Aparna Raghuram, OD, PhD Optometrist, Department of Ophthalmology Instructor, Harvard Medical School

Visual Problems Common in Children with Dyslexia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Aparna Raghuram, OD, PhD Optometrist, Department of Ophthalmology Instructor, Harvard Medical School

Dr. Raghuram

Aparna Raghuram, OD, PhD
Optometrist, Department of Ophthalmology
Instructor, Harvard Medical School

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Developmental dyslexia is a specific learning disability of neurobiological origin whose core cognitive deficit is widely believed to involve language (phonological) processing. Although reading is also a visual task, the potential role of vision has been controversial, and experts have historically dismissed claims that visual processing might contribute meaningfully to the deficits seen in developmental dyslexia.

Nevertheless, behavioral optometrists have for decades offered vision therapy on the premise that correcting peripheral visual deficits will facilitate reading. Yet there is a surprising dearth of controlled studies documenting that such deficits are more common in children with developmental dyslexia, much less whether treating them could improve reading.

In the present study, we simply assessed the prevalence and nature of visual deficits in 29 school aged children with developmental dyslexia compared to 33 typically developing readers. We found that deficits in accommodation 6 times more frequent in the children with developmental dyslexia and deficits in ocular motor tracking were 4 times more frequent.

In all, more than three-quarters of the children with developmental dyslexia had a deficit in one or more domain of visual function domain compared to only one third of the typically reading group.


MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Deficits in visual function appear to be far more common in school age children with developmental dyslexia, but the etiology and clinical relevance remains uncertain. Further study is needed to determine the extent to which treating these deficits can improve visual symptoms and/or reading parameters. 

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

  • Assuming the findings can be replicated, next steps would be to determine whether treating these visual deficits could have a positive impact on reading for these children with developmental dyslexia.
  • Since only a subset of children with developmental dyslexia had visual function deficits, it will be important to devise a screening protocol for psychologists, pediatricians, and reading specialists to help determine which children would benefit from a detailed visual function examination. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: This study did not demonstrate a causal role for visual function deficits in dyslexia, and more research is needed to determine whether this might be the case.

No disclosures.


Raghuram A, Gowrisankaran S, Swanson E, Zurakowski D, Hunter DG, Waber DP. Frequency of Visual Deficits in Children With Developmental Dyslexia. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online July 19, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2018.2797

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Jul 20, 2018 @ 12:09 pm 

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