If you have a child who is struggling at school then you will be extremely interested in information that offers help for children with learning disabilities, whatever form it may take. You are probably concerned enough to spend big dollars and loads of time trying to find a solution to their academic problems, and you may notice that there is a huge variety of material available, especially on the Internet.

Reading disabilities are a hot topic these days, with many students struggling to keep up with their peers, or failing to do enough work at home. This provides a challenge for the teachers who care for them, especially remedial teachers, but it can be a source of great pain and incredible frustration for both parents and kids.

Behavioural optometry can help children with learning disabilitieschildren with learning disabilities

Having worked in the field of dyslexia and educational disabilities for over 20 years, I care about how vision affects education. I’m not talking about whether a child can see clearly not, because most kids can see perfectly well, but the question is can they see comfortably and can they take in, interpret and understand the information their eyes are giving them as they look at computers or books.

A behavioural optometrist goes far beyond a regular eye test. Almost all optometrists test children’s eyes, a behavioural optometrist cares enough to take extra time to closely examine the focusing and eye teaming abilities, eye movements across a page, and a variety of perceptual skills like visualisation, directionality, sequencing and coding.

Because vision is the dominant sense in the classroom (and at home for Home work!), the vast majority of children with learning disabilities actually have a strong visual component to the difficulties, with over 80% of all information in the classroom coming in via the eyes and visual system. This is especially true for ADHD, autistic or asperges kids or children struggling with vestibular, audio or any other learning disorder or disability.

And it is not just about the ability to see, because chimpanzees can see a book but they cannot learn like we can, no matter what interventions or additional experience we give them. Kids might see the print, but focusing on it for any length of time can cause fatigue, frustration or eyestrain, and so they choose to lose concentration very quickly on their work books.

If they constantly lose concentration, the concerns are that they never do enough to develop the visual abilities that they need to learn effectively. Skills like eye movements, focus and eye teaming, visualisation and the like are essential for learning, but it takes practice to gain the skill.

Checking Vision can be Helpful for children with Learning Disabilities

The role of the behavioural optometrist is to ensure that a child’s eyes and visual system are set up appropriately to allow them to learn at maximum efficiency and progress in their studies. Our task is to get them concentrating and to help them develop the visual abilities that are required for learning, and that will last a lifetime.

So if you are serious about investigating why they are struggling at school, and if you feel you are ready for a cost-effective and successful mode of treatment, then my recommendation is that you carefully examine the child’s vision.

That is my role as a behavioural optometrist. I do not teach children to read, I do not drill spelling words with them, but I am able to give them the skills they need to do these appropriately. Using glasses and specific vision therapy my aim is to have a huge impact on every child who was struggling at school, and to join with educational professionals to ensure that children with learning disabilities get every chance possible to overcome and succeed.

developmental optometristA developmental optometrist is another name for a behavioural optometrist, which is an optometrist who takes a special interest in the development of the visual system, especially as it applies to learning difficulties and the development of conditions like myopia.

Most developmental optometrists start out as I did, being a regular optometrist but wanting to do more to help the children I was seeing.  I recognized that conventional optometry did not detect all the conditions of the eyes, in particular those which relate to children with learning problems.

Many kids with learning difficulties visit an optometrist and are told that they have 20/20 vision, and that they are not long or short sighted.  This leaves parents with little alternative except to move on and try tutoring, etc., but if you main symptom is poor concentration when reading and doing close work, there has got to be more to the story!

So How Can a Developmental or Behavioural Optometrist Help?

On the Sunshine Coast there are many optometrists, in all shapes and sizes, some working for big corporations and others, like myself, in smaller, friendlier local practices.  Yet there are very few behavioural optometrists, dedicated to testing and treating visual development in children with learning difficulties.

“When you are a Developmental Optometrist your entire philosophy of vision testing changes,” explains Dr Darin Browne, “And rather than simply testing to see if a child is long or short sighted, we look far deeper at the focusing and eye teaming abilities, as well as factors like visual memory for spelling, directionality for letter reversals and other perceptual skills like coding, sequencing and even eye movements.”

The reality is that the developmental optometrist often discover deeper issues that are not even being tested by other more conventional Optometrists.  And even more importantly, they have a means of not only testing for conditions, but also treating them successfully.

