Vision: 20/20 Is Not Enough!

Now is an excellent time to have your child's vision checked. Don't be too quick to say, "My child's vision is fine: 20/20!" In many cases that is not enough.

The Snellen chart, the instrument most frequently used to test eyesight, often gives people a false sense of security about their vision. It measures only acuity -- and that at a distance of 20 feet. How much does your child read at that distance?

The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that about 25 percent of children enter school with vision problems that can impede their school progress. Almost 50 percent of children with learning difficulties have vision problems, and up to 94 percent of children with reading problems have reduced visual skills.

Why does the Snellen chart leave some of these problems undetected? Vision involves much more than the sharpness of an image. It involves focusing -- and refocusing as attention shifts between far and near (as when copying from the board). It involves binocularity, the two eyes working together to capture accurate pictures of our world and of the printed page. Vision also involves perception, the brain's interpretation of the images taken in by the eyes.

Many people believe that vision should be checked by an ophthalmologist, the person with the highest credentials. While it is true that an ophthalmologist is an M.D., he or she has spent about the same amount of time studying the anatomy, functions, and diseases of the eye as an optometrist has spent studying vision alone. To check my child's vision I would seek an optometrist, specifically a "developmental" or "behavioral" optometrist. Not only will the vision exam be more thorough, but the developmental optometrist may prescribe a course of "vision therapy" to remedy problems.

Often we take vision for granted and do not think of it as a learned behavior. Because it is learned, however, through practice we can improve it. Experts speculate that the frequency of vision problems may be increasing because with television, video games, and computers, children today do not use their eyes in as many different ways as children did formerly; overall the vision of children entering school is less developed than it was a few decades ago.

What symptoms might indicate a vision problem? Any time a bright person struggles with reading, further investigation is warranted. Consider these specific questions in relation to yourself as well as in relation to your children or students. Answering yes to even a few of the questions justifies further examination. Do not discount a "yes" even if it is limited to special circumstances, such as fatigue.

Do you (or does the child) . . .

? hold reading material extremely close or far away?

? have poor posture or an unusual head tilt while doing close work?

? squint the eyes or open them very wide?

? cover one eye?

? frequently blink or rub the eyes?

? suffer from headaches, eyestrain, or fatigue?

? require excessive time to complete schoolwork or other near tasks?

? lose a place often when copying?

? skip words or lines when reading?

? report that words on a page blur or move?

? have poor comprehension of material read?

? run words together when writing?

? have poor hand-eye coordination?

I have first-hand experience with vision problems. I will be eternally grateful to Jane Porchey, my younger son's kindergarten teacher, for identifying his vision problem in October. She noticed that although he could count, he kept getting the wrong answer when counting dots in a square. Working with him individually and having him point to the dots as he counted them, she discovered that for him the dots moved. It is not unusual for children with vision problems to have words and letters swim on the page, appearing and disappearing, doing flip-flops. Imagine trying to read under these circumstances! Even if you could manage to decode the words, you would have very little reserve attention to devote to comprehension.

Life can be very frustrating for people with vision problems. The world as a whole is likely to be fluid and chaotic for them. School in particular is likely to become a source of failure. It has been found that 70 percent of juvenile delinquents have vision problems that interfere with their ability to achieve. In one study, however, the rate of recidivism dropped from 45 percent to 16 percent when offenders received on-site vision therapy.

People with vision problems usually do not realize that they have them; they have no reason to think that their view of the world is different from everyone else's.

My son's story has a happy ending. After a few weeks of vision therapy, his eyes began working together better. Letters and numbers were less mobile. He was able to corral his writing into primary triple-rule. By spring his penmanship looked like the handwriting chart. His behavior improved, too. The frustration he had experienced in school -- and in the world in general -- had often made him sad, contrary, and belligerent. Once he discovered order in his world, he became cheerful, confident, generous.

Two self-portraits -- both made in kindergarten -- show how John changed as a result of vision therapy. The first, made in September, shows the most forlorn-looking child I have ever seen. I did not even recognize him as the child I had lived with for six years. The crayon lines are rather faintly drawn. One eye is about an inch lower than the other; he has no nose or mouth. Stringlike arms issue from his sides, the right arm about three times longer than the left. His right arm sprouts three fingers; his left arm, five, the shortest of which is longer than the arm itself. Although a patch of magenta represents his shorts, he has no legs or feet.

The second self-portrait, done in May, includes me. The lines of the drawing are firm. We both have noses, U-shaped smiles, and eyes that are directly across from each other. We both have legs and feet. We are, in fact, nearly identical as we stand with our arms around each other.

Preschoolers -- even infants -- can benefit from examination by a developmental optometrist. If a problem is identified very early, correction might be possible before the problem has a chance to cause difficulty in school. Adults, too, can benefit from vision therapy.

I urge you to have your children's vision evaluated by a developmental optometrist as soon as possible, particularly if your children are having learning difficulties or if vision problems run in your family. Such an evaluation can only work for good. If a problem is discovered, you can begin working to correct it. If no problem is identified, you will have ruled out one possible cause of learning difficulties. That, too, is worthwhile.

For additional information about symptoms, therapy, and parent support groups, visit this site sponsored by Parents Active for Vision Education (P.A.V.E.), a national non-profit organization: http://www.pavevision.org/

A parent and former teacher, Fran Hamilton is the author of Hands-On English, now in its second edition. Hands-On English gives quick access to English fundamentals and makes grammar visual by using icons to represent parts of speech. The book is for anyone 9 years or older, including adults. Fran also publishes companion products to Hands-On English and free e-mail newsletters: LinguaPhile, published monthly, is for people who teach and/or enjoy English; Acu-Write, published weekly, addresses common errors in English. For more information, visit http://www.GrammarAndMore.com.

