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Focusing on Convergence Insufficiency

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When your child struggles at school, it isn't always a learning disability. In truth, he or she may be suffering from a hidden but very real condition, which impacts learning. It's known as Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

Here's the breakdown: CI is a near vision issue that negatively affects one's capability to see things at close distances. This means that a person with CI would have trouble reading, writing and working on things, even though it's a book or activity sitting just on the desk in front of them. A child with CI has trouble, or is entirely not able to coordinate his/her eyes at close distances, and that really impacts on basic activities like reading or writing. In order to avoid double vision, CI sufferers try harder to make their eyes converge, or turn back in. And this additional effort will often give way to a whole range of frustrating symptoms like eyestrain, headaches, blurry or double vision, sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, and the inability to comprehend even during relatively brief periods of reading. Further side effects include difficulty working on a computer, desk work, playing on handheld video games or doing art work.

Other things that may point to CI include if your child easily loses his/her place in a book, squints or tends to shut one eye, has a hard time remembering what was read, or describes how the words appear to move or float. Some sufferers also have problems with motion sickness. And if your son or daughter is tired or overworked, it's not uncommon for their symptoms to become worse.

CI is often misdiagnosed as learning or behavioral issues like ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or anxiety. Additionally, this eye problem slips under the radar during school eye screenings or regular eye exams using only an eye chart. Your son or daughter might have 20/20 vision, but also have CI, and the subsequent challenges associated with reading.

That said, the good news is that CI tends to respond positively to professional treatment, involving either supervised vision therapy in a clinical office with home reinforcement, or prismatic (prism) glasses prescribed to decrease some of the symptoms. Unfortunately, with the consistent lack of testing for it, a lot of people aren't able to access the treatment they require early in life. So if your child is battling to read and concentrate, make an appointment with your optometrist and have that loved one screened for CI.