Reading Difficulties – Is it a visual problem?

When a child is struggling to read often parents and even teachers are puzzled as to the reasons why.  This is because reading is a complex task.  There are many skills involved that are required to be working together efficiently in order for a child to reach a level where he/she is reading effortlessly.


To understand why a particular child is struggling to learn to read, they need to be thoroughly assessed using a wide variety of tests that examine all of the various subskills required for reading.  One of these subskills is vision.


Vision Related Learning Problems


When vision problems have an adverse effect on learning, they are referred to as learning related vision problems.


Learning related vision problems represent deficits in one or both components of the visual system: namely visual acuity and visual information processing.


Proper diagnosis of learning related vision problems therefore requires comprehensive evaluation of visual acuity and visual information processing skills.


Visual Acuity and Learning


  • Eye discomfort may make it difficult to complete school tasks or homework in a timely manner. Poor attention may result from the eye discomfort.
  • Task avoidance is a frequently overlooked effect.  A harmful associative relationship between eye discomfort and reading can develop, leading to disinterest and poor motivation.
  • Blurred or distorted text can be expected to decrease word processing speed and efficiency, reduce reading rate and compromise reading comprehension.

Visual Information Processing and Learning


  • Visual information processing skills provide the capacity to organize, structure, and interpret visual stimuli, giving meaning to what is seen.
  • Individuals with learning problems can present with distinct patterns or combinations of visual information processing deficits.




It is recommended that vision examinations be scheduled at:

  • 6 months
  • 3 years of age
  • entry into school.


Many schools conduct some form of developmental screening before children enter school. Such screenings tend not to explore visual information processing development.   The majority of school vision screening programs only assess distance visual acuity. This is woefully inadequate in detecting most learning related vision problems.


Thorough eye and vision examinations, during the preschool years and consistently through the school years, continue to be the most effective approach to early detection of visual acuity and information processing problems.


Following is a list of signs and symptoms that could mean your child has a vision problem:

Signs & Symptoms of Vision Problems


Failed school vision screening

Failed eye chart (acuity) test

Recommendation by:

- Teacher
- Other Professional

Behind in school

Not working up to potential


Frustrates easily

Poor or short attention span

Difficulty reading

- Reads below grade level
- Loses place frequently
- Holds material too close
- Poor comprehension
- Skips lines
- Repeats lines
- Adds extra words

Has an eye that turns in or out

Poor eye movements

Poor hand-eye coordination

Physically awkward

Scores low on standardized testsWhen reading/writing:

- Covers an eye
- Turns head to side
- Complains of blur or double vision
- Eyes itch or burn
- Eyes hurt
- Reverses letters/words (after Grade 2)
- Headaches

Trouble in spelling

Trouble copying from whiteboard

Trouble copying from books

Perception problems

Failed depth perception/fusion tests

Poor motivation

Difficulty writing

- Letter formation
- Cannot stay on line
- Sloppy
- Crowds letters
- Eyes too close to paper
- Grips pencil incorrectly
- Rich vocabulary, but not on paper

Excessive effort needed to achieve

Diagnosed with a learning disability

Trouble with sports

Does not work well on their own


Learning related vision problems could lead to blurred vision, delayed learning of the alphabet, difficulty with reading and spelling and skipping words and losing place when reading.  Therefore it is essential that a thorough vision assessment be conducted when concerned about your child’s reading and/or spelling.


When your child is struggling with reading or spelling:


Other subskills that should be looked at include the child’s:


  • visual perceptual skills
  • phonological awareness skills
  • reading of and spelling of real words
  • reading and spelling of nonsense words
  • reading accuracy when reading a story out loud
  • reading comprehension when answering questions related to the story that the child has just read aloud.


If you have any queries or questions about your child’s reading or spelling, please call Tyquin Reading Clinic to speak to a professional who understands.  Call 3399 8028.