“Using specialized lenses and prescribing various types of vision therapy we can successfully help the vast majority of children who come to our practice with learning problems,” explains Darin, “and that is what most parents really want to see happen… that their children, who they know are bright, have the chance to reach their full potential.”

So even if your child has seen another Optometrist, why not visit Eye CU and discover how a developmental optometrist could make the difference in your child’s learning difficulties.

Behavioural OptometryBehavioural Optometry is an area is holistic, looking beyond the ability to see to include the ability to comprehend and process information via the eyes and visual system.  It is usually connected with kids and developing vision, and for this reason is typically referred to as developmental optometry.

Behavioural Optometry was once considered by conventional Optometry as being somewhere between reading tea leaves and reading palms!  When I started behavioural practice a long time ago, I felt like my fellow Optometrists saw me as weird and eccentric, but much has changed since then.

Nowadays other Optometrists send patients they may be unsure about to me!  In my area on the Sunshine Coast Behavioural Optometry is being embraced by established practitioners and recognized for what it is, a unique specialty or discipline within our profession which can provide real answers to children struggling at school.

 

Academic Support for Behavioural Optometry

Academics are actually discovering solid support for what Behavioural practitioners have been working with for years, and this has increased the credibility of this mode of Optometry.

Yet it does not stop there!  As a Behavioural Optometrist, I can now supply answers for most patients and many conditions, notably the efforts we’re pursuing to stop the progression of short sightedness or myopia.  This means that we don’t have to sit down by and watch our children’s prescriptions get stronger and their lenses thicker through the years!  Sometimes we can even reverse it, and the principles we build such treatments on are based upon longstanding Behavioural Optometry premises.

Another area which works well is in the treatment of turned eyes and lazy eyes, where conventional Optometry holds few answers and loads of frustration.  As Behavioural Optometrists, we can help the eyes to actually function together.

However, the actual power and attraction of this discipline is in the area of learning disabilities, where we are able to not just increase concentration and decrease frustration in our children, but we could also train them in the skills they need to learn, and hence see rapid and sustained improvement in their learning abilities.

So now could be the time when this branch of this profession is coming into it’s own!  There is a sound and powerful tool that can be used to assist children with learning disabilities, turned eyes, lazy eyes and increasing short sightedness, and this tool is known as Behavioural Optometry!

Vision therapy activitiesVision therapy activities are used by Behavioural Optometrists around the globe to help children develop their visual skills.  The main aim of these is to help the child as they learn and develop in their schooling rather than helping them to perform a specific task within the Optometrist’s office.  It is one thing to see some measurements in the office change, but I know every parent of a child struggling to learn is far more interested in whether their child’s learning ability has increased!

 

So the big question is, “Do vision therapy activities actually work?”

 

What are the Vision Therapy Activities?

If your child is struggling at school, as a concerned mother or father you might be on the lookout for ways to improve their abilities.  So-called experts are fast to dismiss the effectiveness of vision therapy activities without even attempting to understand what they are and how they work!

Having been involved in Behavioural Optometry for more than 25 years, I’ve seen these therapies improve both my measurements and the actual school efficiency and learning abilities of children in the classroom.  However, I recognize that some activities taught by optometrists hold little value for bettering the school performance of children, even when they change our measurements in the consulting room.

Making the claim that these therapies don’t work is like saying piano lessons don’t work!   Why dismiss a complete profession because someone did not get a great result with the therapy?  I have done poorly at piano lessons, however piano lessons do seem to have worked quite well for Billy Joel!

Vision Therapy Activities That Can’t Fail!

It may surprise you to know that there are vision therapies which simply cannot fail to teach children the skills they need, in much the same way that piano or guitar classes can not fail to enhance children’s skills at playing.  What skills am I talking about?

I use vision therapy to train skills like eye movements and tracking, eye coordination and focus, visual memory for spelling, directionality for letter reversals and well-known skills like sequencing, coding, etc.  These skills are used day-after-day by everybody as they learn, read and study, but if they’re slow in developing for any reason, the child will struggle at school.

