National Handwriting Week! How Does Vision Fit In?

IMG_5430National Handwriting Day is celebrated each year on January 23, John Hancock’s birthday (according to the Gregorian calendar), an American Revolutionary leader and first signer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.  The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association started this holiday in 1977 to acknowledge the history and influence of penmanship.  And we carry on this tradition today to increase awareness of the literacy benefits of mastering handwriting skills.

 

One of the most overlooked skills in the assessment of handwriting problems is the visual component.  Vision (which is comprised of 17 skills, only one of which is eyesight) can hinder a child’s educational progress by robbing him or her of the opportunity to form accurate perceptions of himself, the environment around him, and letter and numbers.  These misperceptions can lead to reading and writing challenges as well as problems with sports and activities of daily living.

With vision in mind, I am re-sharing this post that explains the vital need for having a child’s vision assessed and the important role vision has in learning.  And that includes handwriting.

 

Anatomy of the Eye Hot Air BalooningIn”sight” Into Handwriting Struggles

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills and understands the link between handwriting skills and writing.  She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

In”sight” Into Handwriting Struggles

In”sight” Into Handwriting Struggles

by Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L

Visual Perception and Learning

One of the most important skills involved in learning is Vision.  Vision is our ability to “see color, detect motion, identify shapes, gauge distance and speed, and judge the size of faraway objects….(it) is more than recording what meets the eye:  it’s the ability to understand, almost instantaneously, what we see.  And that happens in the brain.” (1)

The eye and its relationship to the brain is complex.  The brain “learns” about our environment through the information we receive with our eyes and the visual experiences we have had in the world.  Movement experiences help the brain to understand speed, balance, and distances as it separates movement that happens outside of our body from that which happens when we move our head.  Experiences that gather information about directional concepts, such as back and front, up and down, right and left, provide the brain with information that distinguishes objects from their backgrounds, as well as those that are far from the ones that are near.  This is the brain’s Visual Perception.  It uses these perceptions to guide our movements and reactions.  As information is transmitted via light that passes through the retina, the brain sorts out the relevant information and uses “short cut assumptions” about their meaning – the smaller item in the horizon is farther away than the larger one.  All of this in the blink of an eye.

Dstorted Visual Perception
If our vision skills are inefficient, our brains receive faulty information about what is “true.”

However, as powerful as the brain is, it can be fooled by its own “misperceptions.”    The brain relies upon the information it has gathered from the moment a baby first opens his eyes and it begins the visual perceptual process of  “converting light into ideas.” (2)   This visual experience turns on the learning process and vision continues to foster it throughout our lives.  When our visual skills are efficient, our brain interprets the world and our experiences efficiently.  However, when our visual skills are inefficient, the brain utilizes inaccurate information to form “misperceptions” about what we see.  Our vision tricks our brain, sort of like an Optical Illusion, by providing it with a knowledge base that is not accurate.   And like a computer, “garbage in becomes garbage out.”

Visual Perception and Handwriting

Vision is a collection of 17 skills that children need to succeed in school.  Visual Perception is just one of them.  But, as with the other 16 vision skills, it plays a key role in the learning process – and that includes handwriting mastery.  Visual Perception Skills allow children to:

  • understand directional concepts such as top-to-bottom and left-to-right;
  • recall correct letter formations quickly;
  • recognize letter formations in different contexts, such as in their workbooks, in a book, or on the board;
  • align their letters and words correctly on their paper;
  • locate letters and words on a page or on the board; and
  • complete handwritten work in a legible and timely manner.

When a student is struggling with these areas of handwriting mastery, chances are there may be a visual culprit behind it.  When extra practice doesn’t seem to work, it’s wise to collect some information that will provide some in”sight” into the problem.  A quick vision review can help determine if a visit to a medical professional is warranted.  It is easy to conduct a vision review at home or in school simply by observing a child’s “behaviors:”

kids playing outside kids pages com

  • how he buttons his coat
  • how he holds a book
  • how he walks down the hall
  • how he plays on the jungle gym

As you observe his movements in everyday life situations, you can use these handy vision checklists to uncover behaviors that indicate the possible existence of a vision problem:

Click here for a free downloadable handout for parents and teachers!
************”How is vision related to learning?”************ Click here for a free downloadable handout for parents and teachers from Sensory Solutions, Inc.!
Vision Red Flags Checklist
***Spotting Red Flags Vision Checklist!*** Click here for a free downloadable checklist for teachers and parents from Handwriting With Katherine!

