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Learning Disabilities and the Eye

Learning disabilities are neurologic conditions that cause difficulty reading, writing, spelling, reasoning, recalling, and/or organizing information. About 15% of the American population has a form of learning disability and about 80% of people with a learning disability have specific difficulties reading.

Can a learning disability be fixed?

No, a learning disability will never fully go away, but with support and intervention children and adults can succeed in school and go onto successful careers later in life.

How is a learning difficulty diagnosed?

A formal evaluation of intellectual ability, informational processing, and linguistic processing is required. Often several specialists work as a team to perform an evaluation and may include a psychologist, special education expert, speech-language pathologist, and/or reading specialist.

What role does vision play with a learning disability or possible learning disability?

Learning related vision problems are not learning disabilities. A person with vision problem may appear to have a learning disability and a person with a learning disability may have their symptoms worsen by an uncorrected vision issue. Children suspected of a learning difficulty (or an issue with reading) should have a dilated exam and cycloplegic refraction by a pediatric ophthalmologist to rule out a need for glasses.

What eye findings could cause difficulty reading?

There are many ophthalmic conditions that can cause a problem with reading including:

  • Convergence insufficiency (trouble bringing eyes inward to see close up)
  • Accommodative insufficiency (trouble focusing)
  • Refractive error (myopia – nearsightedness; hyperopia – farsightedness; astigmatism; and anisometropia – a difference between the two eyes)
  • Low vision

Can eye exercises or vision therapy treat reading or learning disabilities?

No, exercises cannot treat reading or learning disabilities. Exercises can improve symptoms of convergence insufficiency and glasses can treat accommodative insufficiency and refractive error. At Conestoga Eye we utilize a home-based computer program to treat convergence insufficiency. We do not recommend colored lenses (Irlen lenses) to improve these symptoms as there is no scientific evidence that this is an effective treatment.

How are learning disabilities treated?

Treatment for learning disabilities should be established in the school system. Often, a student will require tutoring and an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504-Plans. Treatment plans are customized for the student, as there are many different types of learning disabilities. Parents should work with the school to regularly revisit and re-assess the child’s learning accommodations to see what is working, what is not, and what should be changed. The learning disability will never go away, but a child can learn how to lessen the impact of a learning disability with research-based intervention, therapies, and accommodations.

Where can I find more information about learning disabilities?

Famous people with learning disabilities:

  • Charles Schwab – dyslexia (businessman and investor)
  • Anderson Cooper – dyslexia (journalist on CNN)
  • Tommy Hilfiger – dyslexia (fashion designer)
  • Paul Orfalea – dyslexia and ADHD (founder of Kinko’s)
  • Richard Branson – dyslexia (entrepreneur and billionaire)
  • Richard Engle – dyslexia (journalist, author and recipient of the Medill Medal for Courage in Journalism)
  • Steven Spielberg – dyslexia (filmmaker)
  • Ingvar Kamprad – dyslexia (founder of IKEA)
  • Tim Tebow – dyslexia (football player)
  • Jay Leno – dyslexia (actor, write and producer)
  • Howie Mandel – ADHD and OCD (comedian and actor)
  • Cher – dyslexia (singer)
  • Terry Bradshaw – ADHD (former NFL quarterback)
  • Keira Knightley – dyslexia (actress)
  • Orlando Bloom – dyslexia (actor)
  • Michael Phelps – ADHD (Olympian)
  • Daniel Radcliffe – Dyspraxia (actor)
  • Whoopi Goldberg – dyslexia (actress)
  • Justin Timberlake – ADD and OCD (singer)
  • Christopher Knight – ADHD (actor)
  • Keanu Reeves – dyslexia (actor)
  • Karina Smirnoff – ADHD (dancing with the Stars performer