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Under the Radar: Convergence Insufficiency

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When your child has trouble at school, it isn't always a learning disability. You may be relieved to know that he or she may have a hard-to-detect vision issue that impacts learning, that eye doctors call Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

To explain, CI is a condition that interferes with a child's capability to see things at close distances. This means that a person with CI would struggle with reading, writing and working on things, even when it's something right in front of them. A child with CI has trouble, or is more or less not able to coordinate his/her eyes at close range, which impairs things like reading. And to prevent subsequent double vision, they strain more to make their eyes turn back in, or to use the correct medical term, converge. That might not sound all that bad, but that extra work will often give way to a whole range of uncomfortable symptoms including eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, double vision, fatigue and decreased concentration, and the inability to comprehend even during brief periods of reading.

You might also notice that your child easily loses his/her place in a book, squints, rubs, closes or covers an eye, has a hard time remembering what was read, or tells you that words they look at appear to move, jump, swim or float. Also, some children get motion sickness. And if your son or daughter is tired or overworked, it's not uncommon for their symptoms to intensify.

Unfortunately, CI is frequently diagnosed incorrectly as ADD or ADHD, dyslexia, or an anxiety disorder. And furthermore, this eye condition often goes undetected during school eye screenings or basic eye exams using only an eye chart. Your son or daughter might have 20/20 eyesight, but also have CI, and the subsequent difficulties associated with reading.

But there's good news too! It's been shown that CI tends to respond well to treatment. Treatments generally involve vision therapy performed by an eye care professional with practice sessions at home, or the use of devices known as prism glasses, which will lessen some symptoms. Unfortunately, since there is persistent lack of testing for it, lots of people aren't getting the treatment they require early in life. So if your child is battling with reading, writing and concentrating, speak to your optometrist and make a point to have that loved one screened for CI.

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