Research seeks to understand impact of ‘under-focusing’ on children’s learning

A new study being carried out by the University of Reading aims to find out what impact a minor vision problem has on reading and learning

06 Aug 2015 by Ryan O'Hare

A new study being carried out by researchers at the University of Reading aims to find out what impact ‘under-focusing’ has on a child’s reading and learning.  

While many children will receive a sight test during their initial school years, the tests may only identify significant refractive error and squints. Children whose under-focus during tasks such as reading may experience blurred vision, but the direct impact on their reading, concentration and learning remains unclear. 

The study, being carried out by the university’s School of Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences and funded by Fight for Sight, is seeking children between six and 10 to see if identifying and correcting their under-focusing can have an impact on their education. 

Lead researcher, Dr Anna Horwood, said: “I'm sure most parents would be surprised to learn that children's eyes are not tested during near work. Previous Reading research has found that even children who don't need glasses sometimes under-focus for close work, but they are unlikely to tell anyone because it is normal for them. As focusing is not part of the screening eye test for young children we don't know how common it is or how much under-focusing matters. Could it be affecting their educational development?” 

Dr Horwood added: “There is currently no evidence that treatment for under-focusing is necessary or that parents should be concerned. All children at state schools in Reading, Wokingham, Oxfordshire and West Berkshire are screened for known significant eye problems in their Reception year, but if your child spontaneously complains of blurred vision take them to an optometrist for a fuller eye test.” 

Study volunteers would need to attend the university for a one and a half hour session to complete a number of vision, literacy and attention tests. 

For more information and to register for the study, contact Dr Anna Horwood, a.m.horwood@reading.ac.uk or Siobhan Ludden, s.m.ludden@reading.ac.uk.

Image credit: Flickr / Chris Yarab

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