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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(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

 

An Occupational Therapist Treats Convergence Insufficiency

An OT treats CI

The process the author uses to treat convergence insufficiency has proven in his clinic to be very efficient, effective and repeatable. Symptoms are generally resolved in 8-10 visits for neuro-typical children and adolescences. This treatment process does not include assessment of primitive reflexes though many of the activities (not by design) may help to integrate these retained reflexes. Treatment sessions are twice a week for one hour. Home programs consist of a brock string performed 3-4 minutes in the morning and afternoon. The patient returns for their annual eye exam one year later and remain symptom free.

The Referral

Most of the referrals are made by Dr. Mark Obenchain OD, a binocular vision/peds specialist. He is a graduate of Indiana University where he completed a residency in binocular vision and pediatrics. He accepts all insurances and Medicaid.  Our patients cover a board spectrum of demographics with approximately 2/3rds being neuro-typical and the remaining 1/3rd having an additional diagnosis such as ADHD, Autism, or other developmental delay. A complete pediatric eye exam with cycloplegic dilation is performed on every child under the age 18 regardless of complaints.

The doctor diagnoses CI when:

The OT Evaluation

The occupational therapy evaluation begins with medical history, medication history and a discussion of academic performance and hobbies.

The following testing is performed:

  • extra ocular movements
  • tracking
  • stereopsis
  • near point of accommodation
  • near point of convergence
  • Developmental Eye Movement Test
  • Beery VMI, Visual Perception and Motor Tests
  • Observations are made during proactive and rotator 3 activities on Sanet Vision Integrator for eye-hand coordination, posture and balance. This performed while patient stands on balance board.

The author does not assess visual perception at this time as the patient has been diagnosed with a near vision problem which could taint the results of this test. An OT evaluation is also an untimed code making the 30-45 minute test not efficient to perform at this time. If visual perceptual problems exist after meeting all CI related goals, then visual perception is assessed and treated.

The Goals

The therapy goals are specific and measurable as well as being tied to function.

  1. LTG–Pt to demonstrate age appropriate visual skills
    1. STG–Pt to demonstrate near point convergence< 6 cm on 5 trials
    2. STG–Pt to fuse 15 BO loose prism to demonstrate improved fusion skills for improved reading and close  tolerance.
    3. STG–Pt to complete 20/30 Rock card with 2.00 flipper in 60-90 seconds to demonstrate age appropriate accommodation skills to improve read and close work tolerance.
    4. Complete Developmental Eye Movement test with age appropriate ratio to demonstrate improve ocular motor accuracy for reading tasks.
    5. STG–Pt to demonstrate age appropriate visual motor integration as tested by Beery VMI
  2. LTG–Pt to be (I) in use brock string to support in clinic treatment.

The Treatment Protocol

The below protocol has been effective and repeatable with most neuro-typical children ages 6 and up. The author has modified activities for children that have difficulties with these tasks which lengthens the amount of treatment sessions but are still effective in meeting the above goals.

  1. On the Sanet Vision Integrator
    1.  Proactive, performed monocular using R/B glasses, while standing on balance board, therapist holds head still while patient alternates touching dots with right then left hands regardless of placement of dots.
    2. Rotator 3, monocular, while on balance board. May touch with any hand, verbal cues to recall alphabet as needed.
  2. Convergence activities
    1. Tranaglyph slides with goal of reaching 30 BO and 12 BI.
    2. Loose prism Jump Vergences with “circle X square” tranaglyph for binocular feedback.
  3. Accommodation
    1. Accommodative Rock task, monocular
  4. Saccades 2 task on Sanet Vision Integrator, while on balance board, monocular with R/B glasses, head held still as needed. Goal is achieve 100% accuracy .5 interval with words.
  5. After improving with these tasks, pt may be progressed to aperture arm, often challenged with 1.00 flipper to maintain focus
  6. Visual motor integration tasks, tracing shapes, copying geoboard forms on paper and/or chalkboard/SVI and other visual motor tasks.
  7. HTS Autoslide performed at end of session

CPT code 97530- therapeutic activities, a timed code, is used for all sessions.