If you find that you’ve checked two or three of the items on a checklist, it would be wise to consult with your child’s pediatrician about a referral to a Developmental Optometrist.

 What is a Developmental Optometrist?

What’s a Developmental Optometrist?  And why should you seek a referral to one?  In order to answer these questions, it’s important that we first discuss the distinction between the three significant members of an “Eye Team:

  • Ophthalmologist: This is a Medical or Osteopathic Doctor who is trained and specializes in eye and vision care.  They diagnose and treat all eye diseases, perform eye surgery, and prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses.
  • Optometrists: This member of the Eye Team has a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree and provides vision care, with services ranging from eyesight evaluation to the diagnosis, treatment, and management of vision changes.  They also prescribe and fit glasses and contact lenses.
  • Opticians: The third member of the team fills prescriptions supplied by ophthalmologists and optometrists.  They are trained to design, verify, and fit eyeglass lenses and frames, contact lenses, and other devices to correct eyesight.

A Developmental Optometrist is an OD who has undergone further study and training to provide eye care that specializes in proper visual development.  They are trained to evaluate and treat underdeveloped skills such as eye focusing, tracking, and binocularity.  They may also provide vision therapy services to treat conditions such as amblyopia (lazy eye), convergence insufficiency, and eye focusing difficulties.  They usually join the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), and after passing rigorous testing, conducting extra research, and publishing case studies, they can become a fellow of the COVD and obtain the title FCOVD.

Their specialized training in vision assessment and rehabilitation provides Developmental Optometrists with the skills to address a child’s visual development and to determine if their educational struggles are vision-related.  They are the key link between efficient visual perception and learning.

So, if your handwriting “struggler” is:

  • In"sight" into Handwriting StrugglesStumbling or walking into walls or furniture in a familiar environment;
  • Having difficulty with movement sequences, such as Simon Says;
  • Walking on his toes frequently;
  • Holding her crayons or pencils awkwardly, sometimes switching hands;
  • Leaning on his hand, resting his head on the table, or leaning close to his work at his desk; and/or
  • Rubbing her eyes or forehead, putting her hands over her eyes periodically during close work, or squinting or blinking frequently,

then visual perceptional “misperceptions” may be standing in the way of handwriting success.  And often, these same “misperceptions” are the underlying causes of school difficulties in general.

Isn’t it worth taking a look into our Vision Handouts?  You just may find a new perception there!

As always, thank you for reading!  I hope you will share your comments, experiences, and suggestions with us!

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/LKatherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation
 
 Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the authors of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

(1) http://discovermagazine.com/1993/jun/thevisionthingma227

(2) http://www.brainhq.com/brain-resources/brain-facts-myths/how-vision-works

 

Vision Skills: Can you see them?

 

Vision Skills: Can You See Them? www.handwritingwithkatherine.com
It is important to protect your child’s vision!

 

The next time you are sitting among a group of children, take a look around and see if you can pick out those who have a vision problem.  Now, setting aside eyesight, as it is only one of the 17 visual skills we use each day, don’t count those wearing glasses.  They are obviously living with a visual issue.  But, what about the others?
 
 
You may be surprised to learn that about 25% of children are experiencing a vision problem, with 11.5% of teenagers living with an undetected or untreated vision issue.   But, when you surveyed the group of children, were you able to tell which of them needed help?  Don’t feel badly.  I wouldn’t be able to pick them out that easily either.  Vision skills can be “invisible” and difficult to detect.  But, if you have just a small bit of information, you can uncover the behaviors that indicate that a vision problem may exit.  These are the “Vision Red Flags.”  And we are going to chat about them right now!

 

FIRST, THE REASONS WHY WE SHOULD CARE ABOUT VISION HEALTH!

