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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

ADHD and Vision Problems: Clearing the Obstacles to Attention and Learning

Jul 29, 2016 05:45PM ● By Dr. Samantha Slotnick

Summertime gives children an opportunity to broaden their classroom: outdoor learning, exploration and play are all critical for visual-motor development as well as cognitive and intellectual growth. Without the demands of schoolwork, many children shine as they learn about themselves through their interactions with the world.

In these crystallized moments, when a child’s gifts and potential are most readily observable, parents may notice a mismatch between who their child really is and his or her performance in school. The child’s teacher might suspect attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) or dyslexia, leaving the parents to wonder why their son or daughter is “smart in everything but school.”

In fact, a growing number of children struggle with undiagnosed vision problems that interfere with their ability to read, comprehend and even pay attention. Classroom learning and homework assignments, which are predominately visual, become specific areas of struggle. The “homework war,” fraught with frequent interruptions, may be a coping mechanism to avoid visual stress rather than an inability to maintain attention.

A recent study published in Optometry and Vision Science explored the correlation between ADHD and vision problems in children, using data from the National Survey of Children’s Health by the US Centers for Disease Control. This nationally representative sample of more than 75,000 children found the prevalence of ADHD was approximately twice as high in children with “vision problems not correctable by glasses or contacts” compared to children with normal vision. These functional vision problems include issues with eye teaming, eye tracking and focusing.

The conclusion for parents is this: Children with symptoms of ADHD deserve an evaluation with an eye doctor who specializes in functional vision. Successful treatment of functional vision problems can mitigate the impact of ADHD, if present.

All children deserve the opportunity to shine in school with the potential they display over the summer.

Samantha Slotnick, OD, is a behavioral optometrist whose office is located at 495 Central Park Ave., Ste. 301, in Scarsdale. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, and she is certified in vision therapy and rehabilitation. Contact her office at 914.874.1177. For more info on vision and learning, visit