Nonverbal Learning Disabilities (NLD)

By Gary Etting O.D. F.C.O.V.D.

More and more parents are expressing concern over the discrepancy between their child’s academic performance (grades) and their standardized test scores (PSAT, SAT, LSAT, GRE etc.). They often report no prior classroom accommodations and nor any eye sight problems. Their children, however, complained that they simply could not complete the test sections in the allotted time.

When I see these patients in my office and probe further regarding their reading ability, I hear the following symptoms: slow reading speed, below average comprehension, re-read several times to understand, inability to read for long periods, drowsiness when reading, print blurs after reading awhile, headaches or eye fatigue after reading, use of finger or a marker to keep place skipping words or lines of words when reading, loss of attention, difficulty sustaining concentration on the task, and working two to three times as hard as everyone else . Developmental optometrists, like myself, hear these complaints all the time.

These symptoms are common for individuals who have specific kinds of visual dysfunctions. Typically, these individuals have healthy eyes and see clearly (20/20 sight) either with or without glasses. In addition, they exhibit no observable eye turn,and have normal depth perception They have not learned to use their Vision (the ability to understand what they see0 in the most efficient way.

To be successful, it is not enough to just understand what is seen but to do it quickly, comfortably , accurately and for extended periods of time. Individuals with visual dysfunctions in tracking, focusing and coordinating the two eyes together struggle with visual processing speed using more physiological effort with less return than their contemporaries. The practicing of reading and having tutoring, over time, have simply embedded rather than eliminated these visual roadblocks.

The treatment regimen of choice for visual processing speed difficulties is optometric vision therapy. This is a well researched re-educative program designed to help the person learn to use their visual process in a more efficient way. It entails weekly office visits combined with home therapy to reinforce the newly learned abilities. The therapy programs range from 3-9 months depending on the severity of the visual dysfunctions, the patient’s motivation and their learning curve. Patient’s typically notice changes 4-8 weeks after the onset of treatment. Once treatment is completed no further home therapy is necessary.

It is very gratifying, to me, to see someone improve their standardized test score and enter their college of choice. Many students may not be as fortunate unless they see a Developmental Optometrist. Be sure your child receives a Developmental vision evaluation and doesn’t have an undetected visual problem keep them from performing to their fullest potential.