August is National Children’s Vision & Learning Month! The goal of this month is to educate parents and teachers about the critical link between vision and learning. According to the American Public Health Association, “25% of students in grades kindergarten through 6th have visual problems that are serious enough to impede learning.”
As the school year approaches, it is important that a comprehensive eye examination is added to every student’s “back to school” list. States likeKentucky,MissouriandIllinoisrequire that all children receive an eye examination before entering school. Many other states are currently working toward this goal in the hopes of detecting preventable vision loss from amblyopia (commonly known as lazy eye) and strabismus (an eye turn). These conditions are often not readily visible to parents and can even be missed at vision screenings.
The first step an eye doctor takes in evaluating children’s vision is ensuring that the eyes are healthy and developing normally for their age. Next, they check that the child can see clearly for both distance and near activities, which may require glasses or contact lens correction. While eye health and visual clarity are very important for development, the visual skills needed for successful reading and learning are much more complex. Deficiencies in skills such as eye teaming, eye focusing, and eye tracking will cause vision problems for a child with 20/20 vision.
One in four school-aged children has a visual skills problem. These children are often very bright, but there is a disconnect between their intelligence and academic performance even though the eye health and visual clarity seems perfect.
Some common signs that a vision problem is interfering with a student’s ability to read and learn are:
- Frequent loss of place while reading
- Poor reading comprehension
- Head tilt or closing one eye while reading
- Words sliding together or blurring during reading
- Reverses letters like “b” and “d” when reading
- Has a short attention span with reading and schoolwork
[For a complete symptoms list visit www.covd.org]
After realizing the relationship between vision and learning the National Parent Teacher’s Association (PTA) included in a policy statement that, “Early diagnosis and treatment of children’s vision problems is a necessary component to school readiness and academic learning; and that vision screening is not a substitute for a complete eye and vision evaluation by an eye doctor. Comprehensive eye and vision examinations … are important for all children first entering school and regularly throughout their school-aged years to ensure healthy eyes and adequate visual skills essential for successful academic achievement.”