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Understanding How ADD/ADHD & Vision Problems Are Related

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ADD/ADHD is a complex disorder that often appears as an inability to focus or sit still. But did you know that vision problems can cause similar outcomes? There are many vision problems that can cause symptoms similar to ADD/ADHD, which has led to the question: are ADD/ADHD and vision problems directly related? 

While one of these problems can’t cause the other, children with vision problems are almost 3 times as likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD. Whether this is due to the fact that they showcase similar symptoms or that one may be easier to detect than the other, ADD/ADHD and visual problems often appear simultaneously.

Fortunately, many common vision problems that cause symptoms similar to ADD/ADHD can be diagnosed and treated with the help of a trained optometrist.


Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder, also known as ADHD, is a neurobiological disorder. This complex condition is a common development in children all over the world and is often characterized best by a child’s inability to focus or their constant fidgeting when trying to sit still. ADD/ADHD often appears as:

  • Hyperactivity
  • An inability to sit still
  • Impulsive actions
  • Overlooking details
  • Getting bored with repetitive tasks or detailed work
  • Forgetfulness

Children with ADD/ADHD may often interrupt others while they’re talking or have difficulty waiting their turn in a game. It’s important to note, though, that this is a complex disorder that affects every person differently. Some children may simply appear as though they don’t pay attention, while others have difficulty sitting still or often find themselves fidgeting, doodling, or moving around when they need to sit still.

Is ADD/ADHD Linked to Vision Problems?

Vision problems often cause similar symptoms to that of ADD/ADHD, though it isn’t confirmed whether or not the two are linked. Most likely, the correlation between the two is that they showcase as extremely similar problems—even though the cause of the symptoms is often different.

However, children with vision problems are much more likely to be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD than children with clear vision. While many researchers are unsure of the exact cause of this, there is one explanation often considered: children with vision problems need to devote more of their attention to navigating the world with their vision problems, which leaves less of their attention for other tasks or things to focus on.

It’s important to note that while vision problems don’t directly cause ADD/ADHD, they do present similar symptoms. When a child is struggling to see, it can cause them to lose interest in focusing on something that’s irritating or straining their eyes, leading to disinterest or difficulty paying attention. 

In a similar boat, a child with ADD/ADHD may have problems processing visual information or paying attention for a long period of time. This can lead to learning difficulties as a child struggling with either of these conditions may not be able to focus for long periods of time. 

And since a child’s learning is mostly vision-based, this can be problematic for children in school. Whether it’s caused by ADD/ADHD or a vision problem, it’s essential to receive a proper diagnosis so the underlying problem can be addressed.

How to Tell if Your Child Has ADD/ADHD or Vision Problems

If you suspect your child has ADHD—or any vision problem, for that matter—your first step should be to visit a trained optometrist to determine if they have any problems developing with their eyes. An experienced eye care professional will be able to perform a series of tests to check if your child is experiencing any problems with:

  • Their visual acuity
  • Their ability to track moving objects
  • How their eyes team and work together
  • Their visual processing skills
  • Their hand-eye coordination

This is a noninvasive approach to determining how your child’s eyes work and hopefully can determine whether or not your child is experiencing a visual problem that could be causing their behavioral problems. If an optometrist determines that your child’s eyes are healthy and operating fine, it may be a good idea to visit a healthcare professional or psychiatrist to determine if your child is struggling with ADHD.

Vision Therapy: What Is It?

Vision therapy is the term used when an experienced optometrist or vision therapist works closely with a child to perform a series of exercises — to coordinate movements between the brain and the eye. It’s also often referred to as vision training.

These exercises aim to train the eyes and brain to work together and communicate properly. The therapy used depends greatly on your child’s unique needs and situation. An optometrist will use a variety of tools and exercises to treat and train your child’s vision, like:

  • Eye-tracking exercises
  • Eye-teaming activities designed to improve coordination between both eyes
  • Focus training designed to improve how the eyes change focus between objects at different distances
  • Perception training to help the brain interpret and comprehend visual information

The therapist performing these exercises with your child also may use specialized computer software or other activities to help your child. These programs often use engaging and fun activities to keep a child’s interest peaked while still benefiting their vision in the long term.

These programs are customized to your child’s unique needs and aim to help a child keep their ability to focus by removing barriers that their eyes may be causing. Whether it’s their eye’s inability to focus or a problem causing double vision, an optometrist and vision therapist can use their extensive knowledge to give your child the care and attention they need to help keep their vision clear.

An optometrist conducts an eye exam on a young boy, both of them smiling

Where to Get Vision Therapy

At Belle Vue Specialty Eye Care, we know how important your child’s vision is. If you notice your child is struggling with their vision, vision therapy may offer a solution. After all, clear vision plays a key part in your child’s learning, and the health of their eyes is a crucial part of their everyday life. For all of your vision therapy needs, book an appointment with us today!

Written by Megan Lott

Dr. Megan Sumrall Lott is a functional optometrist who practices in Hattiesburg, MS. She is a 2006 graduate of Southern College of Optometry. She began practicing optometry by providing primary eyecare at Lexington Eye Care in Lexington, MS. After providing vision therapy to her 9 month old son to correct an eye turn, Dr. Lott realized she had found her passion in functional optometry.
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