When is a learning difficulty due to a vision problem?

While learning occurs through a number of complex and interrelated processes, vision plays a key role. Many behaviours associated with learning disabilities are similar to those caused by vision problems.

Here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate a vision problem:


Possible vision problems

Complaints of blurred vision
Rubs eyes frequently
Nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism.
Closes or covers one eye
Rubs eyes frequently
Occasionally sees double
Avoids reading
Eye coordination problems
Holds objects very close
Complaints of blurred vision
Complaints of eyes feeling tired
Avoids reading
Headaches when reading

Eye focusing problems

Excessive head movements
Skips line or words when reading
Loses place when reading
Uses finger to keep place when reading
Short attention span
Eye tracking problem
Mixing up words
Difficulty recognizing letters, words, or shapes
Trouble learning basic math concepts
Faulty visual form perception
Poor reading comprehension
Poor spelling
Trouble with mathematical concepts
Poor recall of visually presented material
Faulty visual memory
Sloppy handwriting and drawing
Poor copying skills
Can respond orally but not in writing
Faulty visual motor integration
Trouble learning right and left
Reverses letters and words
Trouble writing and remembering letters and numbers
Difficulty with laterality and directionality

Physical signs or symptoms:

  • Frequent headaches or eye strain
  • Blurring of distance or near vision, particularly after reading or other close work
  • Avoidance of close work or other visually demanding tasks
  • Poor judgement of depth
  • Turning of an eye in or out, up or down
  • Tendency to cover or close one eye, or favour the vision in one eye
  • Double vision
  • Poor eye-hand coordination
  • Difficulty following a moving target
  • Dizziness or motion sickness

Performance problems:

  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Difficulty copying from one place to another
  • Loss of place, repetition, and/or omission of words while reading
  • Difficulty changing focus from distance to near and back
  • Poor posture when reading or writing
  • Poor handwriting
  • Can respond orally but can’t get the same information down on paper
  • Letter and word reversals
  • Difficulty judging sizes and shapes

How to Identify a Vision Problem

Children should be seen for a comprehensive eye examination whenever visual symptoms are noticed or if they are not achieving their potential. Many of these vision problems will not be detected during a a school vision screening or as part of a routine medical check-up.