Vision and ADD/ADHD

The diagnosis of ADD and ADHD in our country is reaching an alarming rate. This diagnosis brings with it a significant number of children being placed on medications. These medications claim to work by improving the child’s ability to concentrate and focus. Unfortunately these medications come with a whole host of systemic side-effects including loss of appetite, sleeplessness, headaches, and blurry vision.

Symptoms often associated with children diagnosed as having attention deficits include:

  • Making careless mistakes in schoolwork
  • Not listening to what is being said in the classroom
  • Difficulties organizing tasks and activities
  • Losing and misplacing belongings
  • Fidgeting and squirming in their seat
  • Talking excessively
  • Interrupting others

What is interesting about these symptoms is that the ones listed above are also observed with children and adults who have learning-related visual problems. Many people are misdiagnosed as having attention problems when in fact they have an undiagnosed visual problem. By treating the underlying vision problem, behavior and attention can improve. Many of our children are being medicated without proper cause and are being put at risk for developing serious side effects from the medications they are being prescribed.

Vision therapy works to improve many visual skills that allow a person to focus and pay attention. In particular, improvement of peripheral vision, oculomotor control, and binocular vision allows a person to maintain visual attention in visually-stimulating environments.

Recent studies indicate a link between ocular convergence and ADD. Convergence insufficiency is a visual condition in which the two eyes do not freely move inwards together towards the nose. This skill is critical in being able to read and focus at nearpoint without eye strain, blur, double vision, or headaches.

Improving convergence skills has been shown to improve overall attention levels. In essence, when the visual system works more efficiently, more energy is available to maintain focus and concentration, which in turn results in improved behavior. One in four children diagnosed with ADD show signs of convergence insufficiency.

Any child observed to have attention related problems should receive a developmental vision evaluation prior to being put on any medications.

Recommended Reading:

  • “Raising a Sensory Smart Child” by Lindsey Biel
  • “Thinking Goes to School” by Furth and Wachs
  • “The Kid-Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook” by Compart and Laake

​​​​​​​You can find these books available for purchase here.