Six Surprising Reasons Why Children Hate School

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For one in four children, the reason why they hate school goes beyond homework and tough math. Surprising vision problems that are often undetected by parents, educators and doctors can cause students to dislike and struggle in school.

There are some surprising reasons why some children hate school.

The root cause for this 'hates school' attitude continues to fly under the radar of parents, educators, and medical practitioners.

For one in four children, the reason they hate school goes far beyond too much homework and not enough recess.

Their dislike for school results in non-stop complaining at home, bad behavior in the classroom, and poor grades on the report card. What’s most frustrating to parents is the fact that these children are generally bright kids – a fact that stumps teachers, doctors, and school psychologists.

The root cause for this “hates school” attitude: Vision problems. These problems fly under the radar of parents, educators, and medical practitioners. Fortunately, these are issues that can be corrected.

Discovering the “hidden disability”

According to the American Optometric Association, one in four children has a vision problem that affects their ability to learn. These types of vision problems can’t be detected by a typical vision screening with a Snellen eye chart.

“In fact, many children and adults with 20/20 eyesight actually have a vision problem,” said Dr. Kellye Knueppel, a developmental optometrist at The Vision Therapy Center in Brookfield, Wisconsin. “That’s why it’s referred to as the ‘hidden disability.’ “

Knueppel believes there are six types of vision problems that can cause a child to struggle in school, and lead toward their sour disposition toward school:

1. A child has poor eye-body control.

Eye-body control is essential to our knowing where we are in relation to other people and our surroundings. It enables us to sit still, stay on task, and direct concentration. Children with poor eye-body control are often labeled as hyperactive or having an attention problem.

2. A child can’t track or locate words.

Tracking and locating is a visual skill that includes the ability to visually look at and sustain fixation on a target. Children who have problems tracking and locating will find it difficult to follow a line of print or catch a ball. They’ll lose their place when reading, reverse words, or substitute words into a story. When they read, they will have an uneven speech flow.

3. A child’s eyes won’t work together.

Eye teaming is a visual skill that involves the yoking and aligning of eyes precisely so that the brain can unify the input it receives from each eye. Eye teaming problems are often referred to as binocular problems, and are the root cause for double vision.

Children with eye teaming problems tend to be chronic daydreamers, who always look tired with droopy eyelids. They may also be klutzy, have little sense of rhythm, and are prone to spilling.

4. A child has a low visual span and volume of awareness.

Children who take an extra-long time to complete an assignment may be suffering from a low visual span and volume of awareness.

To understand this concept, think about times when you’ve driven a car while under stress. In those instances, the amount of things you see is actually restricted. That’s called your effective span and volume of awareness. It controls how much information you can process in a single “visual bite.”

A child’s awareness works the same way. If the amount of information children can process is restricted, it will impact their academic performance.

5. A child has poor visual unification.

Visual unification involves the ability to utilize past experience and correlate information from all areas of vision with input from other sensory systems. It’s a great example of how the human brain is such an intrinsic part of the visual system.

Children with poor visual unification skills may have problems remembering the name (verbal label) for a numeral or letter. They may have problems visualizing something in their head. This inability to “see” something in the mind’s eye often results in poor spelling.

6. A child has problems focusing.

The visual skill of focusing, or accommodation, involves seeing clearly from every distance. It requires the ability to shift from far to near or from near to far, all while sustaining focus.

Children with focusing or accommodation problems have difficulty copying from the whiteboard to their paper. They also have problems looking at something far away, and then shifting focus to something close at hand.

It’s no wonder some children hate school.

When you have any of the vision problems listed here, school can be difficult. “We don’t like to use the words ‘hates school’, but this is generally the case,” said Dr. Knueppel. She noted that many of the children who come to her encounter the same issues at school:

  • They get reprimanded from teachers and parents alike for being squirmy or losing concentration.
  • They begin to under-achieve in class or sports, which harms their self-esteem and social standing.
  • They feel fatigued, mentally and physically, from struggling in front of a book or computer.
  • They get frustrated because school comes easy for others, but not for them.

Frustration lies in not knowing what the problem may be. But once you’ve identified the problem, what can be done?

Vision therapy provides a non-invasive solution

In many cases, these problems can be cured through a process called vision therapy, which includes a series of non-invasive, visual activities. Vision therapy is a specialized form of optometry. It is practiced by developmental optometrists, who have received extensive training in this area.

Dr. Knueppel urges parents, teachers, and educators to keep a watchful eye out for vision problems. If symptoms occur, a developmental optometrist should conduct a functional vision test.

A functional vision test is much more extensive than a typical vision screening or eye exam. It must be performed by a developmental optometrist, and includes a wide range of visual tests. All of the visual skills mentioned earlier in this article are included in a typical functional test.

“Most of the kids we’ve helped don’t really hate school,” Dr. Knueppel noted. “When their vision problems are corrected, it’s amazing how quickly they’ll rekindle a love for learning.”

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Kim Jelinske
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