All too frequently, we meet really bright children who love camp and extracurricular activities, but just don't have an easy time at school. It's important to be aware that the child may have a hidden but very real condition, which creates an obstacle in the way of learning, known as Convergence Insufficiency (CI).
Here's the breakdown: CI is a problem that negatively impacts one's ability to see things at close distances. This means, a person with CI would struggle with reading, writing and working on things, even when it's something sitting right on the desk in front of them. A sufferer of CI has trouble, or is entirely not able to coordinate his/her eyes at close range, and that greatly infringes on basic activities like reading or writing. In order to avoid double vision, schoolchildren strain more to make their eyes turn back in (converge). This extra burden on the system often leads to a number of prohibitive issues such as eyestrain, headaches, blurry or double vision, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and reduced comprehension after relatively short reading periods. Subsequent symptoms include challenges with doing computer work, desk work, playing on handheld video games or doing crafts.
Other things that may point to CI include if your son or daughter frequently loses his or her place while reading, tends to shut one eye to better see, struggles to recall what they just read, or describes how the words they look at appear to move or float. Another issue that often comes up is motion sickness. It's not rare for these symptoms to get worse as a result of illness, lack of sleep, anxiety or too much time spent working.
Unfortunately, CI is often misdiagnosed as dyslexia, ADD or ADHD or even an anxiety disorder. And furthermore, this vision problem is often not detected when a child gets a simple eye exam using only an eye chart, or a basic eye exam at school. Your child may have 20/20 eyesight, but suffer from CI, and lack the visual skills critical for reading.
The good news is that CI usually responds well to professional treatment, involving either supervised vision therapy in a clinical office with home reinforcement, or prismatic (prism) eyeglasses prescribed to decrease some of the symptoms. Unfortunately, because of considerable lack of testing for it, many people are not able to access the help they need early in life. So if your child is battling to read and concentrate, make an appointment with your eye doctor to discuss having that loved one tested for CI.