 
Simply put, we should discuss vision health because approximately 80% of the learning that a child does occurs through his eyes.
1.  Reading
– plays a key role in learning through the gathering of information.
– requires efficient visual skills to see both near and far clearly, and to switch between the two effectively (e.g., copying from the board).
– demands efficient eye movements to follow a line of print or scan a page for information.
– demands that a reader interpret and accurately process the information he is seeing (visual perceptual skills).
2.  Handwriting

Basic Strokes - Universal Handwriting Program
Basic Strokes – Universal Handwriting Program
– plays a key role in learning through the communication of knowledge and ideas.
– requires efficient visual skills to learn and remember letter and word formations.
– demands accurate spatial awareness to produce a legible product.
– requires good posture to facilitate a fluid handwriting style.
3.  Everyday Activities
– require efficient coordinated eye movements for using our two hands together to tie our shoes or to write in a notebook.
– demand accurate tracking and scanning skills to play sports, video games, or work on the computer.
–  require good visual perceptual skills to help us navigate our environment, drive a car, or ride a bicycle.
– demand good visual attention skills for following a schedule, participating in school and work, or to remember information we have read.
 
Vision skills can work well only if we have taken the time to “see” if they are in good working order.

NEXT, THE WAYS THAT WE CAN SPOT VISION PROBLEMS!

Vision Red Flags Checklist
A free Vision Red Flags Checklist!

 

 

It is simple, really!  Spotting the red flags that indicate the possibility of a vision problem can be done just by watching a child “in action.”  Observe him as he participates in his normal activities:  eating, dressing, reading, writing, and playing.  As you do, note if you observe any of the following behaviors:

 
 
 
Does he:
– stumble or walk into walls as he explores familiar environments?
– appear awkward during running or climbing activities?
– have difficulty with coordinated movement sequences (e.g., Simon Says or playing soccer)?
– walk on his toes frequently?
– have difficulty recognizing right/left, up/down directions (on himself or in games)?
– hold a crayon or pencil awkwardly, at times switching hands?
– apply too much or too little pressure on a coloring or writing tool?
– lean on his hand, rest his head on the desk, or lean in close to his work?
– rub his eyes or forehead or put his hands over his eyes periodically during close work?
– appear to be looking through you or avoiding eye contact during activities he enjoys?
 
Also take a look at his eyes for these movement behaviors:
 – Does one or both of his eyes drift in or out, either consistently or inconsistently?
– Do you observe fast movements of his eyes, either with or without engagement in a movement activity?
– Is there tearing or redness of the eyes?
– Does he demonstrate excessive blinking or squinting?
 
If one or more of these behaviors exist, especially these last movement behaviors, it would be a good idea to have his vision assessed by a developmental optometrist to determine their source.
 
And just so you can record your observations, I’ve included a free download on my website, “Vision Red Flags Checklist,” that can be used by parents, teachers, and caregivers during everyday activities!
 
It is important to note that school vision screenings routinely check children’s distance vision – what we refer to as 20/20 on the eye chart.  This exam is used to refer children for glasses if they complain of blurry far-away vision and/or can’t eye-charts All About Visionsee the board from the back of the room.   For most pediatricians, this is the same situation. 
Children’s vision, to be accurately assessed, should have the attention of a developmental optometrist.
 
For more information about the importance of vision assessments, when your child should receive them, and the free vision assessment available to ALL children ages 6-12 months, please click here:  InfantSee.
 
Well, folks, I hope that this information has helped you to SEE the hidden value of efficient vision skills!
 
As always, thanks for reading!  I look forward to your comments and hope to see you next time!
 
Katherine
 

 

 

The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published by and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine.

 

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

Pictures that provide a link to their source should include the link provided with the photo to give proper credit to their owners.

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.


 

Failed at Handwriting: Collateral Damage From Poor Vision Skills

Education News
Education News
Collateral damage is the damage caused to people as a result of incidents occurring around them in which they are not necessarily involved.  Despite their lack of participation, the injuries or harm that are inflicted on them are real, nonetheless.  At times, people can be aware of the impending danger; but the occurrence can also come at them from out of the blue.  The danger was there all of the time but their awareness of it comes only after it has made itself visible.

 

Visible…that’s the key word in the discussion about collateral damage and handwriting skills. 

 

The impending danger – the underlying cause that can result in handwriting struggles – will sometimes only show itself when a child begins to USE his vision-related skills in kindergarten.

The signs may be there prior to kindergarten and first grade; but they are subtle and lurk behind our reluctance to push children past their developmental skill level.

