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Are Vision Problems Causing Learning Problems for Your Child?

Sweet relief. That's what Robert Cathey felt when he opened the e-mail from his son Thomas' teacher. His little boy, diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) several months earlier, had been struggling in school. All of sudden, he was doing a lot better.

His behavior improvement followed closely on the heels of another diagnosis – the second-grader was nearsighted.

"The teacher's e-mail arrived soon after Thomas started wearing his new glasses," says Robert, a father of three and resident of Sacramento, Calif., "and she was telling me that he now seemed ‘much more focused and on-task' in the classroom. He was able to concentrate better, she said, and he was now doing extremely well."

Robert, remembering the moment as "wonderful", pauses to think how a simple thing – an eye exam – changed his family's life. "Until that exam, we'd assumed that his difficulties were caused entirely by his ADHD," Robert says.

The family's eye doctor, Michael Hatashita, O.D., heard the happy news and was thrilled to be part of it. He wasn't surprised by it, either. "Nearsightedness can develop really fast in kids," the doctor says.

"When I examined Thomas' eyes, I noticed that his nearsightedness had grown much worse between first and second grade," says the 25-year optometric veteran. "In this case, the child's vision had gone from 20-25 to 20-200 in both eyes."

The dramatic change was more than cause enough for Thomas' problems in school. Eye doctors, including Dr. Hatashita, know that undetected vision problems underlie many learning and behavior problems in school. And, once those problems are fixed, the problems lessen, if not entirely disappear.

Besides ruling out vision problems, there's another big reason to get those yearly eye exams we so often forget.

"In many cases, a regular eye checkup can detect symptoms of serious health conditions, such as diabetes. But a yearly eye exam can also help reassure patients that they aren't suffering from a chronic health condition that could degrade quality of life."

And, in the case of the Cathey family, a run-of-the-mill eye exam did just that. Not to mention the "wonderful moment" a concerned dad got in the bargain.

If you think your child has a learning or behavior problem, schedule an eye exam to rule out a vision problem first.