Preschool Vision and Early Learning

Detecting Vision Problems Before A Child Enters School

Detecting and correcting vision problems when your child is young ensures they do not encounter unnecessary difficulties and labels throughout their schooling. Unfortunately, basic eye exams usually only test for 20/20 eyesight (or visual acuity) and do not test any other areas of vision function, which are essential for learning in the early grades.

Undetected vision problems can cause significant difficulty for a child in an academic setting. As a child progresses through the higher grades, children with functional vision disorders often fall further and further behind their peers, continually requiring academic intervention and support services in order to achieve.

There are a host of visual skills and abilities that are essential for early learning. Here are a few:

Eye-hand Coordination

Preschoolers need to be able to coordinate their eyes and body together in an efficient manner. This is essential for common preschool tasks such as:

  • coloring
  • pasting
  • cutting
  • learning to write

If a child’s eye scanning skills are below average, it will interfere with the child’s ability to perform eye-hand tasks, resulting in frustration or avoidance of the task at hand.

Common signs of a eye-hand coordination problem in preschoolers are:

  • difficulty coloring within the lines
  • a delay in their writing development
  • poorly organized writing
  • avoidance of coloring or writing completely

Difficulty with visual-motor (eye-hand) tasks can make even basic preschool assignments really frustrating for both the child and the parent!

Many of these children may be receiving physical or occupational therapy services, yet the improvements they attain often are not enough, and undetected vision problems cause continual difficulty in these areas.

Depth perception (stereopsis)

This is an essential skill that is often not assessed in routine eye exams. Depth perception (or stereopsis) is the ability to appreciate 3-dimensional vision, and can only exist if the two eyes are coordinating in sync with one another.

If the two-eye system (known as binocularity) is not functioning normally, depth perception may also be impaired. Depth perception is important, because it helps the individual understand where things are in their environment. (for example: how far are things from me?).

If 3D vision or binocularity is impaired, many preschoolers will show symptoms like:

  • difficulty catching a ball
  • difficulty walking down stairs
  • poor spatial judgement on the playground
  • the child may fall or trip frequently
  • they may be clumsy or bump into things in their environment
  • have difficulty with sport activities.

Visual memory

Children with poor visual memory have difficulty remembering how things LOOK and therefore often resort to other perceptions to learn about their world such as sound (language) or touch.

Such children will have tremendous difficulty learning and remembering colors, numbers or letters, and need a lot of repetition in order to retain information learned in the classroom.

If a child continues with visual memory difficulties, they will have, often significant difficulty learning as they move along in the higher grades. These children will have difficulty retaining sight words learned before, and will continually forget words they have seen, sometimes numerous times before.

This results in their frequent need to constantly decode words phonetically, as the always see the word as if they never saw it before! Most children with visual memory difficulty also have very poor spelling skills as they mature and will usually spell words phonetically.

Visual-Spatial Relations

This skill requires an ability to see and understand differences in spatial orientation of pictures.

For example;

which item is different from the rest?   > > > < > > >


Many children cannot see the difference in orientation. These children will therefore frequently write numbers or letters backwards, because they cannot understand the difference in orientation of even more basic shapes.

Excessive reversals are quite common as a result. If left untreated, there is a high correlation between low visual spatial skill and reading comprehension in the later grades.

Preschool Vision Checklist

Is Your Child Visually Ready for Kindergarten?

  • Parent must use fingers to point to items in a book in order for child to see it
  • Difficulty copying from paper to paper
  • Reverses letters or numbers very often (ie: b vs d, z vs. s)
  • Avoids writing tasks
  • Very disorganized writing
  • Cannot stay on line when writing
  • Complains of blurry/double vision even occasionally
  • Headaches after the school day
  • Rubs, pokes or “widens” eyes when doing visual activities
  • Fatigues easily when doing tabletop activities
  • Complains letters move or run together on page
  • Covers one eye or squints with near work
  • Holds books close to face
  • Postural skews when writing
  • Writing up/downhill or off-line
  • Procrastinates with starting academic activities
  • Difficulty remembering numbers or letters seen or learned before
  • Gets to a word they saw before yet starts to sound it out again as if they never learned it
  • Needs a lot of repetition to retain colors, numbers or letters
  • Writing is poorly organized on the page
  • Seems visually distracted
  • Difficulty with doing puzzles
  • Child complains about their eyes even though prior eye exams say everything is fine
  • Overwhelmed when looks at a lot of information on a page
  • Poor concentration or attention in school
  • Diagnosed with ADD, ADHD or dyslexia
  • Complains of car sickness or motion sickness
  • Poor eye-hand coordination in sport activities
  • Does not look at ball during catch
  • Often bumps into things in his/her environment
  • Overly clumsy, concerned about leaving child alone on the playground
  • Coordination not improving even with physical and occupational therapy
  • Child seems nervous with stairs, must hold on to railing
  • Poor depth perception
  • Diagnosed with gross motor, fine motor, auditory and/or speech/language delays

Request an Appointment >>


Font Size