In The News:


AL.com

Bo knows parenting
AL.com
The featured speaker for the Baldwin County Drug Court Foundation's eighth annual fundraiser on Thursday night couldn't speak about drug court from personal experience, saying, "That's something I never had to go through." But the folks who gathered at ...


Mashable

Youtuber solves all your parenting problems with a really bad idea ...
Mashable
We live in a digital age, so forget about the struggles of a stroller or carrier. Let your baby reach for the stars and discover new heights...literally. Youtuber ...

and more »

Axios

New parenting trend: texting kids from inside the house
Axios
New parenting trend: texting kids from inside the house. A mother and daughter prefer to text each other inside the home. Photo: Charles Rex Arbogast / AP. "Some parents, spouses, teenagers ... are finding that texting [each other inside the same house ...


Denton Record Chronicle

Argyle resident publishes parenting book
Denton Record Chronicle
An Argyle resident has published a parenting book. James L. Capra, an Argyle resident, has published Raising a Courageous Child in a Cowardly Culture: The Battle for the Hearts and Minds of Our Children ($8.99 - $29.99, Lulu Publishing Services ...


POPSUGAR

12 Parenting Lessons I've Learned From This Is Us
POPSUGAR
This Is Us quickly stole everyone's hearts in its first season as it beautifully and emotionally depicted the struggles, joys, and intense bond of the Pearson family — Rebecca and Jack, and their triplets, Randall, Kate, and Kevin (aka "The Big Three ...

and more »

Hollywood Life

Kailyn Lowry On Her 'Rollercoaster' Ride Co-Parenting With Javi, Plus She Hints At Baby Name
Hollywood Life
She took us through her co-parenting process with all of her exes and baby daddies, Javi Marroquin, Jo Rivera and Chris Lopez. While Kailyn said that she gets along with both Chris and Jo, she admitted that she doesn't always see eye to eye with Javi.

and more »

HuffPost

Mom's Hilarious Saga Of A Forgotten Poster Board Sums Up ...
HuffPost
In parenting, sometimes it's the tiniest moments that sum up the joys of having children ... or how much they make you want to bang your head against the wall.

and more »

Sisters of Mercy support parenting program for homeless women
Buffalo News
The Sisters of Mercy "Many Faces of Mercy" program recently pledged $1,800 to promote parenting education at Cornerstone Manor, an emergency shelter and temporary housing complex for women and their children, said Kathy Diina, grants manager for ...


U.S. News & World Report

What Parenting Can – and Cannot – Do
U.S. News & World Report
The dangers of abusive and neglectful parenting are now well-known. Children who don't experience unconditional love nor have their needs met on a consistent basis are likely to struggle with relationships. Such deprivation affects the development of ...


Lincoln Journal Star

The best-paying cities for high school teachers
Lincoln Journal Star
Teacher pay can vary for a number of reasons, including experience, level of education, union status and location. Here's a look at those locations where teachers tend to make higher-than-average salaries.

and more »
Google News

Eating Disorders in Children

If I had a dollar for every time I persuaded... Read More

Joining a Gang: How to Help Kids Prevent it, How to Tell if Theyve Joined One, How to Help Them Out

While youth gangs are nothing new -- they've been traced... Read More

Guide to Choosing LEGO Toys for Children

If you're looking for toys that are both fun to... Read More

The Graceful Art of Defrazzling - For Mothers

"I wipe my baby's chin with my college diploma and... Read More

What the Matter Is

When my oldest boy was really young, he tickled my... Read More

Defrazzle with a Hearty Guffaw

"The best blush to use is laughter: It put roses... Read More

Are You Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child?

Although many parents are concerned with our children's intelligence quotient... Read More

Play the Ball, Not the Man!

As parents and teachers, sometimes we want to praise, at... Read More

Homework Help for the Attention Deficit Child

Does the homework battle so typical with your hyperactive or... Read More

The Added Advantage In African American Childrens Education: Computer Homeschooling (Part 2)

We've got spirit, yes we do! We've got spirit how... Read More

Parenting Your Teenager: 8 Things You Need to Be Doing

Get into their world. The world that teens are growing... Read More

Your Checking Account

Checking accounts are an absolute necessity these days. You can... Read More

Helping Your Teen Get Back to School With Clear Skin

Backpack? Check. Notebooks? Check. Ink-pens? Check. Clear Skin? Mommmm!If you... Read More

Tips for Keeping Packed Lunches Fun and Interesting

? Let the child choose his or her own lunch... Read More

Over-Indulgence And Over-Attentiveness - Two Dangers Parents Must Avoid!

We're all familiar with the over-indulgent parent. But there's another... Read More

Reading Activities Parents Can Use For Their Children

Using 14 "at" Flashcards To Teach Reading:This exercise helps your... Read More

Parents and Children Working Together

When parents help their children learn to read, they help... Read More

Crazy Colors Fun Kid Experiment as a Party Activity

Here is an easy, inexpensive and fun kid experiment for... Read More

School Holiday Survival Guide

The school holidays are a great time for the kids,... Read More

How Do I Get My Child to Read?

Well first off, please to don't institute the ½ hour... Read More

Parenting Your Teenager: 6 Tips for Effective Discipline and Consequences

A parent writes in, ``We are having a hard time... Read More

Parenting Your Teenager: The 4 Ds of Time with Family

How would you like to have more time? Of course... Read More

Cooking With Your Kids Helps Develop Motor Skills for Preschoolers

Did you know that cooking with your kids is a... Read More

Entering Their Imaginative World

In dealing with children with autism spectrum disorders, its all... Read More

Twin and Multiple Births are on the Rise

Did you know that the number of twin births have... Read More