The Behavioral Side of Visual Disorders

Visual or perceptual skill deficiencies can manifest in a multitude of ways. First and foremost, they are most discernible in the ability to use our eyes together effectively. Altering what we see and how we see it. This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Visual disorders seldom start and stop with the eyes.

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The Behavioral Side of Visual Disorders Optometrist
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It’s only affecting my eyes, right?

The truth is visual disorders rarely affect only what we see and how we see it. Vision is the first stop on this train but is by far not the last. Taking in visual information effectively is key but then there is a perceptual element to it as well. We are sensory beings and there’s hardly a moment the brain is not intaking, perceiving, and processing information. Life is perception afterall. If we take a moment to think it through we can come to an understanding that how we see things may alter parts of our personality.

Let’s try a thought experiment to solidify our point. Consider a child who has double vision at his near point. He can’t use his eyes together effectively to read his schoolwork or do any nearpoint work for that matter. What do you think the likely outcome would be behaviorally?

With his inability to do any near point work with proper fusion, most likely garnering headaches, as well as frustration, he will most likely form a maladaptive behavior such as inattentiveness or other aversive behaviors. If he can’t read, why should he try? These maladaptive behaviors, like a snowball rolling downhill, will lend themselves to the further reinforcement of the behavior as well as the genesis of new, complementary ones or maladaptive behaviors that feed off of one another. 

How Far Does The Rabbit Hole Go?

How Far Does The Rabbit Hole Go?

It’s hard to quantify the exact extent to which visual disorders can affect us but it’s commonplace to accept that these effects can be felt throughout our whole being.

Visual data is about 80% of the sensory information we receive in the brain. If we analyze that a little closer we can infer that 80% of our sense perception is through our eyes. If there is a disconnect or deficiency in this pathway it can be the origin of psychological and behavioral issues.

The perceptual element, or understanding what we’re seeing, is the next crucial step in this process. If we aren’t taking in the visual data appropriately, and we aren’t processing it in our brain effectively, you can start to imagine the implications in our daily lives. The danger in this is a disorder left undiagnosed or unaddressed. If a child suffers from a visual disorder it can interrupt many important psychological and behavioral aspects from identity formation, self-esteem issues, emotional regulation, to hyperactivity.

Unfortunately, the list of psychological repercussions is vast which helps show the importance of addressing these issues early rather than fighting against years of conditioned maladaptive behaviors later in life. 

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Common Questions

Children with visual impairments often exhibit distinct behaviors. They might squint or tilt their head frequently to see better, hold books or objects very close to their face, or sit nearer to visual stimuli, like a TV. Some may show sensitivity to light, while others might bump into objects or avoid eye contact. Recognizing these signs early and consulting an eye doctor for a functional eye exam can help determine the best course of action.
Vision directly impacts behavior, especially in learning environments. If a child struggles with visual tasks, they may display frustration, avoidance, or even disruptive behaviors. Reading, writing, and other visual tasks can become tedious or challenging. Consistently poor visual performance can lead to decreased self-confidence. An optometrist can assess these issues and, if needed, recommend vision therapy to address underlying visual problems.
A student with autism may exhibit a range of behaviors, such as repetitive actions, sensitivity to sensory inputs like light or sound, difficulty with social interactions, and challenges in understanding non-verbal cues. They might have specific routines and can show distress when these routines are interrupted. It's essential to approach each student as an individual, as the spectrum of behaviors in autism can vary widely.
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What Can I Do if My Child Has Behavioral and Visual Issues?

This is a good question to ask. Once we have the awareness that our child needs help, we can act on it by seeking the proper channels for care. Behavioral Optometrists and Vision Therapists are skilled in this very field. A lot of FCOVDs and Therapists have crossover training and exposure to the psychological sciences. The direct approach is two-fold: Treat the eyes and brain, and treat the person. To have an effective treatment we must not solely address the eyes. Patients are more than their eyes and they come in with the behaviors and feelings associated with their issues. At Amplify EyeCare, we look past the readily discernible visual disorders and look to understand and course correct the maladaptive behaviors that originated with the visual disorder. That’s not to say we are Psychologists or that Vision Therapy is the cure-all for psychological disorders. Sometimes, outside of Vision Therapy, additional professional help is needed but rest assured on the inside of vision therapy, we are looking to help in any way we can, including the behavioral side of the coin.                

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