The Outcome

Patient are discharged upon reaching all goals as stated above on two consecutive visits. When this has occurred there have been no re-referrals for CI. There is also a resolution to many other symptoms including

  • resolution of headaches
  • improve reading fluency
  • a resolution to letter reversals in most cases
  • improve handwriting
  • improvement is self-esteem

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About the Author

 

 

 

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.

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“Is it a vision problem?”

Does this child have a visually-based problem?

Our children present with a vast array of problems affecting their development and academics. Sensory problems, trauma, autism, behavior, ADHD and the list goes on. Our children get assessed by OTs, and PTs, neurologists, neuropsychologists, and pediatricians. But did they have an eye-exam? A complete eye exam? Only 40% of children have had their eyes examined by an eye doctor. (1) That leaves all of those children potentially walking around with vision problems affecting their academic and developmental development. Meanwhile, we attempt to teach them catch a ball or write the alphabet or button a button.

“Does he need an eye exam?”

YES!!! Every child, regardless of academic performance or other diagnosis, needs a complete eye exam with a binocular vision assessment and cycloplegic dilation, even if the child has never complained about their vision.  Many times, when a child is assessed with the Convergence Insufficiency Symptom Survey, they learn that they are not supposed to see “words moving” on the page or see double when they read. They had symptoms and were not even aware. Most children with ocular motor or near vision problems will read letters on a chart without difficulty. 20/20 means only that each eye has good acuity. It does not tell us how well the eyes are working together or how hard the eyes are working to make a 20/20 acuity. Only a complete eye exam with binocular assessment and cycloplegic dilation can give the whole picture.

“Is this is visually-based problem?”

There are many signs a child is having a visual-based problem.

  • Eye rubbing
  • unexplained headaches
  • poor handwriting
  • poor reading skills that do not improve with tutoring
  • head turning or tilting when reading
  • closing one eye while reading
  • poor visual motor integration that does not improve practice
  • poor balance or motion sensitivity
  • Diagnosed ADHD that does not respond to medication
  • unable to catch a ball
  • letter reversals
  • visual perceptual problems
  • spacing and size problems during handwriting tasks
  • fine motor delays
  • poor depth perception

These problems maybe mis-diagnosed as things like dyslexia or ADHD and even be treated as such without success for many years.

“Who do I send them to, to make sure they a complete eye exam?”

A good place to start is College of Optometrists in Visual Development. These doctor specialize in the assessment and treatment of eye movement disorders and near vision focusing problems that could be affecting academic performance. You can your local COVD doctor with the search tool on the site. One might also look for an optometrist that specializes in pediatrics or binocular vision.

When an appointment is made, be specific about symptoms and ask for a “binocular vision assessment”.

Every child

Every child needs a complete eye exam. Parents may have many reasons to not get this dome, but you cannot teach a child read or write, or catch a ball that cannot see.

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1.Children’s Vision Screening and Intervention. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://nationalcenter.preventblindness.org/childrens-vision-screening-and-intervention

Common Birth to 3 Vision Conditions

Vision Birth to Three

The visual system at birth is very immature. After all, our new born has been a a dark environment since conception! Acuity develops over time as does the accuracy of eye movements.

Age (months) Skill
1 to 4 acuity is 20/200 to 20/400, follow slow moving object intermittently, basic eye movements present
5 to 8 developing color vision, not as good as adult yet
9 to 12 improving acuity, responds to faces
12 to 24 acuity improved to 20/50, developing eye-hand coordination, depth perception
24 to 36 acuity is 20/20, begins exploring environment
36 to 48 using vision for fine motor coordination.  At 48 months, refined eye movements with decreased head movement.

Assessment of eye movements before the age of three should focus on full range of motion understanding that the accuracy of these movements are still developing and will demonstrate poor accuracy and excess head movement.

