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Monday, June 22, 2009

Vision impairments go undetected in school-aged children

Vision is the key to success!

According to the American Optometric Association, over ten million children in the United States suffer from undetected vision problems, despite the vision screening efforts conducted by public schools.

The tests administered in a public school setting may reveal 20/20 vision, but this simply means that one can see that which they are supposed to see from twenty feet away. Vision is much more complicated than that.

In a school setting, the majority of hands on work requires the ability to see up close -- to read, draw, write, create. If your child cannot visualize the work before them, how can they be expected to complete this work?

Every child needs to have the following vision skills for effective reading and learning, as defined by the AOA :

  • Visual acuity — the ability to see clearly in the distance for viewing the chalkboard, at an intermediate distance for the computer, and up close for reading a book.
  • Eye Focusing — the ability to quickly and accurately maintain clear vision as the distance from objects change, such as when looking from the chalkboard to a paper on the desk and back. Eye focusing allows the child to easily maintain clear vision over time like when reading a book or writing a report.
  • Eye tracking — the ability to keep the eyes on target when looking from one object to another, moving the eyes along a printed page, or following a moving object like a thrown ball.
  • Eye teaming — the ability to coordinate and use both eyes together when moving the eyes along a printed page, and to be able to judge distances and see depth for class work and sports.
  • Eye-hand coordination — the ability to use visual information to monitor and direct the hands when drawing a picture or trying to hit a ball.
  • Visual perception — the ability to organize images on a printed page into letters, words and ideas and to understand and remember what is read.

A deficit in any one of these categories can affect your child's behavior and performance. Often times, many behavioral issues are misdiagnosed due to undetected vision problems.

A child with a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder, for example, may have been diagnosed according to their short attention span and/or the inability to recall what they have just read. These are two of many symptoms of visual disturbances which overlap the criteria for an attention deficit evaluation.

As a parent, we should all be aware that our children cannot always tell us of their vision difficulties, especially if this impairment has been occurring most, if not all, of their young lives. The child may not be able distinguish between normal vision versus abnormal vision, based on the fact that the deficit is normal to them.

One of the best ways to ensure your child's continual success in school is to have them undergo a comprehensive eye exam prior to entering the public school system. It is recommended that parents have their child's vision screen at the ages of six months, three years, and once per year afterward.

Vision changes occur frequently as our children age, and so yearly screenings can keep their eyes functioning at maximum potential. If your child experiences subtle vision changes, a more frequent exam schedule may be warranted. It is up to us, as parent, to be knowledgeable of the obscure symptoms that are easily overlooked.

A children's vision 'Symptom Checker' has been made available by the Children's Vision website. Please scroll down on their website, after completing the chart for further information, regarding your results.

The state of Illinois has, now, made a comprehensive eye exam mandatory for all who are entering the public school system, or those transferring from other states. More information concerning this requirement can be found on the Illinois Optometric Association's website.

A collaborative effort between parents, optometrists, and our public school system is necessary to provide our children with healthy eyes for a brighter future. Please contact your eye care provider to give your child a healthy visual start to education.

If you do not currently have an eye care provider for your child, please search here to find a pediatric optometrist in your area.


Andrea June 22, 2009 at 6:48 PM  

It is sad. I remember when I was young, my sister pretended she could see fine because she didn't want kids to make fun of her for wearing glasses. She was always a great student, and was struggling because she couldn't see well. She was thankful when she could wear contacts!

Anonymous,  June 23, 2009 at 1:56 PM  

glad to hear that they made a comprehensive eye exam mandatory..its not yet implemented here in my country

Anonymous,  June 28, 2009 at 3:15 PM  

What an important post!

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Angela McCoy is a freelance writer/editor, military wife and work at home mom (WAHM) to four boys with special needs. Her writing encompasses a myriad of topics -- Autism, ADHD, Auditory Processing Disorder, Cystinosis, Fanconi's Syndrome, kidney transplant, and more -- influenced by her two teenagers and seven-year-old twins. She considers writing to be therapeutic and utilizes her skills to counsel and inspire her readers. Angela is a quick-witted, 'no holds barred,' tell it like it is' humorist who has learned that laughter truly is the best antidote to life's adversities.

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