Reading and Vision in Brain-Injured Kids

Reading and Vision in Brain-Injured Kids

Everyone knows someone who has a child with a problem. Parents who have a child with a learning problem are desperate for information. When a parent of a child with a learning problem contacts The Institutes, the questions he or she asks are usually the same ones that are asked over and over again. We have chosen some of the most common questions and their answers in the hope that the parents of theses children can learn more about the brain and the most effective means of treating the brain.

How is it possible for my son to be so bright in so many ways but not be able to read? It doesn’t make sense.

Reading is not an academic subject but rather a neurological function. The ability to read is unique to human beings. It is one of the most sophisticated abilities of the human brain. Only the human brain is able to decode visual symbols called words and grasp their meaning. We also decode words in the exact same way through the auditory pathway. Whether we hear a word or see a word, both of these abilities are a function of the brain. In order for us to hear and decode a word it is necessary for us to hear that word properly. In order for us to see and read a word it is necessary for us to see the word properly.

When a child is having difficulty reading it is because he has visual problems. In most cases, these problems are problems of convergence. In order to be able to read one must be able to converge one’s vision and near point consistently (near point is defined as the distance from one’s outstretched arm inward to the tip of one’s nose. Anything beyond three feet is considered far point). The child with reading problems is not using both eyes together perfectly at near point.

This problem does not exist in the eye itself but rather in the brain’s ability to take two distinct visual pictures of the world – one from the right eye and the other from the left eye – and place one picture over the other perfectly. When the brain is not injured it places the image from the right eye perfectly over the image from the left eye, and the result is perfect convergence and depth perception.

When the brain is injured, it may not be able to do this at all or it may do this very inconsistently, and this creates visual chaos. Words on the page of a book appear double, disappear or blur. Under these trying circumstances, the child with reading problems has difficulty making sense of the printed page. These problems slow him down tremendously and this, in turn, greatly reduces his comprehension.

To his teachers and parents, he behaves as if he is slow and unintelligent, when he is, in all likelihood, as smart as any child in the classroom and sometimes considerably smarter. He simply has visual problems as a result of his brain injury and these visual problems need ot be addressed. Once he has had the neurological program that he needs he will be able to see the words just like everyone else in the classroom does, and he will read just as well.

If my child has visual problems as a result of brain injury and those visual problems are causing him to be a very poor reader, does he need glasses?

Convergence problems originate in the brain, not the eye, and so this problem can not be corrected by glasses. Glasses prescribed for children who have convergence problems only make the problem worse.

My child has severely crossed eyes. Will surgery help?

Often surgery is recommended for children who have a severe strabismus (eyes that cross or diverge). When a strabotomy is performed, the muscles of the eye are cut in order to pull in an eye that turns out, or pull out an eye that turns in. This purely symptomatic treatment seems to work for a little while, but usually within six months to a year, the eyes go back to where they were before the surgery. This is simply because the problem is not in the muscles. The muscles of the eye are completely normal.

The Problem is in the brain, which controls the muscles. We have seen children who have had this procedure as many as a half dozen times or more in the hope that the continued chopping of the eye muscles will correct the problem. When the problem exists in the brain it is simply not possible to bypass the brain in order to solve the problem. Repeated attempts to do so will result in failure and make an already complicated problem even worse.

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