Preschool children are known for being little tornados. They go from one activity to another and wear out the adults in their charge. Of course, as they get older they calm down—most of the time. As children go through school, many things that were once thought to be exuberance are diagnosed as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). While there are children with ADHD, many of these children may be rambunctious because they have vision problems.
Many children who are misdiagnosed actually have conditions such as convergence insufficiency or hyperopia. In fact, one sign that a child could have a vision problem instead of ADHD is if he or she is taking hyperactivity medication and it isn’t working. One instance of convergence insufficiency dealt with one child who was originally diagnosed with ADHD. While he was intelligent and eager to learn, he avoided reading and often felt overwhelmed to the point of nausea. His parents were skeptical about the diagnosis and opted to have their son’s vision tested with a developmental optometrist before having the child receive any medication. The optometrist discovered that he had convergence insufficiency. His problem was due to one eye being myopic. To compensate, his brain turned on and off each eye during the day and that lead to nausea. He went through a regiment of vision therapy, and after eight months the nausea was gone and his grades improved.
Adults also benefit from when their vision is checked by a specialist. Another case of convergence insufficiency dealt with an adult who wasn’t able to process and retain written material. This held him back from promotions and he feared that he was developing Alzheimer’s Disease. An eye exam showed that he had 20/20 vision with his eyeglasses, yet when he focused on a penlight as it moved within 12 inches of his eyes, he experienced double vision. Other tests confirmed that he had convergence insufficiency. He went through a regimen of vision therapy to teach his eye to work together. Thanks to this therapy, his reading speed and comprehension improved.
Convergence insufficiency isn’t the only thing to be on the lookout for when it comes to children. One study done at Ohio State University found that kids in preschool and kindergarten who have hyperopia have a hard time paying attention. In turn, this can lead to decreased early literacy. While some children in this study were able to focus and make adjustments, others weren’t able to do this. Among those who couldn’t adjust, they had lower scores on tests of hand-eye coordination, visual attention and visual perception. Researchers plan to do further studies to see if glasses that correct hyperopia will help children improve their literacy skills.
While medications have helped both children and adults diagnosed with ADHD, it is important for patients to get a second opinion, especially if the patient experiences physical discomfort when it comes to reading or writing. So, if a patient complains of physical discomfort when reading or talks about a child having these problems, ask if they have seen a vision specialist. If they haven’t, refer them to one.