The diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) has been the center of much controversy over the last two decades. Inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity are the key behaviors of ADHD. In an effort to help children who have difficulty excelling at school due to short attention spans, many parents, teachers, and doctors assume these children have ADD or ADHD and put them on medications. Unfortunately, as can be the case with many prescribed medicines, they are often treating the symptoms and not the real cause. According to recent studies from optometrists, ADD and ADHD are not the only reasons a child may suffer from high distractibility and difficulty remaining on task. The truth is optometrists have found that these can be symptoms of other problems such as undetected vision problems. Therefore, before labeling a child as having attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, it would be wise to visit an accredited optometrist to evaluate them for developmental problems such as delayed visual development.
Within the last few years, optometrists are finding that children with undetected vision problems can exhibit symptoms similar to ADD and ADHD. When vision is difficult and requires greater effort than normal, a child typically avoids close range work and appears to be not trying or daydreaming. Studies show that children who suffer from eye teaming issues (the ability to have both eyes work together when focusing on an object) and other focusing-related problems have trouble remaining on task for long periods of time. Much like children with ADD and ADHD, those with vision-based learning problems are highly distractible, have short attention spans, make careless errors, fail to complete assignments, and are often fidgety and off task. This can lead to the harsh misjudgment that the child “just doesn’t try hard enough”. Therefore, the child soon learns that no matter how hard he tries he cannot achieve success causing him to potentially give up academically and find other ways to occupy his time. Unfortunately, most of his alternatives are not socially acceptable in a classroom-type setting.
What few people realize is that the child’s inability to remain on task may be caused by the discomfort of using their eyes for long periods of time at close ranges and not a true attention span deficit. However, parents and teachers who are not trained to recognize the difference often misdiagnose these children. According to studies by optometrists found in medical journals, there is a clinical connection between eye teaming problems and attention deficit disorders. Therefore, the answer may not require stricter discipline, rigid regiments, and even medication. Instead, an alternative course of action could include a visit to your optometrist to potentially detect and correct the underlying visual problems with the proper lenses and/or vision therapy.
Any child who is suspected of having ADD or ADHD should have a complete eye exam by a registered optometrist to determine if poor visual processing is a factor in the child’s behavior. To date, ADD and ADHD can only be diagnosed by a subjective checklist. There are no tangible tests to guarantee a proper diagnosis. However, if your child has a vision problem that is making it difficult to remain on task, you can receive factual and concrete results that come from objective clinical measures and tests performed by your optometrist at an accredited vision center.