Dyslexia is a learning disability that most of us are familiar with, and it causes difficulties in areas such as reading and spelling. A key point to remember is that dyslexia is an issue with how the brain is processing information, not an issue with the eyes. If someone has dyslexia, it should be diagnosed by someone who performs cognitive testing, such as an educational psychologist. Dyslexia is a condition that varies greatly in severity and can be classified as multiple types. Simply put, dyslexia is a problem with matching visual and auditory signals, also known as decoding.

What are the symptoms of dyslexia?

There are several symptoms of dyslexia, and their presentation can vary depending on a child’s age.

Symptoms in very young children

  • Delayed speech
  • other speech issues (such as having difficulty pronouncing long words or jumbling up words or phrases)

Once a child with dyslexia reaches school age, you are likely to see them having

  • Difficulty learning specific sounds and letters
  • They will confuse the order of letters in words while reading, writing, and speaking
  • Complaints of headaches or dizziness while reading
  • Difficulty with reading comprehension
  • Difficulty with visualizing things based on what they have read

Many of these symptoms are similar to those seen with certain eye issues, but with dyslexia the eyes are not at fault.

What are some examples of when a vision issue can mimic dyslexia?

  • Problems with laterality or directionality: Children until the first grade may have trouble differentiating right and left (laterality). Children often reverse letters or numbers when they write them, and hold their hands in an "L" shape to determine which is left and which is right.
  • Visual Fatigue: Visual fatigue is also a symptom of dyslexia. The condition can be caused by intermittent strabismus and convergence insufficiency, which are extremely common eye conditions. Fatigue in these cases is caused by the effort required to keep their eyes on the task at hand.
  • Poor Control of Eye Movements: Just like dyslexia, some vision issues can lead to reading difficulties. For people with vision issues, this is due to a problem with eye movements. It is also possible for children with this problem to miss small words like "the" and "it.". Patients with dyslexia are thought to skip these words as they have trouble visualizing them.

Why should you get an eye exam if you are experiencing symptoms of dyslexia?

There can be many similarities between dyslexia and an underlying vision problem, so it is important to have your vision checked as well to rule out any functional or learning-related vision problems. Not all optometrists do developmental eye exams, so visiting a doctor who specializes is necessary in order to determine if the symptoms are vision related, dyslexia related or a combination of the two. Treatment of dyslexia through vision therapy is not going to resolve dyslexia, however if there are even small underlying vision problems then it would benefit them by improving their reading skills in a classroom or other academic environment.

Schedule with eye doctors for a pediatric eye exam at our trusted optometry clinic in Hixson, attracting patients from nearby Chattanooga, Cleveland, and Middle Valley. Call (423) 321-8233 or fill out this form to make an appointment today.
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