Was My Child’s Vision Exam Enough?

Comprehensive Vision ExamSo if I were to ask, “How many of you enjoy your child’s school conference with the teacher?” do you think I would get a large number saying that it is something they look forward to and enjoy? Probably not! For many parents of children that are struggling in school, it can be quite an anxiety producing event.

Hearing that your child is not the stellar student that you dreamed about him/her becoming is a heart wrenching, emotional experience. Both you and the teacher want answers! “Why is my child, this teacher’s student, not able to keep up with the rest of the class?” Parent and teacher will usually brainstorm some reasons and possible solutions. Too many times the problem is attributed to ADD/ADHD and medication is thought to surely make everything better. Although ADD/ADHD is a legitimate diagnosis and could contribute to a child’s trouble in school, it should never be the only consideration.

Maybe the teacher has noticed that the child squints or rubs their eyes and suggests that the child have his/her vision checked. At this point, the parent might respond by saying the child had a well visit at the pediatrician’s office, and nothing out of the ordinary was detected or they have already seen an eye doctor who said the child sees 20/20, perfect vision, no problems at all. At this point, any problems having to do with a vision issue are checked off the list.

Two Problems are Going on Here:

1) Pediatricians do not do vision exams! They are conducting a basic screening to make sure that the eyes are healthy, acuity tests that check near and distance vision and detection of any abnormal eye alignment. I am not suggesting that these tests are not important. Many times they discover visual abnormalities and then refer accordingly, which is crucial. What I am saying is that it is not enough.

2) It is the same situation when a child sees an optometrist or ophthalmologist that has not had the extra training that is needed to diagnose conditions such as; Convergence Insufficiency, Accommodative Deficiency, Pursuit and Saccadic Eye Movement Deficiencies. All of these can contribute to a child doing poorly in school.

  • Eyes that do not turn in comfortably for near work and cause pain and discomfort, as seen with a diagnosis of Convergence Insufficiency, can result in a child avoiding any and all work that requires reading.
  • Vision that is blurred when switching focus from the near to the far as with an Accommodative Deficiency results in a child’s inability to copy information from the Smart Board down to a notebook. It can cause a child to miss the information or copy it incorrectly.
  • Pursuit and Saccadic Eye Movement Deficiencies make words and sentences jump around the page making it next to impossible to understand without the need to read and re-read the material. At this point, so much emphasis is being put on trying to get through the text; the ability to comprehend is lost.

In our experience, we find COVD doctors to be better able to diagnose and treat vision issues that can impact learning but know that there are some really great non-COVD doctors who do diagnose and then refer to others that provide vision therapy programs

Once these diagnoses are corrected, we find that these students do better in school and many times, begin to enjoy reading! So if a teacher or other professional is recommending your child get an eye exam, make sure you find a doctor certified in The College of Optometrists and Vision Development. (COVD). Until this happens, a vision issue should never be checked off the list as a possible cause for a child’s issues at school.

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Marjorie A. Hunter, B.S. Ed. About Marjorie A. Hunter, B.S. Ed.

Marjorie is the administrator for The Sensory Learning Program and the Vision Improvement Program in Toledo OH.