Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Problem readers may have convergence insufficiency

Image: freedigitalphotos.net/photostock
Convergence insufficiency (CI) is one of the most common childhood ocular motor disorders. It can make reading very difficult and consequently cause a child to fall behind in school.
In my office many parents of kids with convergence insufficiency report that their child is a slow reader, intensely dislikes school and is generally performing very poorly. Often, the paradox of an intelligent child who performs poorly in school is explained by a treatable ocular-motor disorder like CI.

Studies estimate that 5-15% of children are affected by convergence insufficiency.

It is vital for parents and teachers to know that a even if a child has 20/20 vision, she still may have CI. The standard eye chart only tests for visual acuity and not for ocular motor function, which is just as important for the performance of visual work such as reading and playing sports. Generally, CI can only be found in an eye examination.

The good news is that convergence insufficiency is very treatable. A recent study funded by the National Eye Institute found that optometric vision therapy is the best treatment for convergence insufficiency, with a 75% success rate.

According to the press release issued by the National Eye Institute:

“There are no visible signs of this condition; it can only be detected and
diagnosed during an eye examination,” said principal investigator Mitchell Scheiman, O.D., of Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University near Philadelphia, Pa. “However, as this study shows, once diagnosed, CI can be successfully treated with office-based vision therapy by a trained therapist along with at-home reinforcement. This is very encouraging news for parents, educators, and anyone who may know a child diagnosed with CI.”

Common symptoms of CI are:

  • headaches

  • blurred vision

  • double vision

  • inability to concentrate

  • short attention span

  • frequent loss of place

  • squinting, rubbing

  • closing or covering an eye

  • sleepiness during the activity

  • trouble remembering what was read

  • words appear to move, jump, swim or float

  • problems with motion sickness and/or vertigo

    • Parents should ensure that they take their children to the eye doctor every year and that the doctor is testing for ocular motor disorders like CI. Don't be afraid to ask the right questions to ensure that nothing is being missed.