August is the time of year for a fresh start at school. Everything for a kid is new. New uniforms. New shoes. New backpack. New teacher. Maybe even a new school. It’s a chance for every student to begin with a clean slate—a chance to succeed.
It is said 80 percent of learning in a classroom will come through the visual system. If a child’s vision isn’t performing properly a child may not be as successful academically. They may not be reaching their potential academically. Your child may be smart in everything but school.
Many children have had a vision screening at their pediatrician’s office, the school nurse, or maybe a health fair. They were asked to cover an eye and read a chart 20 feet away. Then they were told their vision was 20/20 and that was great. But is it? Is 20/20 vision all a child needs in order to succeed in school?
Did you know there are over a dozen visual skills needed to read? These are essential for your child. His or her eyes should focus quickly and clearly from the screen or chalkboard to the desk. The child should also be able to quickly and comfortably see singly (not see double) as they read. They also need to be able to move their eyes across a page in a book quickly, accurately, and without strain. These are skills all children need to be able to gather information and send it on to the brain. These skills are essential in the school environment.
Once the brain has received the information, visual information processing must take place to process what has been seen. The child must be able to not only process but also remember and do abstract thought—a process termed visual information processing.
None of these skills are tested by the 20/20 test at distance. There is indeed a lot more required for the child to be successful in school than to just read an eye chart. Think about it. Who reads with one eye covered with the book at the end of a room? Clearly, we should be reading with both eyes and at the desk, not on a projector screen.
A functional visual exam should examine all these areas, including 20/20 at a distance and near. An optometrist with an emphasis in developmental optometry should perform this type of exam. Visual skills needed beyond 20/20 eyesight are tested alongside the health and refractive state (if you need glasses) of the eyes. If there are suspected problems in visual information processing, specialized tests to evaluate all areas of visual function are available.
Improved posture and visual hygiene activities improve treatment of these visual skills problems. Sometimes the therapy requires contact lenses, spectacles (fulltime or only for near vision), or vision therapy. Vision therapy is a treatment to develop or retrain the eyes and the brain to function properly—to “see” more efficiently and with less effort.