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Under the Radar: Convergence Insufficiency

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When a child has trouble at school, it isn't always a learning disability. It's important to be aware that the child could be suffering from a hidden but very real condition that effects learning, medically referred to as Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

Here's the breakdown: CI is a problem that negatively affects a child's ability to see, read, learn and work at close distances. Someone with CI has a hard time, or is simply unable to coordinate their eyes at close distances, which impairs tasks like reading. And because they want to avoid double vision, people with CI strain more to make their eyes turn back in, or to use the correct medical term, converge. All this extra burden on the system often leads to a whole range of difficult issues including headaches from eye strain, blurred vision, double vision, fatigue and decreased concentration, and reduced comprehension after relatively brief reading periods. Subsequent symptoms include difficulty doing computer work, desk work, using digital readers or cell phones, or doing crafts. At the severe end of the CI spectrum, the eyes can often turn outwards. This is referred to as strabismus.

You may also notice that your child often loses the place while reading, tends to shut one eye to better see, struggles to repeat what they just read, or says that words on the page appear to move, jump, swim or float. Another issue that often comes up is motion sickness. And if your son or daughter is tired or overworked, it's common for their symptoms to worsen.

Unfortunately, CI is usually diagnosed incorrectly as learning or behavioral issues like ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or anxiety. And furthermore, this eye condition is often not picked up during school eye screenings or basic eye exams using only an eye chart. Your child may have 20/20 eyesight, but still have CI and therefore, have a tough time reading.

The good news is that CI tends to respond well to proper treatment. Treatments generally involve supervised vision therapy with practice at home, or the use of devices known as prism glasses, which will lessen a number of symptoms. Sadly, people aren't tested adequately, and because of this, aren't getting the attention they need early enough. So if your child is battling to read and concentrate, speak to us to discuss having your child tested for CI.