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ADD or Learning-Related Vision Problems? Taking a Second Look

November 24 2021

Attention-deficit disorder or ADD ranks first as the most common behavioral diagnosis for children ages two to 11. Children diagnosed with ADHD are not only labeled but often placed on medications that can bring on a range of unwanted side effects. What if, in some cases, ADHD wasn’t the cause of a child’s behavior issues? What if an unidentified vision problem lies at the root of your child’s attention and behavior difficulties?

Learning-related vision problems and ADD bring on similar symptoms, so it may be worth taking a second look at your child’s diagnosis. Here an Annapolis, MD optometrist talks about how functional vision problems can interfere with your child’s behavior and ability to focus.

Attention Deficit vs. Functional Vision Problems

When a child starts to have problems in the classroom, a ripple effect, of sorts, can start to take shape. Frustration at not being able to grasp what’s being taught, feeling embarrassed, and even emotional distress often result when learning difficulties go untreated. ADD or attention-deficit disorder encompasses emotional, cognitive, and behavioral issues that interfere with your child’s ability to focus. However, functional vision problems can make focusing on tasks difficult, too.

Unlike nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatisms, functional vision impairments have to do with how your child’s eyes work together to relay information to the brain. Since classroom environments rely heavily on visual aids to convey information to students, your child’s ability to receive and process visual information plays a central role in his ability to learn.

How Do Functional Vision Problems Affect Learning?

Tasks involving reading, writing, and even math, require your eyes to work as a team to receive information and send it to the brain. With learning-related or functional vision problems, the two eyes don’t move naturally inwards towards the nose. This makes it difficult to focus on near tasks, like tracking words across a page. 

Children with learning-related vision difficulties tend to exhibit certain symptoms that indicate they’re struggling with near tasks, such as:

  • Doesn’t always recognize words, letters, or simple shapes
  • Uses his finger to track words as he’s reading
  • Often loses his place when reading
  • Difficulty staying between the lines when writing
  • Often skips lines when reading
  • Tires quickly or gets headaches when reading


Each of the above symptoms can make it difficult for your child to learn. For these reasons, children who have attention-related problems in the classroom should receive a developmental vision evaluation before a behavior-based diagnosis, like ADD, is considered. 

Once functional vision problems are eliminated, your child’s focus, attention, and even behavior can improve. If you have more questions or you think your child may have learning-related vision problems, please feel free to reach out to your local Annapolis, MD optometrist office today.

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The Center for Vision Development



2525 Riva Road Suite 126
Annapolis, MD 21401


As of Friday 6/30/23, the office will be closing on 4:00pm on all Fridays through the rest of the summer.