Problems Copying off the Board Despite Perfect Vision

Convergence insufficiency causes problems copying off of the board, concentrating, and with reading fluency.

Problems copying off the board in class will cause a major upheaval for parents and their middle grade children. I recently got an email from a parent who is dealing with what appears to be ADHD. But is it? There is another condition that is more closely related to a learning disorder which might explain why a child would have problems copying off the board at school.

If your child has problems copying off the board in class, it may be a vision problem. I’m not talking about nearsighted or farsighted vision. The problem can still exist for a child with perfect 20/20 eyesight. The technical term for this is convergence insufficiency. It is a type of visual processing disorder. Convergence insufficiency is not commonly known, and is not often diagnosed. This is because in many cases your child who is having problems copying off the board will show perfect vision on an eye exam.

Problems Copying off the Board may be Visual Processing Issue

What are the top 10 convergence insufficiency symptoms?

  • constant eye strain when reading
  • frequent headaches
  • complaining of blurry vision
  • reading slowly, losing place while reading– causing short attention span
  • difficulty concentrating while reading– causing poor comprehension
  • eyes have a heavy feeling, like a muscle strain
  • frequent squinting while reading
  • frequent eye rubbing while trying to focus
  • reading with one eye closed may lessen strain
  • problems copying off the board

From the Mayo Clinic:

problems copying off the board in class could mean visual processing disorder.
Convergence insufficiency causes problems copying off of the board, concentrating, and with reading fluency.

Convergence insufficiency occurs when your eyes don’t turn inward properly while you’re focusing on a nearby object. When you read or look at a close object, your eyes should converge — turn inward together to focus — so that they provide binocular vision and you see a single image. But if you have convergence insufficiency, you won’t be able to move your eyes inward to focus normally.

If your child has problems copying off the board, it may be a visual processing disorder like convergence insufficiency. This is usually diagnosed in school age kids (preteens and adolescents). Convergence insufficiency often causes reading problems. You may think your child has a learning disability or ADHD. It could actually be a vision disorder instead. The good news is that convergence insufficiency treatment is available.

If your child has a convergence insufficiency copying off the board is going to be difficult. Has your child’s classroom teacher suggested your child is having problems concentrating in class? Is your child having difficulty finishing multiple choice tests properly? Are they able to neatly and accurately answer “cloze” test questions (fill in the blank)?

If your child has difficulty concentrating, keeping up with classmates, and focusing on written work consider ruling out a visual processing disorder. In the local Chicago southwest suburbs there is an optometrist who specializes in visual processing disorders: Dr. Robert A. Marini. If you are concerned about your child’s vision, concentration, and reading comprehension, visit his website and take his short vision quiz. I have taken one of my own children to see him for an eye exam myself. I was very impressed with his office, and am confident in the work that they do.

Treatments and Accommodations for Convergence Insufficiency

An eye doctor will begin to see your child regularly to work on in office vision therapy exercises. There is sufficient evidence to show that this is the best treatment for this eye disorder.

Your eye doctor may offer recommendations for your child’s classroom teacher. To help your child focus and concentrate in class, your child’s teacher could try:

  1. Giving your child a board writing buddy when they have problems copying off the board. Is there a child in your son or daughter’s class that is particularly good at copying off the board? The teacher could simply make a copy of that child’s notes and give it to your child who has problems copying off the board.
  2. Seat your child in the front row. This will help your child concentrate and focus during lectures and board activities. This may help with some problems copying off the board but will not help with vision processing issues.
  3. Give your child extra time to complete written tests. In more severe cases the child may be given a test orally by an aide or volunteer to assure comprehension.
  4. Give your child an index card to use as a line stabilizer when reading. I prefer a colored index card. Something easy on the eye is best, like manilla. The child would place the card just under the line they are reading to keep the eyes better focused.
a line stabilizing index card can help reading skills for kids with vision problems
Here’s an example of a line stabilizing index card. I used a manilla folder. My card fits the width of the text perfectly. The student should only have to slide the card up and down vertically. Only the line being read should be visible.

Things you can do at home as a parent when child has problems copying off the board:

  1. Consider investing in Audible, an audio book service. Your child can listen and follow along in the book. Online services like Raz-Kids is also an option.
  2. Read orally with your child every night. As a special education teacher, my favorite form of oral reading is choral. Read together with your child. Have them use an index card to keep their place. If your child has particular trouble, cut out a long narrow rectangle as their ‘reading box’. When you are reading together, try to keep a pace ever so slightly faster than your child.
  3. Read things more than once. If you have to, read aloud to your child, then ask your child to read with you in chorus.
  4. Quiz your child orally. Make sure they know the content.
  5. Do things in small doses. Your reading time should not be longer than 10 minute intervals. Give a lot of breaks in between reading.
  6. Praise your child for little accomplishments.
  7. Pay attention to problems and issues while reading. Mention these things to your classroom teacher and eye doctor.

Have you had a similar issue with a child who has problems copying off the board? Have you found a solution that worked with your student or child? Please leave a comment below to help other teachers and families dealing with visual processing issues and problems copying off the board. I would love to hear about your solutions and how they worked!

Disclosure:

I have not in any way been compensated to suggest Dr. Marini as a visual therapy specialist for visual processing disorders. We are not currently patients in his practice, and our children were never treated for a visual processing disorder through his office. We do, however, know others who have personally been patients of Dr. Marini’s. If you are looking for a doctor that treats visual processing disorders, visit the United States Vision Therapy Network to find a specialist near you.

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