More than 10 million children (one in four) 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 today 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," said Dr. Joel Zaba, Virginia Beach optometrist and researcher. "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 screenings miss other critical vision deficiencies that can impact eye health and a child's performance in the classroom.
"We recommend that all students have a regular comprehensive eye exam," said Professor Sally L. Smith, founder and director of The Lab School of Washington. "A child may not realize that there is a problem and that everyone doesn't see the same way he or she does. 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."
A comprehensive eye exam given by an eyecare 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 the eyes as a team, the ability for the eyes to focus properly when reading a book or viewing a computer screen and the ability for the eyes to move properly when reading across the 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/her place while reading
- Headache, nausea or dizziness
- Excessive clumsiness
- Tilting the head to one side
- Frequent daydreaming
- Using a finger as a place mark while reading
- Performing below potential
- Rubbing eyes repeatedly
For additional information, please visit the following areas:
- Eye Care Center
- Eye Glasses, Sunglasses and Magnifying Glasses
- Tips for Choosing the Right Sunglasses
VCA is offering a free brochure and a self-test to determine if a child or other family member may be in need of comprehensive eye exam. Consumers can get more information via VCA's Web site (www.checkyearly.com).
This information has been provided with the kind permission of the Vision Council of America.
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Last Editorial Review: 7/24/2002