Three School Behavior Problems that May Relate to Eye Health Issues

Let’s take an in-depth look at 3 common behavior problems that are often linked to resolvable vision challenges.
Asian child with glasses reading comic book

As a parent, few things in life are more important than setting your children up for success in the classroom. Unfortunately, one vital aspect of a child’s ability to learn and develop new skills at school is often overlooked.

With up to 80 percent of what a child learns in school being information that is presented visually1, it is essential to detect and prevent vision-related issues for your child as early as possible.

Let’s take an in-depth look at 3 common behavior problems that are often linked to resolvable vision challenges.

1) Unable to pay attention / ADHD symptoms

According to the CDC, as many as 11% of children in the US have been diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder), also called hyperactivity2. Given how common this condition is, it’s easy to see how vision challenges might be mistaken for ADHD symptoms. Let’s take a look at how this might play out.

Through the teacher’s eyes

The teacher mentions to you that your son or daughter seems to stare off into space or constantly looks around instead of looking at the board or an assignment. They seem distracted and unable to pay attention to the teacher. This same child may also be unable to sit still. They interrupt the teacher and classmates.

The teacher thinks that the child may need to see a doctor to determine if ADHD is the culprit.

If a child has vision challenges, they may be missing important social cues.

How the child experiences it

In reality, your child can’t see the board or teacher clearly. It’s hard to know what they are supposed to look at. Because of this, they stare off a lot or otherwise seem inattentive.

We learn at an early age that it’s not nice to interrupt, but if a child has vision challenges, they may be missing important social cues that help them know when someone is done talking. Researchers estimate that as much as 55% of communication is body language3. If your child can’t see that body language, they may be missing half the conversation.

If your child or a child in your classroom is exhibiting these symptoms, getting their vision checked may be just what they need get more out of the classroom experience and their studies.

2) Appearing to have learning disabilities

Depending on how it’s defined, between 5% and 20% of people have some form of learning disability4.

Teachers and administrators are always on the lookout for children who may have trouble learning so that they can ensure that they receive legally-required assistance through the school system. But what if a child who has trouble seeing appears to have a learning disability?

This can cause a child who has an above average IQ to be treated by teachers as if they are unable to learn. The results can be very damaging.

A Harvard study on the power of perception

In 1964, a Harvard professor named Robert Rosenthal performed a study on elementary school children. He gave all of the children a standardized test that teachers were told would identify the students who were “Harvard material.”5

After the children had taken the test, the true results were kept private while the teachers were given the names of randomly-selected students who supposedly aced the test. The study found that the children who teachers thought had aced the test actually developed higher IQs over the next 2 years.

He concluded that the teachers were interacting with the children differently because they believed they were smarter.

How this could impact your child

Now, consider how this might impact your child. Because the child is exhibiting symptoms of a learning disability, they are treated differently.

Vision symptoms commonly mistaken for learning disabilities include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty studying
  • Trouble taking tests
  • Poor grades

Correcting their vision can reduce trouble learning. It can eliminate the idea that this is a learning disability and all of the expectations that come with it.

3) Acting out

A child who “acts out” in school may have trouble with teachers, peers and authority. They may be labeled as angry, a liar or a bully. But the true cause of their difficulties may be underlying frustration caused by an inability to see.


A child may appear to be lying about something they saw. But they may have simply not been able to see clearly.

Science has proven how amazing the human brain isat filling in the gaps when there are holes in our senses. It’s how we are able to survive when we have limited information. But this can backfire on a child who has vision problems.6

A child may fully believe that they saw something they didn’t see. To others, they appear to be lying and may be punished for it.

This child may also lie about homework. They’re embarrassed or want to get out of trouble. The fact may be that they couldn’t understand the instructions, couldn’t find their homework or couldn’t see the work. Whatever the cause, a child is only thinking short-term instead of asking for a vision exam.


A child who gets angry easily may simply be expressing frustration with not being able to see. They may feel picked on by the teacher or classmates. It may be confusing how other students know what to do when they actually don’t.

Anger is usually a sign that something is wrong. Attending to this child’s eye health may be exactly what they need.

Children’s eye health

Children don’t always realize that they can’t see. Instead, they may act out and struggle in school. It’s up to us as parents and teachers to be on the lookout for the warning signs.

Regular vision screenings can help ensure that your child isn’t struggling because of an easily fixable vision problem. A child can go on to have a successful school year with better sight.


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