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In the classroom, every student’s journey is different. Some face hidden hurdles in the form of vision-related learning difficulties. However, teachers are uniquely positioned to help identify these hurdles and help the students and parents take steps to overcome them.
There are a number of vision-related learning difficulties (VRLDs) that could impact your students. Some of the most common ones include:
Refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness): These conditions affect a student’s ability to see clearly, potentially leading to difficulties in reading, writing, and participating.
Amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (eye misalignment): Amblyopia and strabismus can disrupt normal visual development, causing eye coordination and depth perception difficulties.
Visual processing disorders and eye teaming problems involve how the brain interprets and processes visual information. Students with these difficulties may struggle to comprehend what they see.
Recognizing the potential signs of these conditions in your students is crucial to ensuring that every student can reach their full potential in the classroom. These challenges are often silent but can significantly impact a student’s educational journey.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Vision Learning Problems
But how do you recognize them? While it should be left up to an eye care professional to diagnose any health condition, there are some common symptoms that teachers in Oklahoma and nationwide can look for as indicators that there may be a vision problem that needs attention. Let’s look at them based on each condition.
Refractive Errors (Nearsightedness and Farsightedness):
Squinting: If a student squints often or complains about blurry vision, it’s a red flag.
Sitting Close: Are they always sitting close to the board or holding their books close to their face?
Headaches and Eye Rubbing: Frequent headaches or rubbing their eyes might signal eye strain from trying to focus.
Amblyopia (Lazy Eye) and Strabismus (Eye Misalignment):
One Eye Wandering: If one eye seems to wander or doesn’t move in sync with the other, it’s time to take notice.
Poor Depth Perception: Students with these issues might need help with activities that require judging distances, like catching a ball or placing objects accurately.
Visual Processing Disorders and Eye Teaming Problems:
Difficulty Following Directions: If a student frequently misunderstands or has trouble following visual instructions, this could be a sign.
Skipping Lines: When reading, do they skip lines or lose their place often? That could be an indicator as well.
Reversed Letters or Numbers: Mixing up letters and numbers, or even writing them backward, can be a telltale sign of processing problems.
Remember, it’s not about being a detective but keeping an eye out for these hints. If you notice these symptoms, it might be worth discussing your concerns with the school nurse or specialists to get your students the support they need.
Impact of Vision on Learning and Academic Performance
Vision problems can have a profound impact on a student’s learning journey. When students need help with their vision, it’s about more than just seeing clearly; it affects their entire educational experience.
Reading and writing difficulties often arise as students may need help tracking lines of text or writing legibly. This can hinder their ability to keep up with assignments and classwork.
Challenges with attention and comprehension become apparent when students expend more effort on seeing than understanding the material, leading to frustration and reduced attention spans.
Vision problems can take a toll on academic performance, potentially leading to lower grades and decreased engagement with school. Recognizing and addressing these challenges early can make a world of difference in helping students reach their full potential.
What can teachers do to help?
When teachers identify a potential vision problem in a student, there are several ways that they can help.
Collaboration is key
Initiating a conversation with the school nurse is a great place to start. They may perform preliminary vision screening or notify the student’s parents immediately of the potential concern. However, it’s important to remember that while a nurse’s screening can help give more information, a complete eye exam by an optometrist or health care professional is needed to have a firm diagnosis. Stressing the importance of an annual eye exam is also particularly important as, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, school screening alone misses up to 75% of children with visual problems.
Creating an optimal classroom environment is also essential for students with vision-related challenges.
Consider your classroom lighting conditions. Ensuring well-distributed, natural, or artificial lighting without harsh glare is helpful. This can make it easier for students to see materials and the board.
Seating arrangements can also play an important role. Seat students where they have the best view possible, ensuring they can see the board, screen, or teacher clearly without straining their eyes. Here, you can also consider students you feel may be struggling with vision issues by seating them closer to the board.
Organizing materials thoughtfully and minimizing distractions helps. Think of it like tidying up your room – a neat and clutter-free classroom helps students stay on track without getting sidetracked by visual chaos.
By understanding the importance of unaddressed vision issues, Oklahoma teachers can help make a difference in their student’s overall well-being and visual learning success.
Remember that collaboration with school nurses and parents to stress the importance of annual eye exams can be a great starting point for ensuring the eye health of every student.
At Vision Care Direct of Oklahoma, we are passionate about supporting teachers and ensuring the success of students and children nationwide. We are excited to support this effort through our Classroom Scholarship. Please feel free to contact us today.