Is it ADHD or near vision problems?

Whats up with Bryson?

Here is the story of our hypothetical friend, Bryson. Bryson is in second grade now but he had a tough time in first grade with reading and hand writing. He just “made the cut” to get promoted to second grade but now he is falling behind. He hates reading. It hurts his eyes when he reads and he has a hard time seeing the words. He doesn’t know that words aren’t supposed to be blurred and moving around when you read. It is the only way he has ever seen them.

Ms. Clark, his teacher, passes out a reading sheet to the class. It is a short paragraph with a few sentences and a few questions about the paragraph. Bryson gets his paper and starts to read the paragraph, but the words are blurry and his eyes hurt as he tries to complete the reading. He keeps lifting his head up from the paper because that seems to make his eyes hurt less. He is getting nervous though because he hasn’t finished the reading and he knows Ms. Clark will be asking for the paper soon. When he gets nervous, Bryson fidgets at his desk and finds it hard to sit still.  Ms. Clark asks for the papers to be passed forward and Bryson hasn’t answered any questions correctly about the paragraph.

Next, Ms. Clark is going to have the children take turns reading aloud. Bryson doesn’t like this at all. He doesn’t read as well as the other kids and it makes him really anxious. As it gets closer to his turn to read, Bryson’s neighbor reminds him of how much trouble Bryson had when they did this last time. Bryson hollers at his neighbor ,”Shut up!”. This interrupts the class and Bryson gets in trouble.

Ms. Clark

Ms. Clark is great teacher and watches Bryson. He seems really smart, but while he is supposed to be reading, Bryson is looking around the classroom and not getting his work done. He has a lot of difficulty sitting still during the school day and he has had some difficulty with interrupting the classroom. Bryson looks like a child with ADHD. She talks with Bryson’s mom who doesn’t see much of this at home, but does know that Bryson hates home work. He spends hours trying to complete reading assignments but no matter how he works, he still has difficulty.

Off to the Pediatrician

So Bryson’s mom takes him to the pediatrician and discusses her concerns with doc. The doctor completes an ADHD behavioral scale and Bryson does score high enough to be diagnosed with ADHD. The doc starts him on a typical ADHD med. After a week on the medication, the teacher and mom are not seeing much change so the doc tries another medication. This also does not seem to be helpful.

Is it ADHD or near vision focusing problems?

Several studies have shown that the behavioral symptoms of near vision focusing problems are frequently mistaken for ADHD(2).  In fact, one study showed that children with near vision focusing problems score higher on ADHD scales than children with ADHD!(1)

But Bryson went to the eye doctor and they said his vision was fine…20/20… he didn’t even need glasses! This is common with children with near vision focusing problems. Typical eye exams may not find this problem, so a child may stay on medication for years and struggle with academics.

Of course not all ADHD is a near vision problem, but children with ADHD do tend to have a higher incidence of eye movement problems. While vision rehabilitation can help with these eye movement problems, it does not treat ADHD.

Binocular Vision Exam

Only a binocular vision exam will reveal the problems with Bryson’s vision. Only in-clinic treatment for his near vision focusing problems will correct his problem (3). Ask your eye doctor if this exam that will performed!

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Learn more about this subject in a live course and webinar presented by Robert.  Its now available as a webinar too!! Hosted by PESI Education.

 

 

(1)Rouse, M., Borsting, E., Mitchell, G. L., Kulp, M. T., Scheiman, M., Amster, D., . . . CITT, G. R. (2009, October). Academic behaviors in children with convergence insufficiency with and without parent-reported ADHD. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19741558

(2)Borsting, E., Rouse, M., & Chu, R. (2005, October). Measuring ADHD behaviors in children with symptomatic accommodative dysfunction or convergence insufficiency: A preliminary study. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16230274

(3)Scheiman, M., Mitchell, G. L., Cotter, S., Cooper, J., Kulp, M., Rouse, M., . . . Convergence, G. R. (2005, January). A randomized clinical trial of treatments for convergence insufficiency in children. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15642806

 

Visual Perception

Of visual perception

There are many assumptions made about a student’s performance on visual perception tests. After all, these tests give norm’ed results which can be helpful in goal making and identifying a potential cause for an academic problem.

But do the results actually reflect visual perpetual skill?

