top of page

The Rarely Discussed Reason why your Child is Struggling in School

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

Reading, writing, and math are the foundation of our educational system and the basis for what your child needs to succeed in school. When your otherwise bright child is not performing to their potential, as a parent, you may find yourself searching for answers. Dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia usually reach the top of the list. Unless you find yourself way down the google rabbit hole, you most likely will not find too much information on how our eyes, in the form of a Functional Vision Problem, may be the reason.

Functional Vision Problems evade screenings performed by the school and pediatrician, and they can profoundly affect your child academically and socially. They go much deeper than your child’s ability to see the board and interfere with just about every aspect of learning.

Dyslexia and Vision

Here is a breakdown of just how functional vision problems can impact your child’s performance in the classroom:

Why Your Child May Be Struggling in Reading

Functional vision problems affect reading in two significant ways:

  1. When a student is learning to read, vision problems reduce their ability to know what they are looking at and impact their ability to remember numbers and letters. An aspiring reader will struggle to keep pace with classmates as they acquire this new skill.

  2. When a student is reading to learn and has blurry or double vision, their ability to read for long periods of time and comprehend what they are reading can be severely reduced. They won’t be able to process information as quickly as their fellow students and will fall behind.

It’s important that you don’t confuse “learning to read” with “reading to learn”.

“Reading to learn” requires comprehension, and comprehending requires both visual and visual processing skills. Comprehension is affected when the visual system is not working correctly. For example, if a student sees words on the page as blurry or double, he or she has to use extra effort to keep the words single and clear. This diverts brain power away from comprehension and wastes energy on the basic functioning of the eyes. Visual processing allows us to use various skills like quickly knowing the difference between “b” and “d” and similar words like “felt” and fell”.

In both cases, students with vision problems spend most of their time decoding words. Instead of reading fluidly and visualizing the words and the message as a whole, they focus on each specific word. This is a struggle, making it difficult to process sections of text quickly.

Why Your Child May Be Struggling in Math

If your child needs help seeing things clearly and single, they may have trouble seeing decimals and/or signs. An important math skill is organizing what is being written; the student may have trouble lining things up and keeping their place if their visual skills are poor.

Laterality and directionality are also essential concepts in math. If a student sees the orientation of numbers incorrectly, they will have difficulty completing the problem. They may confuse “31” and “13” or have difficulty with math problems involving two sides of an equation.

Students who lack visualization skills can often be found counting on their fingers or verbalizing sequences. They can’t think things through in their head. Given enough time, they can generally compute an answer but tend to do poorly on timed tests.

Awareness of numbers and what they mean and being able to visualize numbers and quantities are critical to success in math and can be impacted if a child has a vision problem.

It should be noted that a child with vision problems may do well in math but struggle more with story problems that require reading. Math doesn’t require as much sustained visual attention as reading, so some children are more willing to put effort into learning math concepts.

Math at board

Why Your Child May Be Struggling in Writing (including spelling)

Writing involves both handwriting and composition skills. It is necessary for vision to lead the hand for handwriting; this can be very difficult if the student cannot see well. Often you can see in the handwriting where the student stopped looking or became fatigued.

Several vision-related skills are critical to good handwriting that may be underdeveloped in a student with vision problems.

  • Poor peripheral awareness may cause difficulty writing straight on a page.

  • Visualization is also important in handwriting because the student needs to remember what different words look like to reproduce them on the page.

  • Spatial concepts are important in handwriting to know and plan how words will go together. Children who struggle with visual-spatial organization write with their words squished together, words with variable sizing and spacing, and/or difficulties staying on the line.

  • Good laterality, directionality, and visual-spatial concepts are essential to differentiate similarly-shaped letters in different orientations (e.g. b, d, p, q).

  • Visualization is also critical for writing composition because the student needs to be able to organize and re-organize the composition in his or her head.

  • Visual recall, the ability to create a visual image based on past visual experience, is a visualization skill that is critical for spelling. In spelling, it is the ability to create a mental image of a word without being able to look at the word.

scrambled letters in brain

How Do You Pinpoint a Functional Vision Problem?

Reading through these issues, you can see that some areas may overlap. Your child may have several different functional vision problems, and the ripple effect can be felt throughout their studies.

At Vision & Learning Center, we do extensive testing to pinpoint precisely what types of vision problems your child may have. A Developmental Vision Evaluation with determine if your child is struggling in school due to a Functional Vision Impairment. If your child is struggling and appears to have a learning difference caused by a vision problem, we can treat the problem at the source in typically six months with a vision therapy program,

Handwriting progression


bottom of page