2008-02-01 / Health

The underachiever: Is he just not trying hard enough or is something else wrong?

By Dr. S. Moshe Roth

Bright children who don't achieve to potential are an interesting puzzle. Many factors contribute to their difficulties. Research has found that vision problems play a role in academic achievement, yet are often inadvertently overlooked. Did you know that an untreated vision problem can mimic attention deficit disorder and other learning disabilities? They can also contribute to behavioral

problems. Students who are struggling with undiagnosed vision problems will often be very bright but their intelligence may not be reflected in their performance on standardized tests.According to Dr.Linda Silverman, an educational psychologist who has worked with gifted children for more than 40 years,"A high verbal IQ combined with a performance IQ that is 20 points lower should signal the need for an optometric evaluation."

Typically, if a child can pass the vision screening,vision is assumed to be fine, and it is ruled out as a problem because most people think that"20/20"means you have perfect vision.Did you know that the test that is used in most vision screenings (the Snellen Chart) was designed in the 1800s? In actuality that screening only identifies 5 percent of vision problems.

To clarify, it is important to understand what"20/20"actually means.The first"20" means you are looking at the eye chart from a distance of 20 feet. The second "20"means you are able to see the size of letter you are supposed to see from 20 feet.The test doesn't tell us if the child has all the visual skills required to read (example: following along a line of print easily).

Does your child:

• Get frustrated trying to read or do homework?

• Have trouble keeping attention on reading?

• Take much longer on homework than it should?

If you answered yes to any of these questions,a vision problem may be contributing to your child's difficulties.These are just a few of the more common symptoms. For a more complete list, take the vision quiz at: www.njeyesite.com.

The good news is that if a vision problem is at the root of your bright child's struggles,help is just a phone call away. For a list of developmental optometrists near you,visit the College of Optometrists inVision DevelopmentWeb site at www.COVD.org.

Dr. S. Moshe Roth, optometric physician, practices at Family Eye Care, in Old Bridge. He is a developmental optometrist and provides specialized services in the diagnosis and treatment of vision-based learning problems. Dr. Roth's license number is 4635 and his Therapeutic Certificate is TO 413. For more information, call (732) 679-2020.

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