August is national children’s vision and learning month, which provides the perfect opportunity to talk about the importance of having a professional eye examination versus a RN administered school screening. I also want to share my personal experience with my son’s vision.
This past year I noticed my 7 yr old son, Noah, was having a problem in reading. As an Optometrist, I knew this could possibly be a vision issue. I checked his eyes, and had Dr. Kaplan check his eyes as well (as all of us parents know, children usually respond better to others than to their own parents). My son was 20/20 at distance and 20/20 at near when his eyes were tested individually, but when using both eyes he really struggled at near to see the 20/20 line. His eyes were having trouble working together as a team and therefore he had difficulty in tracking a line of text across a page. He also had difficulty moving from one line to the next line. He kept saying “where was I?” None of this would have been detected by a standard in school vision screening which he would have passed because he was 20/20.
A school visual screening only tests the vision for distance on the Snellen chart (the big E chart). According to the AOA “when vision problems go undetected, children almost invariably have trouble reading and doing their school work. They often display fatigue, fidgeting and frustrations in classroom, traits that can lead to misdiagnosis of dyslexia or other learning disabilities. Standard school vision screenings miss 1/3 of children with eye or vision disorders.”
When children do pass these screenings it gives parents a false sense of security because their child has 20/20 vision. What these screening fail to test are: eye movements, eye focusing abilities, near vision, color vision, and probably the most important of all determining if the eyes are aligned and work together as a team such as in tracking and depth perception. All of these play an important role in how a child learns, contributing to staying focused and the ability to read. In Illinois, prior to entering kindergarten, all children must have an eye examination by a licensed eye care professional.
My advice is to take time to read with your child and determine if his/she might need further testing. After all, who wouldn’t want their child to see visibly better?