How to Tell the Difference Between Vision Problems and Dyslexia

Does your child have trouble reading? It’s important that you don’t assume what the problem. Dyslexia and vision issues are different, and they each require specialized treatment. Check out the symptoms of each problem to identify the one affecting your child.

Symptoms of Vision Problems

If your child displays any of the symptoms below, it’s time to schedule a vision test:

  • Eye-rubbing
  • Teary eyes
  • Swelling or redness in around the eyes
  • Crusting or a pus discharge
  • Light-sensitivity
  • Bulging eyes
  • Droopy eyelids
  • White, yellow or gray-white material in the pupil
  • A change in sight ability or the appearance of the eyes*

Symptoms of Dyslexia

Dyslexia can be more difficult to identify as the symptoms vary by the child’s age and developmental stage.

The following symptoms are seen in children in preschool through third grade:

  • Difficulty learning to speak
  • Inability to identify individual letter sounds within words, which causes a switching of the use of similar letters, despite phonics knowledge
  • Difficulty and exhaustion when spelling and reading
  • Inability to memorize facts involving numbers
  • Tendency to replace words with synonyms because of meaning, not the similar appearance of the words

And dyslexic children in fourth grade and higher might show the following:

  • Inability to comprehend text
  • Tendency to memorize rather than understand words and phrases
  • Uncertainty in spelling, and tendency to misspell words copied from existing text
  • Continual misspelling of non-phonetic high-frequency sight words
  • Increasing mistakes when confused, stressed, under time pressure, or in poor health

The symptoms clarify the difference between vision problems and dyslexia: sight problems involve the physical eyes, and dyslexia involves the brain. If you think your child shows symptoms of dyslexia, it’s time to see a doctor. Immediate treatment is essential, and programs like Fast ForWord have proven effective for overcoming this learning challenge.

*WebMD, 2011. “Signs of Vision Problems in Young Kids.”

About Geoff Nixon

Geoff Nixon is the founder of Gemm Learning. He saw the power of cognitive software when Fast ForWord helped his son with language and reading. Looking at the intervention alternatives for his son, he saw information was hard to get, evaluations were traumatic and cost a fortune, and that most recommendations were instruction based -- they did not address the underlying issues. This was the spark for Gemm Learning, started in Westchester, NY in late 2005.