Visual impairment in children linked to ADHD: Study

Visual impairment in children linked to ADHD: Study

It is not easy to live with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). There appears to be a difference of opinion about the disease; some think it as a matter of choice of behavior or a result of bad parenting, while others believe that the disease runs in families.

ADHD is often associated with an array of issues related to physical and psychological health. Certain studies have shown that children with ADHD are likely to work two times harder than their peers without ADHD, but are still subjected to ridicule from those around them.

Exploring link between improper vision and ADHD

A recent study by the University of Alabama at Birmingham has revealed that children with non-correctable vision problems are more likely to develop ADHD compared to their peers having normal eyesight. The study, titled “ADHD and Vision Problems in the National Survey of Children’s Health,” was published in the journal Optometry and Vision Science in February 2016.

As part of the study, the scientists examined the data from the 2011-12 National Survey of Children’s Health based on a study of over 75,000 children aged 4-17 years who did not suffer from any kind of cognitive disorders.

The survey asked the parents if their wards were ever diagnosed with a chronic condition, including ADHD, intellectual disabilities, or any visual impairment that stood uncorrected. The findings revealed a heightened risk of ADHD among children with visual problems not correctable.

Nearly 15.6 percent children were diagnosed for both ADHD and vision problems, while only 8.3 percent of children with normal vision were found to have ADHD. Co-author of the study Dr. Dawn DeCarlo, director, Centre for Low Vision Rehabilitation, said, “These types of vision problems could be anything from color vision deficiency to amblyopia, but would also include children like those seen in my clinic with vision impairment.”

According to DeCarlo, the link between the two conditions continued to exist even after making certain alterations in other factors associated with ADHD. Though the causative link between visual impairment and development of ADHD has not been clearly understood, DeCarlo said, “It could be as simple as children with vision impairment being mislabeled as ADHD because they are not able to pay attention to things they cannot see. Or, it could be much more complex, including the possibility that they are using so much of their executive functioning ability to compensate for their vision impairment that they do not have an adequate reserve of executive functioning capacity to maintain or change attentional states.”

The findings add to the evidence shown by a previous study, titled “Prevalence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder among children with vision impairment,” published in the journal American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus in February 2014. It reported a high frequency of ADHD among the patients of DeCarlo in her vision rehabilitation clinic. Since both the studies couldn’t find a possible reason behind the high prevalence of ADHD among children with visual impairment, DeCarlo said in a press release, “I think it is more important that parents realize that children with vision problems may also have attention problems and that both require professional diagnosis and treatment.”

In response to whether parents of children with visual problems must also be concerned about their ward developing ADHD, DeCarlo said, “I wouldn’t worry about them developing ADHD. But if they seemed to have symptoms of ADHD I’d make sure that all of their vision needs are addressed through proper eye care and vision rehabilitation and would have them evaluated by an expert in attention disorders.”

Nevertheless, the study calls for a holistic research by both psychologists and optometrists on prevalence of ADHD in children with non-correctable visual problem.

Looking for recovery

ADHD is a lifelong problem in children, but not much has been done to understand the fundamentals of the disease. Parents need to pay attention to the complexities of the disease and recognize that the diagnosis of ADHD is not an easy task.

If you or your loved one is suffering from ADHD, get in touch with the Florida Mental Health Helpline to get connected to effective treatment programs that can help you deal with your specific situation. Please chat online or call our 24/7 helpline at 866-846-5588 to get information about various rehab centers in Florida. Our experts can connect you to a good mental health counselor in Florida.

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