2021 Update: Reading Comprehension

Dr. Russel Lazarus, May 19, 2021

Since 80 percent of learning is through vision, if a child has a visual problem it will affect their reading comprehension.  

The first step in reading is reading fluency. Once a child has mastered that, they will start to be able to comprehend what it is they are reading.

Without comprehension, reading is a pointless and frustrating exercise. What most people don’t realize is that visual information is essential for reading comprehension.

If a child struggles with reading comprehension it could be due to an undiagnosed vision problem.

A traditional vision exam primarily measures visual acuity, or 20/20 eyesight, unusually it does not assess functional vision, so a child with ’20/20 sight’ could still have a visual problem.

Functional vision is how your entire visual system – the brain, the eyes, the visual pathways – works together to help you interact with your environment.

There are 17 visual skills that impact a child’s school performances.

The functional vision exam includes a comprehensive assessment of the visual skills including;

  • Lazy eye
  • Eye focusing
  • Eye Tracking
  • Binocular function
  • Convergence
  • Visual information processing

A functional eye exam is vital for all children with reading comprehension challenges.

If your child is not reading to their grade level, contact an eye doctor near you, who can diagnose and treat any visual problems.

SEE RELATED: 2021 Update: Reading Fluency

Find a Vision Therapy Eye Doctor Near You

Vision and reading comprehension

There are in fact 17 visual skills that can impact a child’s school grades. Listed below are just 3 of the top functional vision problems related to reading comprehension:

1. Eye focusing (Accommodative insufficiency)

Accommodation is the eyes’ ability to focus. Tiny muscles inside your eyes contract or relax to change the shape of your eyes’ lenses and allow you to bring objects at different distances into focus.

When you focus on something close, the muscles contract, and when you focus on something in the distance, they relax. This can make reading difficult when trying to maintain focus on objects up close, such as a book.

2. Convergence insufficiency

Convergence insufficiency is a problem with keeping both eyes working together, especially when focusing on words on a page.

When the eyes don’t converge accurately, it can affect the ability to concentrate on simple near tasks. This can also result in headaches, double vision, and visual discomfort when performing near activities like reading.

3. Eye tracking (Irregular saccades)

Eye saccades is a visual skill that enables a person to make quick eye movements from one object to another, such as moving from word to word while reading. Irregular saccades make reading more challenging and difficult for a child to keep their place when reading.

Can vision therapy help?

Vision therapy is a fully personalized treatment program designed to improve and strengthen visual skills, and retrain a child’s visual system to interpret visual input with increased accuracy and ease.

Vision therapy is more than just simple eye exercises — it improves brain-eye communication, and the effective operating of a child’s visual system.

The goal of vision therapy is to boost attention, concentration, learning, and reading.

LEARN MORE: Guide to Vision and Learning Difficulties

Contact an eye doctor near you that specializes in vision therapy, this may just be what your child needs to significantly improve their reading comprehension.