ADHD and Vision


The correlation between ADHD and visual problems has been well-established. A study published in Optometry and Vision Science (May, 2016) found that children with vision problems are 200% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD.


Attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) is a condition characterized by difficulty with attention, hyperactivity and/or impulse control.

Untreated visual problems can cause very similar symptoms, including:

– a short attention span

– poor academic performance

– difficulty to stay on task

– avoidance of near tasks, such as reading and writing

– losing their place while reading or copying from the board

– inability to recall what they read


Research has shown that children with specific visual problems are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. A child with visual discomfort has to channel more energy into maintaining clear and comfortable vision, which can lead to difficulty with executive functioning, such as concentration, organization and task completion.


The two visual conditions most often seen in children with ADHD is convergence insufficiency and accommodative insufficiency.


Convergence is the ability to move the eyes simultaneously towards the nose. Convergence insufficiency is a reduced ability to converge the eyes which can lead to difficulty maintaining clear and comfortable vision when reading. Symptoms of convergence insufficiency includes eye strain, double vision, blurry vision and headaches.


Accommodative insufficiency is less common than convergence insufficiency, but present with similar symptoms. Accommodative insufficiency is the reduced ability to maintain clear focus close-by.


Visual demands on schoolchildren are more intense than ever with the introduction of technology in the classrooms. Children need strong visual skills to maintain comfortable vision and concentration during a typical school day.

These visual skills includes:

– Clear vision at distance and near

– Accurate accommodation (the ability to focus on an object up close)

– Accurate eye movements

– Good binocular vision (eye teaming)


If a child isn’t able to keep up with the visual demands of school, they may experience eye strain. This can lead to avoidance of school work, which may give the impression of inattentiveness and lack of focus.


A comprehensive eye exam with a behavioural optometrist, is a critical part of determining whether a lack of focus is caused by visual problems or ADHD. Your optometrist will prescribe spectacles, visual therapy or both to alleviate your child’s visual discomfort. Once a child’s vision issues have been addressed, this should make it easier to perform many important learning tasks, including reading, writing and taking notes.