Many factors can hamper the reliability and validity of visual perceptual testing.

  • Visual acuity-is this patient in best correct visual acuity? Have they had an eye exam and been prescribed the appropriate glasses? Do the glasses fit well to allow for the intended benefit?
  • Binocular vision skills?-Poor binocular vision skills can result in double vision and blurred vision up close which can affect the results of visual perceptual testing?

These two factors, when not corrected, make for a “garbage in-garbage out” situation and taint the results of the testing, increasing the likelihood for invalid results in the patient.

Imagine putting a glove on a patient then asking that patient to identify coins that they are holding in the gloved hand. They would have a difficult time doing this, not because of an inability to process the feel of the coin, but because the stimuli to be interpreted is muted. It becomes difficult to process to the correct conclusion when the initial stimulus is faulty.

Behavior and cognition matter too

With best corrected acuity and good binocular visual skills, other factors, such as attention can play a role in visual perceptual testing. Common visual perceptual tests can take as long at 45 minutes of monotonous testing making even the most attentive children bored and possibly affecting results.

Most visual perceptual tests are designed so the child with a visual perceptual problem misses three consecutive items in a section, then advance forward to the next section. The pattern is irregular (child misses one item then 3 correct then misses two items, then one correct) perhaps attention is playing a role in the test results.

Visual Percetual Testing

In my clinic, I do not test visual perception until after binocular vision issues have been corrected and the patient is in best corrected visual acuity.

With these things in place, you will find visual perception intervention much more effective and testing will be more valid and reliable.

Learn More

Learn more about this subject in a live course and webinar presented by Robert.  Its now available as a webinar too!! Hosted by PESI Education

 

 

Sensory Modulated Postural Dysfunction

Posture and Vision

The magnocellular tract plays an important role in posture. It provides visual information that allows for spontaneous adjustment of posture and muscle tone as the environment changes. Integration of vestibular information with this visual information helps keep us stable when are moving.

Think of standing on a boat gently pitching to and fro on the water. As the boat rock, the muscles of ones legs, trunk, and neck all compensate and adjust to allow you to stay standing. Imagine how hard it would be to do this if one were blindfolded. It would be much more difficult if the brain was unable to get accurate data about the changes in horizon and the incoming waves.

Sensory Modulated Postural Dysfunction

SMPD is one of the subtypes of sensory dysfunction described by the Star Institute. Marked by postural weakness and decreased stamina (what we may have described previously as “low tone”), these children have difficult times sitting up tall and may demonstrate a head-forward, flexed posture with shoulder rolled forward and possible scapular winging. They may have weak hands and present to OT for difficulty with handwriting or visual motor integration. In optometry, they call this postural dysfunction or other terms.

Posture is Vision Is Posture

The link between posture and vision is very important. Decreased visual acuity or decreased magnocellular awareness can cause the brain to get poor information about the body’s position in space and not allow for appropriate muscular corrections as the environment changes and the child moves.  The vestibular system as well requires visual input to allow for correct adjust adjustment of posture. We might observe this as a clumsy child or a child with weak posture.

As therapists, it is important that we make sure our young patients have a full and complete eye exam as we begin to address postural weakness, visual motor integration and handwriting problems. An uncorrected visual system will make treatment very difficult. But an appropriate visual system becomes a powerful tool to help correct these problems.

Vision as a Postural Tool

It is possible to make use of the powerful magnocellular system to help with posture. The addition of prism or binasal occulsion during a typical treatment for postural problems and “low tone” can alter the perception of visual space. Base down prism will shift visual space upward, making the head go up. When the goes up, the trunk moves into more extension. The brain quickly makes adjustment to the body based on the altered visual space.

Can they see?

I continue to find children with a full team of professionals: PT, OT SLP, ABA, pediatricians, etc,  that have not had an eye exam. Know the ODs in your town that perform comprehensive binocular vision exams and make sure your kiddos can see !!

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Learn more about this subject in a live course and webinar presented by Robert.  Its now available as a webinar too!! Hosted by PESI Education

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ADHD and Eye Movements

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 to 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 affects 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 having. 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.

Learn More

Learn more about this subject in a live course and webinar presented by Robert.  Its now available as a webinar too!! Hosted by PESI Education

About the Author