Joint statement by national ophthalmic and pediatric associations says vision problems are not the cause of learning disabilities
SAN FRANCISCO – The American Academy of Ophthalmology announced today that it has issued a revised policy statement on Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia, and Vision. The revised statement, which was issued jointly with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) and the American Association of Certified Orthoptists (AACO), expands upon the previous policy and includes extensive scientific references. The statement was also published today in Pediatrics, the journal of the AAP.
“Dyslexia and learning disabilities are complex problems that have no simple solutions,” said Sheryl Handler, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist who helped revise the statement. “This policy statement applies the available evidence to develop recommended steps for the best possible outcome for children with these disabilities. We hope that the statement will be helpful for the physicians who play an important role in the care of children with learning disabilities.”
Learning disabilities affect an estimated 2.6 million children between the ages of 6 to 11. Approximately 80 percent of people with learning disabilities have dyslexia, a primary reading disorder that is language-based. It is an abnormality in the word analysis pathways of the brain that interferes with its ability to convert written words into spoken words. Early identification and referral to qualified professionals are essential. Children with learning disabilities should receive individualized, evidence-based educational interventions combined with psychological and medical treatments as needed.
“Currently, there is no adequate scientific evidence to support the view that subtle eye or visual problems cause learning disabilities,” the policy states. Numerous studies have shown that children with dyslexia or related learning disabilities have the same visual function and ocular health as children without such conditions,” the statement notes. “Specifically, subtle eye or visual problems…do not cause dyslexia. In summary, research has shown that most reading disabilities are not caused by altered visual function.”
The statement also notes that there is no scientific evidence to support the use of vision therapy or tinted lenses or filters as effective direct or indirect treatments for learning disabilities. There is no valid evidence that children participating in vision therapy are more responsive to educational instruction than children who do not participate. “The claim that vision therapy improves visual efficiency cannot be substantiated,” the policy states. “Diagnostic treatment and approaches that lack scientific evidence of efficacy are not endorsed or recommended.”
The policy statement is available at http://www.aao.org/about/policy/upload/Learning-Disabilities-Dyslexia-Vision-2009.pdf. More information about vision therapy for learning disabilities is available at
About the American Academy of Ophthalmology
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world's largest association of eye physicians and surgeons—Eye M.D.s—with more than 27,000 members worldwide. Eye health care is provided by the three “O’s” – opticians, optometrists and ophthalmologists. It is the ophthalmologist, or Eye M.D., who can treat it all: eye diseases and injuries, and perform eye surgery. To find an Eye M.D. in your area, visit the Academy's Web site at www.aao.org.