Lots of kids are diagnosed with learning or behavioral disabilities when in truth, that’s not the issue at all. It’s important to be aware that the child could be one of many kids who have a hidden but very real condition, which creates an obstacle in the way of learning. It’s known as Convergence Insufficiency (CI).

In short, CI is a near vision problem that affects a child’s capacity to see, read, learn and work at close distances. Someone with CI has a hard time, or is more or less unable to coordinate their eyes at close distances, which makes common activities, like reading, very challenging. And to prevent subsequent double vision, CI sufferers put in effort to make their eyes converge, or turn back in. This added burden on the system can lead to an astounding amount of frustrating symptoms including eyestrain, headaches, blurry or double vision, fatigue and decreased concentration, and reduced comprehension after short periods of reading. With worse cases of CI, the eyes can often turn outwards. This is called strabismus.

You may also notice that your son or daughter frequently loses his or her place in a book, squints, rubs, closes or covers an eye, has trouble remembering what was read, or says that words seem to be moving.

CI is usually misdiagnosed as learning or behavioral issues like ADD, ADHD, dyslexia or anxiety. And furthermore, this problem is easily missed when a child gets a simple eye exam using only an eye chart, or a basic eye exam at school. Anyone can have 20/20 eyesight, but also have CI, and the resulting troubles when it comes to basic skills like reading.

But there’s good news too! It’s been shown that CI often responds well to proper treatment, involving either supervised vision therapy in a clinical office with home reinforcement, or prismatic (prism) glasses prescribed to decrease some of the symptoms. Unfortunately, most people aren’t tested thoroughly enough, and as a result, aren’t receiving the help they require early enough. So if your child shows signs of having a hard time with any of the symptoms mentioned above, make an appointment with your optometrist to discuss having that loved one tested for CI.