OK, the skills would possibly develop naturally, but what happens if they do not develop until Grade 8?  You would have a bright youngster who has trouble reading, writing and spelling.  Many of these kids actually don’t have dyslexia or brain damage, they most often have simply failed to develop the skills they need do the job properly.

which concentrate on the visual skills every person in every culture makes use of to learn and read will definitely assist a child with learning disabilities.  In fact, they can not fail to have a positive effect!

which concentrate on developing these essential visual skills nearly always see enhancement of the child’s learning ability.  In the same way that piano lessons will enhance both a novice player and an expert, getting these skills right can have a major impact on a child’s capacity to learn.

The best news is that the therapies which assist children are frequently fun and fascinating for the kids!  I have worked hard to produce a variety of therapies which kids will enjoy doing, will be challenged by yet will not be overwhelmed by.  We have now a incredible success rate with these therapies for helping children with learning disabilities, because they’re fun and the kids really like doing them.  They’re not weird, not boring and take round 6 months to help a child reach their full potential.  While I don’t teach children to read, I can provide the visual skills that they need to allow an academic professional to teach them to read.

So when it comes to helping children with learning disabilities, vision therapy activities which concentrate on developing the necessary visual skills are extraordinarily effective!

behavioural optometristIf you’re the mum or dad of a child with a learning disabilities, a Behavioural Optometrist might have the answers you’re looking for!

A Behavioural Optometrist has a special interest in children, especially those that are battling learning disabilities.  These sorts of youngsters most frequently present with symptoms like reduced concentration for all their school work, and nearly all of them have in some way failed to develop the necessary visual skills required to perform well at school.

But the great news is that a behavioural optometrist like myself can help your child right across the board, both in focus and visual skills, using a combination of reading glasses and targeted vision therapy.

 

A Behavioural Optometrist Can Help Focus

 

Most folks think that all an Optometrist can do is help a child to see better, and most kids with learning problems have absolutely no issues with seeing the print.  Yet, as a Behavioural Optometrist I can tell you that the most common symptom I see in children with learning disabilities is poor concentration, not blur, not headaches and not sore  eyes.  These different symptoms can occur, that is for certain, but reduced concentration for reading and near tasks is by far the commonest symptom.

This occurs because the pressure induced on a child’s visual system as they try to read and learn causes the focusing and eye coordination mechanisms in the eye to stress out and ultimately break down.  If concentrating on reading is demanding for a child, they either do the work and suffer eyestrain, headaches and sore eyes, or more commonly simply refuse to do it… that is, they stop concentrating on their school work!

A Behavioural Optometrist can prescribe special support or study lenses, or they can use focus and eye coordination vision therapy.  Both of these techniques work very well, and both of them can increase the length of time a child can concentrate for.  This is a dream come true for a lot of annoyed parents, however there’s so much more that we can do in addition to helping your child to concentrate, and there are a number of ways we can assist your child as they battle to learn at school.

A Behavioural Optometrist Can Assist Studying

A child learning to read should develop certain skills to do the job properly.  Skills like word recognition, visual memory, eye movements and control all serve to help a child when they read.  Children struggling to learn most often show diminished visual skills, mainly because they have never concentrated long enough to develop the skills they need, and this is where I can offer something totally unique to help.

I have designed special exercises, therapies and games which target and supercharge a child’s visual development, and these therapies also help them to pay attention and learn more efficiently.

As a child reads, shouldn’t these skills develop normally?  Well yes, they definitely need to, but if a child has learning difficulties then they typically do not develop correctly, or are slow at developing.

Vision therapy allows us to concentrate on developing these skills and make them happen faster than they would normal develop as a child reads.  While the lenses we prescribe help children to pay attention better without stress, vision therapy permits us to train the skills they need to read, write and spell quickly and effectively.

Combining the two allows us to have the maximum influence on a child’s learning experience, and to do so within the shortest amount of time.  I have the chance to see both of these techniques work successfully in my practice, and I really like hearing children excitedly inform me that they have gone up a level in reading, or listening to their dad and mom describe the improvement.

So when it comes to helping children with learning disabilities, a Behavioural Optometrist could hold the answer to the problem.

That’s why I love being a Sunshine Coast Behavioural Optometrist!