How many of you have children or know people that have children that “just don’t like reading”.
It doesn’t matter what you put in front of them, how much you force them to sit down and pay attention, they just do not want to do anything that requires reading for long periods of time, or in extreme cases, any period of time.
For years, a dislike of reading was seen simply as a character trait a person could have, but it can be something much deeper, and curable!
Does your child show any of the following symptoms?
Avoidance of detailed near work or difficulty in performing near work
Avoidance of visually detailed work
Difficulty sustaining attention, especially on near work
Difficulty with copying from the board
General fatigue, especially later in the day
Headaches, especially over the brow or temples
Poor reading fluency or comprehension
Requires frequent breaks to complete work
Holding materials too close
Have you ever asked them if they experience:
Blurred vision looking at near objects
Difficulty switching between near and far
Intermittent blurred vision looking into the distance after reading
Any of these 16 symptoms/experiences can be an indication of an accommodative dysfunction of the eyes.
Accommodation describes the ability for the eyes to focus. Like how a camera lens changes focus for various distances, the eye too, changes its focus depending on the distance of the object it is looking at. Focusing of the eyes is achieved by the lens in the eye changing shape. This action is controlled by muscles that relax while looking far away and contract when looking up close. If for some reason this focusing ability is impacted in any way, that is considered an accommodative dysfunction. In some resources, binocular vision dysfunction (the inability of the two eyes to work together as expected) is also included in the accommodative dysfunction umbrella.
The most common type of accommodative dysfunction in children under the age of 18 is called accommodative insufficiency, often abbreviated as AI. It essentially means that the eye muscles have difficulty sustaining focus on nearby objects. The brain then must work harder making the tasks more difficult resulting in avoidance behaviors.
Think about going outside to run a mile, right this second. Did your brain go, “nah, I don’t want to do that” ? Your thought process wasn’t, “this makes me feel more tired more quickly and I don’t want to exert that amount of energy right now”, it just said “no”. That is, in essence, what the brain is also doing in the case of accommodative insufficiency. It would just rather not, and so you see the avoidance behavior in children when confronted with near work. And when they don’t avoid it, you see the increase in exhaustion and eyestrain. The brain is literally working harder.
So, if your kid doesn’t like to read, and you haven’t been to an eye doctor? Find one in your area that has some expertise in accommodative dysfunction and get a check-up to see if it goes deeper than that.
Worth noting is there are other, rarer, types of accommodative dysfunction that can be present called accommodative infacility and accommodative spasm. In these types of disorders, the eyes have no problem focusing on close objects, but either have difficulty, or physically can’t, switch to see far away objects. In these cases, no matter how much corrective power is placed in front of the eyes in the form of glasses or contacts, the visual acuity will never reach or won’t sustain at 20/20 until the disorder is attended to.
No matter the accommodative dysfunction, if it is interfering with a child’s schoolwork, not only can the dysfunction be corrected with either glasses or vision therapy, but the disorders can qualify for accommodation, especially with taking tests, under the ADA. Your school and your eye doctor can help you navigate the necessary paperwork to ensure your child is set up to succeed.
To read other helpful articles on everyday eye care questions, visit our blog.
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