According to the American Public Health Association, one out of four students (25%) have visual problems that are serious enough to impede learning. Even more frightening is that a majority of these children pass their school vision screenings with “20/20 vision” with little to no difficulty. The public sometimes defines “20/20” vision as “good vision” or being able to see the board clearly at school. Unfortunately, this is a misconception because the traditional school vision screenings do not test aspects of vision required for reading. The key to understanding the relationship between vision and learning is realizing that vision is more than just being able to see the letters an eye chart. Calling out letters, numbers, or pictures during an eye exam is one way to quantify how well an individual is able to see. This measurement is call visual acuity. Developed in the late 1800’s, the letter chart, known as a Snellen chart, is used to conduct this test. The top number of the 20/20 fraction is the standard working distance of 20 feet; meaning that we test your vision while you look at something the equivalent of 20 feet away. The bottom number is the number of the line of letters that is correctly identified during the exam. Although the public’s goal may be to see 20/20, this test only determines our distance vision. Having 20/20 vision is important; however, seeing clearly does not guarantee comfortable vision. There are many individuals who see very clearly yet find it difficult to read or concentrate for more than several minutes. Remember: “20/20” is not perfect vision because the test does not evaluate the individual’s reading comfort, eye teaming, eye tracking, and eye focusing skills.
Early detection of any eye condition is imperative in preventing learning related vision problems. Symptoms such as headaches, eye strain or pain, blurred, distorted, double vision, and/or short attention span can be early signs of a learning related vision problem. This condition actually has a more negative impact on learning than vision problems that require glasses to see the board clearly. The American Optometric Association and the College of Optometrists in Vision Development recommend yearly, comprehensive eye exam including dilation of the pupils. The first comprehensive eye exam should occur between 6 months and 1 year of age. During this exam, we will examine the eyes for any significant need for glasses, gross and fine eye movement disorders, and eye turn, and any eye diseases. If normal, we will ask you to return for a comprehensive eye exam between ages 2 and 3 years, then again between 4 and 5 years, and prior to entering day care or kindergarten. Once the child begins school, we recommend yearly eye exams throughout the school years. Although yearly exam are the recommendation, do not hesitate to seek care from your local Optometrist/Ophthalmologist if you are experiencing any significant changes in your vision, seeing flashing lights or floating spots, or if your eye(s) are red, painful, or swollen as these may be signs of serious ocular conditions.