By Guest Blogger, Joan Brennan 

Very often when exhibiting our reading tools at educational conferences, parents and teachers will ask, “How will I know if my child (or student) has a vision-related reading challenge?”  It is a very good question, one that deserves correct information and helpful resources.

After more than 15 years of teaching, it has become very clear to me that reading is a highly individualized activity.  Not all children (or adults) see the same printed page of text in the same way.  A parent may notice a child skipping lines when reading.  Another child may change the order of letters in some of the words or reverse the direction of some letters and numbers.  Still another might mention that the letters on a page seem to be “moving” (waving out, shadowing, shaking, etc.)

When parents mention any of these observations, I ask about the frequency of them.  If these are occasional occurrences, they may not be a concern, but it is usually a good idea to continue observing a bit longer for the possibility of increased frequency.  However, if these are frequent occurrences whenever reading is attempted, I recommend several things they can do to help their children.

  1. First, it is most important to rule out any physiological issues that could be contributing to these reading challenges.  The child’s pediatrician is your first line of good defense.  He or she knows your child well and can answer any questions you may have about your child’s well-being. If a parent is concerned about the possibility of a learning challenge, it should be mentioned during the visit.  In that way, the pediatrician can then help determine if any special tests or other physician referrals might be needed.  In some cases, the physician might even refer a child to a qualified psychologist or other appropriate professional to evaluate for attention issues (AD/HD) or other learning difficulties.
  2. If the pediatrician determines there are no physical problems, then it is a good idea to seek the advice of a developmental optometrist.  Unlike a regular optometrist, the developmental optometrist can evaluate for vision-related reading/learning differences (dyslexia, perceptual distortion, convergence issues, and other difficulties).  This specialized doctor will be able to determine what might be visually contributing to the child’s reading struggles.  Then a course of therapy, eye exercises, or other directives might be recommended.  To locate a developmental optometrist in your area, please visit, the official website for the College of Optometrists in Vision Development.

Yes, these actions can take valuable time, time for making and keeping appointments, time waiting for test results, and for therapies, if needed, to take effect, etc.  In the meantime, the child continues to struggle with reading.  Is there anything a parent can do while waiting for test results, a diagnosis, or a plan of action?

Sometimes, special reading aids such as focus cards or colored overlays can provide help for some of these reading challenges (for the short and/or long term).  They are certainly worth investigating, especially when these are often quite inexpensive and non-invasive options.  For more information on these reading tools, please visit

This post was provided by Joan Brennan of:

Brennan Innovators, LLC

Solutions for Struggling Readers

"Creator of the Reading Focus Card"


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