ADHD and Eye Movements
There is much research concerning the link between eye movements and ADHD. Researchers consistently find specific eye movement behaviors associated with ADHD. But how does this research help in the clinic?
ADHD and Saccades
Much of the ADHD/Eye movement research has focused on the quick, exploratory eye movements called saccades. Children diagnosed with ADHD show saccade accuracy consistent with their peers. They are able to quickly and accurately look at a new target in the environment. When instructed not to look a target (anti-saccades), children with ADHD have a more difficult time NOT looking at the stimulus (1). Reading is a series of quick fixations and saccades that affect reading speed. These saccades improves reading fluency in children(2). Children with ADHD also show reduced tracking ability which further affects reading fluency (3) (4).
Near Vision and ADHD
Convergence Insufficiency, an eye movement disorder affecting one’s ability to maintain clear near vision, is found at three times the rate in ADHD children compared to those not diagnosed with ADHD(5). A study also shows that children with symptomatic convergence insufficiency score higher (more negative behaviors) on an academic behavior scale then those children diagnosed with ADHD (7). So convergence problems can be associated with ADHD-like behavior problems.
ADHD and Optometry
Optometry is aware of the link between eye movements, behavior and academic performance. ADHD symptoms can mimic the behavioral signs of eye movement problems, even when a child is unable to vocalize the vision problems he is has had. Treatment of convergence problems is also known to reduce the symptoms of ADHD reported by parents (6). Treating saccade and tracking problems also helps to improve reading fluency and improve academic performance.
Only a complete evaluation by an optometrist that specializes in eye movement problems can help identify these problems that could be limiting performance in a child with ADHD. Treatment of these problems with in-office vision therapy can help improve a child’s academic performance.