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Learning Disability or Convergence Insufficiency?

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Does your child have a tough time with school? He or she may have a hard-to-detect condition that effects learning at school. It's called Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

In short, CI is a near vision issue that impacts one's capability to see things at close distances. This means that a person with CI would struggle with reading, writing and working on things, even though it's something right on the desk in front of them. A child with CI struggles to, or is simply unable to coordinate his or her eyes at close distances, which makes necessary activities, like reading, very hard. And to prevent subsequent double vision, people with CI try harder to make their eyes turn back in, or to use the correct medical term, converge. And this additional strain can often cause a whole range of frustrating issues like eyestrain, headaches, blurry or double vision, tiredness and difficulty concentrating, and reduced comprehension after relatively brief periods of reading. At the extreme end of the CI spectrum, the eyes can often turn outwards. This is what eye doctors call strabismus.

You may have also noticed that your child often loses his/her place when reading, squints or tends to shut one eye, has a hard time remembering what was read, or describes how the words on the page seem to move around on the page. It is not uncommon for these symptoms to get worse as a result of illness, not enough sleep, anxiety or too much time spent working.

Unfortunately, CI is usually diagnosed incorrectly as ADD or ADHD, dyslexia, or an anxiety disorder. Additionally, this vision problem slips under the radar during school eye screenings or standard eye exams using only an eye chart. Anyone can have 20/20 vision, but suffer from CI, and not have the visual skills needed for reading.

The good news is that CI generally responds positively to treatment, which involves either supervised vision therapy in a clinical office with home reinforcement, or prismatic (prism) eyeglasses prescribed to decrease some of the symptoms. The bad news is that with the persistent lack of testing for CI, a lot of people are not able to access the treatment they need early in life. So if you've seen that your child is having a tough time coping with any of the symptoms mentioned above, speak to your optometrist and make a point to get your child screened for CI.