If a preschooler is having some difficulties with pre-handwriting skills, it is natural and correct for us to consider that he may be developing at his own rate and that he will catch up with experience.

Only when he fails to do that do we begin to suspect that there may be another cause for his struggles.

By the time we sidle up to the problem, our little kindergarten student is struggling with reading, writing, and arithmetic expectations.

 

How do we prevent our children from collateral damage resulting from poor vision skills? Prevention is best achieved by “getting smart” on vision wellness strategies and the outward symptoms of visual skill impairments.  Let’s

A child's vision is the gateway to her world.
A child’s vision is the gateway to her world.

review those here.

 

  • Vision Assessments

1.  Over 60% of what a child learns, from the day he is born, is learned through his vision.  Fifty percent of what he needs to know will be obtained in his first year of life.

2.  The most critical stages of vision development occur during that first year.  Hence, undetected vision problems can lead to permanent vision impairment.

3.  Babies can develop amblyopia, strabismus, eye diseases, and refractive error without detection.

4.  It is recommended that babies receive their first vision assessment by a developmental optometrist

between the ages of 6-12 months,

at the age of 3,

as they enter kindergarten, and

every year thereafter, unless otherwise specified by their developmental optometrist.

5.  InfantSEE provides free vision assessments for babies between the ages of 6-12 months, regardless of their access to insurance benefits or their parents’ financial status.

Outward Symptoms

1.  Visual Red Flags* are behaviors that may indicate possible difficulties in visual functions.

2.  They can be observed during a child’s every day activities, such as dressing, playground exploration, and fine-motor arts and crafts.

Eyes that drift inward or outward, consistently or inconsistently, warrant assessment by a developmental optometrist.
Eyes that drift inward or outward, consistently or inconsistently, warrant assessment by a developmental optometrist.

3.  Some symptoms are quite visible, such as stumbling or walking into walls, awkward movements with running and climbing, difficulty with movement sequences (Simon Says), or rubbing the eyes or squinting.

4.  Other symptoms include inappropriate social behaviors such as grabbing at items presented to him, giving the appearance of staring at or ignoring someone speaking to him, too much/too little pressure on his pencil.

5.  Eyes that drift in or out, consistently or inconsistently, can indicate a visual impairment and should be brought to the attention of a pediatrician and developmental optometrist.

 

In order for a child to master the skills necessary for kindergarten readiness…and ultimately reading, handwriting, and math success…he needs to be able to see clearly.

Sometimes, all a child needs for success, are a pair of glasses!
Sometimes, all a child needs for success, are a pair of glasses!

Seeing clearly means that his eyes are working together to form one image, an accurate perception of himself and his world, for an adequate length of time.

He needs to be able to manipulate letters and numbers on a page, locate and identify errors, understand the boundaries of his working space, and write for comprehension – both his and his reader’s.

He must be able to “learn to read and read to learn.”

These skills are built upon strong and solid vision skills.  And vision skills are built from birth.

 

As always, thanks for reading!  “See” you next time!
 
Katherine
 
 
 
 *A Vision Red Flags Checklist can be obtained on Handwriting With Katherine’s Resources Page.
 
 
The Handwriting is Fun! Blog is published by and is the property of Handwriting With Katherine.

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine
Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, owner, Handwriting With Katherine

Katherine J. Collmer, M.Ed., OTR/L, is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in the assessment and remediation of handwriting skills. In her current book, Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation: A Practice Model for Occupational Therapists, she shares a comprehensive guide and consistent tool for addressing handwriting development needs. She can be contacted via her website, Handwriting With Katherine.

Collmer Handwriting Development Assessment and Remediation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures above that are the property of the author must provide a link back to this article or her website.

All other pictures should provide a link back to their source.

 

 

Disclaimer: The information shared on the Handwriting With Katherine website, blog, Facebook page, Twitter page, Pinterest page; in the Universal Publishing Handwriting Teachers’ Guides; on any guest blog posts or any other social media is for general informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice or evaluation and care from your physician/medical team or any other qualified health care providers. Therefore, the author of these links/posts take no responsibility for any liability, loss, or risk taken by individuals as a result of applying the ideas or resources.

 


 

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