VISION RELATED LEARNING DISORDERS
Children who are struggling at school may benefit from an assessment by a behavioral optometrist, as part of a multiple-disciplinary approach to finding out the cause of their learning difficulties. Children with developmental issues including low birth weight, prematurity, physical disability or brain injury can also benefit from a behavioral optometry assessment to find out whether their skills are up to age-expected levels. This information can be particularly helpful when making the decision as to when to start the child at school.
What additional testing does a behavioural optometrist do?
Behavioural optometrists can assess the child’s visual perceptual skills, and the accuracy and efficiency of pursuit and reading eye movements. Visual perceptual assessment includes the assessment of:
• visual spatial skills (e.g. right/left awareness, letter reversals, awareness of shapes and angles)
• visual discrimination (the ability to detect detailed characteristics of an object or form)
• visual memory (the ability to remember all characteristics of a given form or series of forms for immediate recall)
• visual motor integration (eye-hand co-ordination, or the ability to co-ordinate visual information processing with fine motor control. Visual motor integration is used in tasks including: writing (especially when copying), typing, and when catching or hitting a ball)
• visual analysis skills (the ability to recognise shapes and discriminate between different but similar shapes (e.g. letters, words) and the ability to analyse either the whole shape or to be able to see the different parts of the shape)
How do I access behavioural optometry at Hannes Zwarts?
Initially a general eye examination is performed that will detect if there is a requirement for any visual aids, such as glasses or contact lenses. Glasses may be required to correct blurred vision caused by myopia, hyperopia or astigmatism, or to correct a problem with poor binocular co-ordination (e.g. convergence excess), or poor accommodation (poor focus at near).
Sometimes learning issues are detected through the history taken at the initial examination which indicate that further assessment would be beneficial to determine whether visual perception is the cause of the learning difficulty. In this situation the child would be booked in for an hour appointment for a visual perceptual assessment.
This appointment is usually scheduled in the morning when the child is fresh, and usually the parent is asked to wait in the waiting room. This is to ensure that the child is not distracted, and can answer the questions asked of them at their own level or ability. Each visual perceptual test has an age appropriate range – most stop around age 13 - with a few exceptions. For this reason the most comprehensive assessments can be done for children of primary school age rather than those at secondary school.
After the visual perceptual assessment, a comprehensive report is written detailing the child’s visual perceptual skills, diagnosis and recommendations. Possible recommendations include vision therapy (prescribed activities aimed at training the reduced visual perceptual or eye movement skills), or referral to another professional. If no particular defects of vision or visual perception are found, a routine eye examination is recommended as indicated
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