All Eyes on August: Children's Vision Health and Learning Month

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As students across the country and the world gear up for getting back to school, special purchases are always made. Beyond binders, notebooks, pens, tablets, and other necessary items, special consideration should be made on vision. In 1995, the August was declared National Children’s Vision and Learning Month. The goal of this observance is to help educate parents and educators about the critical link between vision and learning, according to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. What better timing than before the academic year kicks off?

Not many people associate the link that vision makes with long-lasting education. In fact, vision problems go beyond normal diagnostics like eye exams in school nurses’ offices and eye drops from your physician. Some learning disabilities are misdiagnosed when they should be properly treated as vision problems. One such treatment is optometric vision therapy, which is a series of visual procedures under a skilled optometrists that can help a patient develop or improve fundamental visual skills and abilities. It sounds a little basic, but it can change how a child processes or interprets visual information by improving visual comfort, ease, and efficiency. Think of it more than stretching the optic muscles, but actually improving reading and writing skills.

Vision therapy has helped students across the country. This occurs when glasses or contacts just simply aren’t enough of an accommodation. Envision it like a sort of physical or rehabilitative therapy for the eyes, it has taught students how to train their eyes to comprehend text better. This improves reading skills, as well as behavioral issues. With respect to reading, vision therapy can correct blurry lines, words that run together, moving letters, and jumping images. Sometimes, double vision can get incorrectly diagnosed as hyperactivity. Even more, correcting vision problems can diminish anger and frustration associated with being unable to follow along in class. Too often, students are misdiagnosed with behavioral problems that can be corrected with proper vision therapy.

Of course, vision therapy is not a panacea. However, if you have exhausted other options, it certainly could not hurt to explore this as an option. One leader in the field, Bob Sornson, PhD states: “When you take a child who has really struggled to read because of visual issues, the longer that goes on you're no longer dealing with just a vision issue; now you have an attitude problem, a behavior problem, and avoidance issues”. Sornson, a leading specialist in vision and education, has implemented many programs and strategies for early learning success, such as the Early Learning Success Initiative.

Unfortunately, according to the 2011 and 2013 results of the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) Reading Test, about 67% of school-age children in the U.S. are not reading at proficient levels by fourth grade. Vision therapy is certainly not the only option, but can be considered. So this month, keep your eyes on the prize, and consider vision therapy for children in need. It might just make all the difference.

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