Does Convergence Insufficiency Impact Reading?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, October 21, 2021

Convergence Insufficiency is an eye problem that impacts over 1 in 7 of all students — but does it affect reading?

We’ve all met kids who despise reading, who claim it’s difficult and avoid it at all costs. We’ve also met children who enjoy reading but struggle with comprehension and can’t tell you what they’ve just read.

Both groups of children may be suffering from convergence insufficiency.

What is convergence insufficiency?

When a child’s eyes are unable to converge inwards, such as when reading for an extended period of time, causing eye strain, this is referred to as convergence insufficiency.

Convergence insufficiency is the #1 cause of eye strain for school-age students.

This condition can be caused by eye muscle imbalances and weakness, weak neck and core supporting muscles, or neurological problems.

How convergence insufficiency impacts reading

When a child has convergence insufficiency they may avoid reading due to the eye strain, tiredness or even headaches.

Since they don’t know any other way, most children have no idea what they should be seeing or that they are seeing things differently from everyone else.

To make matters worse, descriptive terms that could describe how they view text,  such as “blurry” or “fuzzy,” are abstract notions for children to grasp.

This condition can lead to avoidance of reading, poor decoding skills, reduced comprehension, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision and poor recall of familiar words and letters.

Symptoms such as blurriness, fuzziness, letters moving on the page, or poor overall attention develop as fatigue sets in.

Children with poor comprehension may enjoy reading, but they may not get the most out of their reading experience due to convergence insufficiency.

SEE RELATED: Do I Have Convergence Insufficiency?

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor near you if your child avoids reading, as the problem could be convergence insufficiency.

Find an Eye Doctor for Convergence Insufficiency

What to look out for?

Symptoms of convergence insufficiency can be inconsistent, vary throughout the day, and are exacerbated by general weariness.

All learning difficulties and attention issues, as well as headaches, blurry vision and eye strain, are the frequent symptoms of CI

Inconsistency of symptoms is usually caused by a lack of strength in the ocular muscles, which, like other muscle groups, suffer greatly when fatigue sets in.

1. Avoidance of reading

Avoidance of reading tasks, especially for those with convergence insufficiency, is often an indicator of an underlying vision problem.

Children who avoid reading are aware that the task is difficult for them, but they may not be able to explain why.

2. Poor decoding skills

The fuzzy or blurry letter patterns can make it difficult to recognize common words, letters, and phrases, as well as make it very challenging to comprehend the text on the page.

Students with CI may also struggle with spelling and word recognition even though they have been taught it many times.

Unfortunately, even if letters and sight words have been drilled, if a child doesn’t see them correctly or consistently each time, their ability to recognize them in different fonts, sizes, and presentations suffers substantially.

This increases a child’s resistance to or avoidance of reading assignments. They are aware that they should remember the letters or site words, but due to poor vision, they are unable to recollect them.

3. Sleepiness while reading

A convergence insufficiency can cause yawning, rubbing of the eyes, and ‘drifting off’ when reading. 

The tiredness the child is experiencing could be due to the high degree of focus and eye muscle strength required to read for long periods of time.

When a child becomes sleepy while reading, they may be unable to complete age-appropriate content for classwork and homework.

Fatigue leads to poor understanding because the child tries to compensate by speed reading, skipping crucial words, reading only a portion of the information, or dozing off during the reading assignment, resulting in missing chunks of the work.

These inconsistent patterns have a big impact on a child’s ability to recognize letters, words, and phrases in different fonts, sizes, and spacing, and to process visual information on a page.

LEARN MORE: Vision Therapy for Children

Contact an eye doctor near you who can assess whether your child has an underlying convergence insufficiency problem.

If your child avoids reading tasks, falls asleep while reading, or has poor comprehension it could be due to convergence insufficiency.