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Focusing on Convergence Insufficiency

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Does your son or daughter have a hard time with school? You may be relieved to know that he or she could have a hidden but very real vision problem that hinders learning, called Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

Here's the breakdown: CI is a condition that gets in the way of one's capability to see things at close distances. This means that a person with CI would struggle with reading, writing and working on things, even if it's a book or activity sitting right in front of them. Someone with CI has trouble, or is more or less not able to coordinate their eyes at close distances, which makes basic tasks, like reading, extremely hard. And to prevent subsequent double vision, people with CI put in extra effort to make their eyes turn back in, or to use the correct medical term, converge. All this added strain often leads to a whole range of prohibitive side effects including headaches from eye strain, blurred vision, double vision, tiredness and decreased concentration, and the inability to comprehend even during relatively brief reading periods. Subsequent side effects include challenges with performing computer work, desk work, playing handheld video games or doing crafts. At the severe end of the CI spectrum, the eyes tend to turn outwards, which is known as strabismus.

Other things that may indicate CI are if your child frequently loses the place when reading, squints, rubs, closes or covers an eye, has trouble remembering what was read, or reports that words on the page seem to move around on the page. Another issue that often comes up is motion sickness.

Unfortunately, CI is often diagnosed incorrectly as dyslexia, ADD or ADHD or even an anxiety disorder. And furthermore, this eye condition slips under the radar when a child gets a simple eye exam using only an eye chart, or a basic eye exam at school. Anyone can have 20/20 eyesight, but also have CI, and the subsequent challenges when it comes to basic skills like reading.

Despite all this, the fact is that CI usually responds well to professional treatment, which involves either supervised vision therapy in a clinical office with home reinforcement, or prismatic (prism) glasses prescribed to decrease some of the symptoms. Sadly, most people aren't screened thoroughly enough, and as a result, aren't getting the attention they require early enough. So if your child is battling to read and concentrate, make an appointment with your optometrist to discuss having that loved one tested for CI.