One in four children in the United States will go back to school this fall with an undetected vision problem that can interfere with learning. Despite this disturbing figure, a survey released recently by the Vision Council of America (VCA) found that only 6% of parents recognize that vision problems can lead to difficulties in school.
Nearly 80% of what a child learns is obtained visually. Research indicates that 70% of the 2-million school-age children who have difficulty in reading have some form of visual impairment, such as ocular motor, perceptual or binocular dysfunction.
If a child is struggling in school, it is important that a parent consider his or her vision. While there are several reasons why a child may not perform well academically, it’s clear that vision has a great impact on how much and/or how quickly a child learns. Children should not be sent to school without having all the proper tools – paper, pencils, books, and good vision!
Despite the compelling statistics, less than half of the parents surveyed by VCA had taken their child for a comprehensive eye exam in the past year. Forty-one percent of those polled believed that a simple vision screening was sufficient in detecting vision problems. Research shows, however, that the simple vision screening commonly used by a pediatrician or a school nurse, detects only 5% of all vision problems. Simple vision screenings can offer early indications of problems relating to distance vision, but often these screenings miss other critical vision deficiencies that can impact eye health and a child’s performance in the classroom.
What is recommended is that all students have a regular comprehensive eye exam. A child may not realize that there is a problem and that everyone doesn’t see the same way he or she does. A comprehensive eye exam given by an eye care professional is considered the most reliable and accurate method of diagnosing and treating vision problems. It evaluates eye health and key visual skills essential to learning, such as: using both of the eyes as a team; the ability of the eyes to focus properly when reading a book or viewing a computer screen; and the ability of the eyes to move properly when reading across a page of print.
Ten signs that might be seen in a child with vision difficulties are:
Squinting, closing, or covering one eye
Holding a book close to the face
Losing his or her place while reading
Headache, nausea, or dizziness
Tilting the head to one side
Using a finger as a place-mark while reading
Performing below potential
Rubbing eyes repeatedly
School can be difficult enough. As parents and educators, we owe it to our children to address vision problems before they negatively impact academic performance. W