Reading Fatigue in Special Ed Kids

Learn the signs of eye strain and follow a healthful diet to help

Most readers experience reading fatigue at some point in their lives, and students with learning disabilities in basic reading or reading comprehension are especially vulnerable to fatigue because of the amount of time they spend engaging in reading activities.

Students with learning disabilities may be more likely to experience fatigue because they generally spend more time completing reading assignments and work in other academic areas than their peers in mainstream classrooms do.

In general, discomfort in the eyes is caused by dryness and exposure, and can be improved with frequent breaks, tear drops, and blinking.


Signs of Reading Fatigue

Blonde man rubbing eyes under eyeglasses
Hero Images/Getty Images

Symptoms of reading fatigue include sleepiness or falling asleep during or after reading; yawning excessively while reading; or itching, burning, tearing or irritated eyes.

Blurred vision and difficulty focusing on words; excessive tears or extreme dryness; and the sensation of having a foreign object in the eye, such as dust; also signal reading fatigue.

Readers who experience eye strain may feel like they see words "floating" or moving on the page; report visual disturbances; or the inability to focus in general.


Understanding Vision Problems - Could Your Reading Fatigue Have a Medical Cause?

If you or your child experience symptoms of reading fatigue, it is important to consult your doctor, an optometrist or an ophthalmologist who can provide an appropriate examination to determine if your child has a medical condition needing treatment. If necessary, your health provider may recommend treatments such as medication, glasses, artificial tears, better reading lighting, low-glare screens for your computer or other appropriate treatment.


Assess Your Study Area

Prepare a place to read in your home that has adequate lighting. Lighting should be strong enough to prevent the need for your eyes to strain to discriminate letters. It should be soft enough that it does not cause glare on your page.

Some readers prefer indirect or diffused light with a frosted globe that fully shields the bulb. Experiment with the positioning of lighting. Some readers prefer overhead lighting, while others feel less strain with the light positioned at their sides.


Prevent Physical Strain

Provide seating that allows the reader to change positions and to sit comfortably. Ensure that the student gets at least eight hours of sleep at night. It may be helpful for the student to take a brief catnap before long reading periods.

Encourage college students to take breaks about once an hour to get up, stretch and walk around for a few minutes. Elementary school students need more frequent breaks of about two or three per hour. Middle school students may need one or two breaks per hour.


Healthy Foods Feed Your Mind and Keep You in Good Study Shape

Healthy snacks during study breaks provide energy for studying and may provide the psychological boost needed to increase a student's motivation. As always, make sure snacks meet any diet restrictions the student may require.

If your child has a condition requiring or prohibiting certain foods, send a care package of these foods with him to college or to a friend's house for study away from home.

Encourage quality foods over junk food, which may only provide sudden energy spikes followed by low levels of energy.


Manage Your Time

When possible, the student may benefit from varying study sessions by changing the subjects about once an hour, shifting from one type of task to a different type of task (e.g. from reading to math). Try it out, and ask the student if this technique is helpful.

Consider books on tape when available. Help the student choose appropriate reading material that is at or slightly above his reading level. Adapt reading material to your child's reading level. Use ​strategies to reduce your child's stress levels.


Explore Ways to Encourage and Reward Readers

Help the student set a goal for reading and allow her to choose a reward when she reaches the goal. Set some reasonable guidelines for rewards or develop a list of things you are willing to provide. Allow the student to choose from the list. Be sure to note any items that are particularly appealing to your child, as these rewards may motivate her more than other things would. Explore ways to encourage readers who do not like to read.


Keep Your Child Moving to Revive Energy - Schedule in Physical Activity

Have your child take study breaks for healthy physical activities to keep her mentally alert and physically prepared for study.

Was this page helpful?