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Good Vision Means Better Learning

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How important is good vision to learning? Vision is a dominant process in the growth, development and daily performance of children. Approximately 80 percent of all learning during a child’s first 12 years comes through vision. Undetected and untreated vision problems can interfere with the ability to perform to one’s full learning potential. When these vision problems have an adverse effect on learning, they are referred to as learning-related vision problems.

What are these learning-related vision problems? Vision problems can affect comprehension performance in reading and manifest as social, eye-hand coordination, discipline or emotional problems. From there, such vision problems can impact the rest of your child’s life and ability to succeed.

What is good vision? Good vision includes visual acuity, eye health and visual skills such as eye teaming, eye focusing and eye motility.

Visual acuity: It’s important to realize that good vision is more than 20/20 eyesight. Invented in the 1860s, the term 20/20 indicates if you can see letters 3/8" high at 20 feet. This does not take into account the eyes’ ability to see books or view a computer screen.

This does not take into account the eyes’ ability to see books or view a computer screen.

Eye health: Many eye diseases can impair vision or lead to vision loss if not diagnosed and treated.

Visual integration: the ability to process and integrate visual information, which includes coordinating input from our other senses and previous experiences, so that we can understand what we see.

Eye teaming: the ability of the eyes to work properly together.

Eye focusing: the ability of the eyes to focus and shift focus to near and distant points.

Eye motility or tracking: the ability of the eyes to move together across a page of print, to directly view an object, or move from one viewing area to another.

How prevalent are vision problems? Vision problems are more common than most people would think, which makes the following figures particularly alarming:

  • An estimated 10 million children suffer from vision problems, according to the National Parent Teacher Association.
  • According to studies by the Kentucky Optometric Association, 10 percent of preschoolers have vision deficiencies and 25 percent of students in grades K through 6 (one out of every four students)have vision deficiencies.
  • According to statistics by Prevent Blindness America, one in 20 preschoolers and one in four school-age children have vision problems.
  • Also, 60 percent of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision problems.

A conservative interpretation of these statistics indicates that at least 10 to 15 percent (8 to 12 million) children are at risk from undetected vision impairments – a significant number, especially if your child is one of them.

Does Your Preschooler:

  • Have an eye turning inward, outward, upward, or downward frequently?
  • Tend to bump into objects?
  • Have red eyes or lids?
  • Rub eyes frequently?
  • Have excessive tearing?
  • Turn or tilt head to use one eye only?
  • Have encrusted eyelids?
  • Have frequent styes?
  • Avoid coloring, puzzles, or detailed activities?
  • Experience difficulty with eye-hand-body-coordination?

If you answer "yes" to any of the questions above, or your child has not seen an optometrist in over two years, it’s probably time to schedule an appointment.

When it comes to learning and performance problems in school, it’s important to consider that it might be a learningrelated visual problem.

"Every child should have a comprehensive optometric evaluation in which all aspects of vision are assessed," says Joel Zaba, M.A., O.D., an optometrist, researcher and former consultant to the Norfolk Virginia Public School system.

What are the consequences of undeterred and untreated vision problems? The impact of undetected and untreated vision deficiencies takes a huge toll on society. In monetary terms, the Vision and Learning Section of the Healthy People 2010 conference (National Institutes of Health) in 1999 reported, "In 1981, the economic impact of visual disorders and disabilities was approximately $14.1 billion per year. By 1995, this figure was estimated to have risen to more than $38.4 billion."

More importantly, though, is the long-term effect on the child. In 1999, a series of studies by Dr. Zaba and Roger A. Johnson, Ph.D., revealed that significant numbers of children in an academic and behavioral at-risk population have undetected and untreated vision problems. In one study, over 70 percent of juvenile offenders had undetected and untreated vision problems. Another study showed that 74 percent of an illiterate adult population was found to have undetected vision problems.

The good news is that with early diagnosis and appropriate, comprehensive intervention, the prognosis is good in a majority of cases.

Schedule your child’s eye examination with your optometrist to make the most of a good education.

(c)2006-07 American Optometric Association. All Rights Reserved.