Teachers should be aware that good vision is a foundation for children being fit, healthy and ready to learn.1 Teachers should know that two in five children have vision conditions which affect learning.2
The problem is that teachers and parents often rely on vision screening which provides a false sense of vision safekeeping of their children/students. Vision screening uses monocular visual acuity testing for determining which kids require an eye exam and even with proper technique is inaccurate 63-73 percent of the time.3 , 4 For this reason the American Optometric Association (AOA) is steadfast that all children have a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor, as opposed to vision screening, before beginning first grade.
If a child has not yet had an eye exam by an eye doctor, and has matriculated beyond first grade, they should be referred for an eye exam by an eye doctor regardless of vision screening status. Importantly, undiagnosed and untreated vision disorders increase the potential for misdiagnosis of special needs (Individualized Education Plan's) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); placing unnecessary stress on families and classrooms.5 These vision disorders are "silent" in that the student and parents are unaware of the need for an eye exam due to the asymptomatic nature of these conditions. Left untreated these may cause irreparable harm.
Fortunately, the U.S. Congress and Federal agency officials considered the science and evidence of children's vision care and made it a true national health care priority. Now, under Federal law and regulations, pediatric eye health is recognized as essential and millions of previously uninsured children today have coverage for direct access to annual eye exams and follow-up care.6 Optometrists look forward to serving the public by making essential children's eye exams, accessible and the starting point for primary prevention, thereby assuring children a lifetime of vision health and learning.
Of course, even with the government and health professionals doing more than ever before to help get children to eye exams, all schools and teachers must also help by moving away from reliance on vision screening to assuring all children receive eye examination from an eye doctor.
1. Association Between Reading Speed, Cycloplegic Refractive Error, and Oculomotor Function in Reading Disabled Children Versus Controls, Patrick Quaid and Trefford Simpson, Graefes Arch Clin Ophthalmology (2013) 251:169-87.
2. National Institutes of Health The Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease and Baltimore Pediatric Eye Disease Studies (NEI.2011)
3. S.A. Cotter, ET, al; Vision Screening for Children 36 to < 72 Months: Recommended Practice, Optometry and Vision Science, 2014, Vol 92, No 1, PP 6-16.
5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Effectiveness of Treatment in At-Risk Preschoolers; Long-Term Effectiveness in All Ages; and Variability in Prevalence, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 44. AHRQ Publication No. 12-EHC003-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. October 2011. Available at: www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/reports/final.cfm.