) occurs.

GENERAL SYMPTOMS
CONCUSSIONS HAVE THESE TYPICAL SYMPTOMS. * Vision related
• Confusion
• Headache
• Disorientation
• Vomiting and/or Nausea
• Unsteadiness
• Light sensitivity*
• Blurred Vision*
• Double vision*
• Loss of place when reading*
• Post-traumatic amnesia
• Dizziness

THE MISSING LINK
UP TO 1/2 OF SYMPTOMS ARE VISUAL, MEANING VISION IS OFTEN THE MISSING LINK.
Recent research suggests that over 50% of patients with concussion or post-concussion syndrome have visual problems that may cause headaches, eye-headaches, double vision, eye strain or blurred vision.
Since seeing is our dominant-sense and about 80% of learning channels through our eyes, Post-Concussion Syndrome (PCS) may cause students to have decreased reading speed and comprehension, or to work twice as hard for their current academic success.
For some children with PCS, the effortless process of making sense of what is seen is altered. One or more visual sub-skills for learning may be fragile and lose their auto-pilot mode and result in interference with learning.

OVERCOMING LEARNING-RELATED VISION PROBLEMS SECONDARY TO CONCUSSION
Optometrists have a great understanding of the visual system. They have the opportunity to retrain the visual sub-skills through a program of vision therapy or neuro-optometric rehabilitation. This helps eliminate the visual symptoms most commonly associated with post-concussion syndrome (PSC) and enhance vision and its learning connection.

GETTING TREATMENT
YOU WILL WANT AN OPTOMETRIST DEDICATED TO NEURO-OPTOMETRIC REHABILITATION (VISION THERAPY)
Neuro-Optometric Rehabilitation represents a specific area of optometry, which addresses deficits in eye-teaming, focusing, visual tracking, visual processing problems, and related visual problems. These problems are common with patients who have concussion and other forms of acquired brain injury. Treatment may involve spectacle lens prescriptions, prisms, filters, special tints and vision therapy which can provide symptomatic relief.
Vision therapy entails a variety of non-surgical therapeutic procedures designed to vitalize visual function. Vision therapy involves a series of treatments during which carefully planned activities are carried out by the patient under professional supervision. The targeted treatments are determined by the nature and severity of the diagnosed condition. Vision therapy is done to enhance visual sub-skills to boost performance – not to simply strengthen eye muscles.

We have 4 steps to determine if vision is the difference.

1. A Complete Digital Optomap Eye Exam is the first step. If an eye exam has been completed within 12 months then it does not need to be repeated. The OHIP benefit eye-exam covers the vast majority of the investment for patients up to 19 and over 65 years of age, while the remainder is $98, otherwise the examination is $229. In most cases, diagnostic testing is performed with the use of dilating drops to ensure the best optical prescription.
 
 

2. The second step is a 2-hour evaluation of 11 learning-related visual domains. This is a critical appraisal of vision efficiency (eye focusing and teaming), reading eye-movements and processing of visual information skills (making sense from what is seen). If two or more of the 11 visual domains tested are significantly below normal then these visual impediments are likely causing learning interference. The investment for this evaluation is $350 and 2 hours for testing.

3. Depending on the number of visual deficiencies, therapy is scheduled over a 3, 4½ or 6-month period with an investment of $3000 to $6000. Patients interact with a vision therapist twice per week, for 45-minutes per session. Our goal is rapid results by making vision therapy a priority in the patient’s life. Progress evaluations are compared to the initial baseline findings every 6 weeks to track success and customize the targeted treatment.
 
 

4. Home activities are essential for success. These supportive home activities use specific software programs and custom eye-exercises. Patients need to be committed to working on the home activities five times or more per week for 30 minutes. Part of the rapid success for vision therapy is making therapy priority in the patient’s life.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Dr. Gall is an optometrist who cares for patients and is excited when they reach their potential and achieve success. From the beginning, Dr. Gall has offered vision therapy as an option for success. In 1993, Dr. Gall received his Doctorate in Optometry, then in 1995, he received his Master of Vision Science in the area of binocular vision after which he started his practice. In 1999, he received his Fellowship from the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), earned by only 5% of optometrists who give back to the profession in terms of research and leadership. In the fall of 2010, he moved his practice to a larger facility and opened the Oakville Centre for Vision – Vision is the Difference. Upon studying for two years, in 2015 Dr. Gall was awarded the Diplomate in Binocular Vision Perception & Pediatric Optometry (Dip. BVPPO), earned by less than 1% of optometrists, which clearly demonstrates his lifelong learning to provide advanced care in this specialized area of optometry.

 

Dr. Gall’s Vision Therapist, Heather, plays a vital role in caring for patients and motivating them to achieve success for lifelong learning. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology, over 7 years of experience with vision therapy and works closely with Dr. Gall while providing individualized vision therapy.

 

The philosophy of the Foundations for Learning Centre – the Vision and Learning Connection, is based on the work of Drs. Mitchell Scheiman and Michael Rouse (Optometric Management of Learning-Related Vision Problems, 2nd Ed. 2006), Drs. Mitchell Scheiman and Bruce Wick (Clinical Management of Binocular Vision, 4th Ed. 2014) and Drs. Sidney Groffman and Harold Solan (Developmental & Perceptual Assessment of Learning-Disabled Children: theoretical concepts and diagnostic testing. 1994) which are guiding references for any practice offering vision therapy.