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Some Learning Disabilities Caused by Eye Problems

By sandymaple |

According to researchers, many children who struggle with learning disabilities might actually be suffering from eye problems, not brain problems.

Norwegian University of Science and Technology researchers say that studies of the eye have revealed that in some, the cells within the retina don’t respond to stimulus the way they should. Specifically, the mango cells, which should respond to rapid movements and transmit signals to the brain, aren’t doing their jobs properly.

In a normally functioning eye, the mango cells should create a video-like experience for the brain to process.  But in some, they send still pictures that are disjointed and seemingly unrelated to each other.  This, say researchers, can impair motor skills and ultimately lead to learning disabilities.

In tests of ten-year-olds, Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson says he discovered a verifiable link between those who have difficulties with math and those who have poor visual perception related to rapid changes in the environment.

The testing involved a mathematics test followed by two more tests for those who scored the highest and the lowest.  The first of those follow-up tests involved following dots on a screen and anticipating their movements.  In the second test, the subjects were evaluated on their ability to perceive the form of a non-moving circle.

While the results for the test involving non-moving circles were nearly equal for both high and low math scorers, anticipating the moving dots proved to be much more difficult for the kids who had problems with math.

Professor Sigmundsson says this proves that the improper processing of visual information can create learning difficulties in more than one area.  And knowing a child suffers from this impairment is important when it comes to designing educational materials.

“This demonstrates that when we find evidence of learning disabilities in children in one area, we should expect to find learning difficulties in other areas, too.  And when we know the source of the problem, it makes it easier to create and adapt programs so children get the most out of them.”

Obviously, identifying an eye issue won’t result in a cure for a child’s learning disabilities, but it does bring to mind a controversial treatment recently profiled in the New York Times.  Vision therapy, which some claim can actually cure a child who has been (inaccurately) diagnosed with a learning disability, has been roundly debunked as junk science by mainstream medicine.   Perhaps it is nonsense to believe that eye exercises can help a child who has learning disabilities, but shouldn’t a comprehensive eye exam be standard procedure when diagnosing such a child?

Image: D.C.Atty/Flickr

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