“When should their head be still??”

This separation of head and eye movements should begin at about 4 years old with no head movement observed during assessment at age 10 and tapering in between. This going to be tied to development of the proprioceptive and vestibular system  as well as development of the overall brain. These system are closely linked and delay in any of them will cause a delay in ocular motor skill development as well.

When should a baby get their first eye exam?

The first eye exam should be at 6-12 months old. Infantsee, a public health program developed by the American Optometry Association, provides this first eye exam at no charge. It is vital to detect any problem that could limit development of the visual system. The next eye exam at 3 years, then annually from ages 6-18. Just as the child is growing a changing during these years, their vision could be changing as well. With the visual demands placed on our children during these years, an annual exam makes sure they are ready to meet those demands.

Common Birth to 3 vision problems

The below table is just a few the pathologies that could limit development of the visual system.

Common Birth to 3 Eye problems Pathology Acuity Prognosis Functional Problems Modification
Coloboma failure of the halves of the eye to join completely inutreo, may affect pupil, retina or lid varies depending of retinal damage stable condition glare problems if pupil is affected and retina is functional, reduced bincular depth percpetion sunglasses, motor practice
Optic Nerve Hypoplasia decreased evelopment of the optic nerve, usually assocaied with midbrain/endocrine problems varies from minimal affect to near blindness, possbile field cut, possble nystagmus stable condition Delayed motor development due to reduced visual input.   Refer to TVI at 3 yrs old. vestibular and motor facilitation tasks.
Retinopathy of Pre-Maturity scarring related to excessive blood vessel growth during prolonged O2 exposure in premature infants varies by amount of scarring stable condition depends on level of scarring, may be no delays related to vision based on acuity
Corticol Visual Impairment lack of vision due to visual pathway damage/failure to develop Usually not 100% blind stable condition near blindness, refer to TVI, use contrasting colors, movment and work peripheral to central to investigate amount of vision. Referal to TVI is important for school readiness.
Accommodative Esotropia medial eye turn due to extreme farsightedness 20/20 with glasses in place, eye turn also corrects with glasses improves, but child will remain in glasses throughout life none with early correction, amblypoia without correction glasses should be comfortable and worn at all times.
Infantile Esotropia medial eye turn not related to generally reduced due to amblyopia, may improve with correction varies, tx by surgery vs VT vs Botox reduced motor development per doctors order concerning patching, facillitate motor improvement
Amblyopia reduced acuity due decreased visual pathway development  due to prolonged suppression or lack of stimulation to visual pathway varies, 20/200 or worse to 20/50 depending on patching complaince and glasses wear compliance. may improve with compliance of tx and glasses wear, binocular vision therapy reduced motor dev., head turns, decrease binocular depth perception. Brain with compensate in time motor dev facilitation, exercise amblyopic eye if currently patching, binocular vision activities
Strabismus eye mis-alignment at rest, corrected with surgery vs VT vs Botox varies, generally reduced due to amblyopia varies greatly. Long term, brain adapts to suppression of the turned eye reduced motor dev, self-esteem, self conscious of turned eye, reduced binocular depth perception eye exercises per doctors order, facilitate motor development

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Fine motor skills and vision

Does binocular vision affect fine motor ability?

Occupational therapy has been treating fine motor problems since the beginning of the profession. From tying shoes to buttoning to handwriting, when children or adults have difficulty with this, occupational therapy is referred.

Binocular vision?

A small study (1) looked at the fine motor skills of children with reading difficulties and found those with fine motor problems also had binocular vision problems, specifically accommodative problems.  While a small study (19 children), this suggests that vision is playing a role in fine motor coordination.

Another study (2) found that children that were poor readers showed a higher occurrence of binocular vision difficulties and suggested a need for the assessment of these skills in problem readers.

Research also indicates the importance binocular vision and motion perception to development of the motor skills(3) as young a 2 years old.

