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Vision Therapy and ADD/ADHD

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or AD(H)D is being diagnosed with increasing frequency in both children and adults. Many of these individuals were previously labeled hyperactive or minimally brain damaged. It is estimated that 10 to 15% of school-age children presently have this disorder.

 

The fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association, classifies three types of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders: predominately inattentive, predominantly hyperactive, and combined. Six of nine symptoms of inattention, and six of nine of hyperactivity and impulsivity are necessary.

In each case, the symptoms must be present for at least six months to a degree that is maladaptive and inconsistent with developmental level. In addition, some symptoms must be present prior to age seven, and in two or more settings (e.g. at school, work and home). There must be clear evidence of clinically significant impairment in social, academic, or occupational functioning, and the impairment cannot be caused by other disorders such as anxiety, psychosis or a pervasive developmental disorder.

 

Even though it is generally assumed that people diagnosed as having AD(H)D present a common set of characteristics emanating from a common etiology, little agreement is found among researchers regarding these symptoms. Some symptoms seen in children diagnosed as having attention deficits include:

  • Making careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Not listening to what is being said
  • Difficulty organizing tasks and activities
  • Losing and misplacing belongings
  • Fidgeting and squirming in seat
  • Talking excessively
  • Interrupting or intruding on others

 

Physicians often recommend that AD(H)D be treated symptomatically with stimulant medication, special education and counseling. Although these approaches sometimes yield positive benefits, they often (may) mask the problems rather than get to their underlying causes.
 

Many common drugs for AD(H)D, which have the same Class 2 classification as cocaine and morphine, can have negative side affects that relate to appetite, sleep, and growth. These drugs must thus be withdrawn only under medical supervision. Placing a normal student who has difficulty paying attention in a special class and counseling could undermine, not boost, his self esteem.

 

If you have a child who enjoys being read to, who will sit and listen for long periods of time, but who demonstrates attention problems when using eyes for reading, deskwork, or homework, there is an excellent chance that the child’s attention problem is caused by an inability to use his eyes. There is no “biochemical imbalance” which allows children to attend when information comes in through the ears, but distracts children when information comes in through the eyes.


Similarly, if a child can pay attention for math, but not pay attention for reading, there is no “biochemical imbalance,” which occurs when the child looks at numbers but disappears when the child looks at words. In math, other than story problems, there is less visual information to cope with. The child looks at individual numbers and, as often as not, copies them one at a time, getting the hands into the act. In reading, the letters are crowded together so visual problems can more easily cause the letters to “run together.” Children who can pay attention for math but lose attention for reading, frequently have a visual problem masquerading as an attention problem.

However, if when you read to your child, his attention is better, but still a problem, then any number of causes—along with vision—could be contributing to the attention problem. For instance, your child might not understand the words, or there could be some other health problem making attention difficult.

Whatever the reason for your child’s struggle with attention, or behavior, untreated vision problems will only increase frustration, trigger behavior problems, and make things worse.
 

Vision Therapy improves many skills that allow a person to pay attention. Anyone diagnosed with AD(H)D should have a complete evaluation by an optometrist. Testing should be done at distance and near point to assure that both eyes are working together as a team. Vision is more than clarity and is a complex combination of learned skills, including tracking, fixation, focus change, binocular fusion, and visualization. When all of these are well developed, children and adults can sustain attention, read and write without careless errors, give meaning to what they hear and see, and rely less on movement to stay alert.

 

 
 
Keiser Family Eye Care 503 High St. Waterford, PA 16441 Phone: (814) 796-1133 Fax: (814) 796-1133

Keiser Family Eye Care, P.C. proudly serves Waterford, PA and the areas of Erie, Lowville, Fairview, Union City, Edinboro and Cambridge Springs.

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