OT and binocular vision

As therapists, we are seeing children with difficulties that could have a binocular vision component. While a through binocular eye exam should be completed to rule out treatable defects, therapists integrating tracking, saccade and convergence activities could help improve outcomes for their patients. Our background in developmental sequence, kinesiology and assessment of functional ability make therapists the perfect profession to address these deficits. As therapists, we address the motor part of visual motor problems, but basic tracking, eye-hand coordination tasks could help with outcomes by improving the visual aspects of this skill.

The Therapist/OD team

Therapists, both PT and OT, should get the training to feel comfortable integrating these simple tasks into the interventions they already perform. Next, reach out to optometrists in their area. This relationship will be beneficial for both the therapist and optometrist, but mostly, this will help the patient.

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(1)Niechwiej-Szwedo, E., Alramis, F., & Christian, L. W. (2017, October 27). Association between fine motor skills and binocular visual function in children with reading difficulties. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29096178

(2)Palomo-Alvarez, C., & Puell, M. C. (2010, June). Binocular function in school children with reading difficulties. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19960202

(3)Thompson, B., McKinlay, C. J., Chakraborty, A., Anstice, N. S., Jacobs, R. J., Paudel, N., . . . CHYLD, T. E. (2017, September 29). Global motion perception is associated with motor function in 2-year-old children. Retrieved November 13, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28864240

 

 

Letter Reversals

Letter Reversals

Letter reversals are frequently an area of concern for parents as their child begins to learn writing and reading. Reversals are often viewed as a sign of dyslexia and are surrounded by myth. Here are the facts on letter reversals

  • Letter reversals are common and appropriate until a child reaches 7 or 8 years old (second grade).
  • After the age of 7-8, the children who continue to have reversals are the children that are having difficulty with reading(1)
  • Learning letters is the first time a child learns that an item becomes a different thing based on the way it is facing. A cup from seen from one side or the other is still a cup but a “b” seen the other way (“d”) is not the same thing.
  • Visual spatial and left/right body awareness correlated with children having letter reversal problems suggesting that addressing left/right awareness would improve letter reversals (2)
  • Working memory deficits, also found in dyslexia, were found in children with letter reversals, so addressing working memory may improve letter reversals. (3)
  • Children with ADHD tend to have more reversals, possibly related to difficulty in an inability to to suppress the more natural left-right flow of making most letters.

Treatment Ideas

Having the child the pull letters from a bag and identify the letters without looking at them has been a great activity (suggested by Dr. Charles Boulet) and correlated well with children having difficulty with this task that have reversal problems.

Dr. Kenneth Lane OD, FCOVD’s book , Developing Ocular Motor and Visual Perceptual Skills: An Activity Workbook, has an excellent discussion of letter reversals as well as treatment techniques. Presenting p-q-d-b chart and having the child touch “p” and “b”  with right and q and d with the left has proven to be very challenging. This activity include a component of eye0hand cooridnation and saccade accuracy that will further improve binocular vision and saccade accuracy.

The Optomteric Extension Program offers Recognition of Reversals Workbook, also by Dr, Lane (a great bookstore!!). This workbook has more activities for reversals and its only $20.

Calm the panic!!

In a few cases, letter reversals after the age of 7-8 can indicate dyslexia, but there are many other reasons a child may have reversals.

Learn More

About the Author

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

 

References

  1. Terepocki, M., Kruk, R. S., & Willows, D. M. (n.d.). The incidence and nature of letter orientation errors in reading disability. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15493319
  2. McMonnies, C. W. (1992, October). Visuo-spatial discrimination and mirror image letter reversals in reading. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1430744
  3. Brooks, A. D., Berninger, V. W., & Abbott, R. D. (n.d.). Letter naming and letter writing reversals in children with dyslexia: momentary inefficiency in the phonological and orthographic loops of working memory. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21978009
  4. Levy, F., & Young, D. (n.d.). Letter Reversals, Default Mode, and Childhood ADHD. Retrieved October 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26794673