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AOA School Readiness Summit: Focus on Vision

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The American Optometric Association recently held a School Readiness Summit: Focus on Vision in which doctors, nurses, educators and advocates for children’s health gathered to examine learning-related vision issues that are keeping children from achieving in the classroom. This summit was created to address the concerns that our current system is flawed and a policy shift is needed. The problem is that currently, the U.S. educational system and some health care providers rely heavily on vision screenings to discover the kids that need comprehensive exams. These screenings do catch some types of vision problems but they can miss about 75% of those children that have learning-related vision problems. Detecting these vision problems is very important as “studies show that much of what children learn comes though vision, and undetected and untreated eye and vision disorders in children, such as amblyopia and strabismus, can result in vision loss, additional costly treatments, delayed reading and poorer outcomes in school.”

The take-home statement that the summit produced is that comprehensive eye exams must serve as the foundation to determine school readiness in school-aged children. Another important point established at this meeting is the establishment of the link between healthy vision and classroom learning.

This historic summit is an important step in ensuring that children receive the proper detection and treatment of vision problems before they become detrimental to their learning. Here at Bright Eyes Family Vision Care, we are excited to see these changes being made, since it has been our goal from the beginning to not only catch vision problems at an early stage, evidenced by the InfantSEE program that we offer that provides free eye exams to infants between the age of 6 months and 1 year of age, but to also treat certain types of problems through our extensive one-on-one vision therapy program.

If you have any questions regarding the InfantSEE program, vision therapy program, or would like to schedule a comprehensive eye exam for your child before they start school, give our office a call or come in to schedule.

All the best,

Justin Schoonover, CPO

Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Located in the Westchase area of Tampa.
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AUGUST IS CHILDREN’S VISION AND LEARNING MONTH

As parents ready millions of children across the US to start the new school year, COVD’s “August is Children’s Vision and Learning Month” campaign is working to raise awareness about the important connection between vision and learning.

Current research shows that vision problems afflict millions of American children and thereby impact their ability to learn:
• One in four school-age children have vision problems, according to the American Foundation in Vision Awareness;
• 18 million children will not have had eye examinations by a Doctor of Optometry or other certified vision
care professional prior to entering school;
• 60 percent of students identified as “problem learners” have undetected vision problems, according to the American Optometric Association.

“Vision disorders are one of the leading impediments to successful learning in children,” said Dr. Drusilla Grant,Immediate Past President of the College of Optometrists in Vision Development. “Many vision problems go undetected because a child is told he or she has 20/20 vision and healthy eyes. This can be misleading because their visual skills, like tracking, eye teaming, and focusing may not have been evaluated and this is really where the problem lies.”

Exams using only the eye chart do not measure how well a child can see at near distances, nor do they evaluate depth perception, eye coordination or numerous other visual skills required in the learning process. They also don’t evaluate the visual abilities that are needed to extract information off of a page.

According to Dr. Dan L. Fortenbacher, COVD President, “We’re dealing with far more than just ‘eyesight.’ Our concern and primary focus is with identifying and treating a delay in the patient’s ability to access and process visual information in ways that are the necessary prerequisites for developmental learning. These issues can be treated through vision therapy, but particularly when diagnosed early.”

While “August is Children’s Vision and Learning Month” is concentrated on the month of August, the goal of the campaign is to broaden awareness year-round that vision is more than 20/20. The 20/20 test does not test how well you see at reading distance. In fact, the 20/20 test fails to evaluate many other important aspects of normal vision such as:
• Eye focusing
• Eye coordination
• Eye teaming (binocular vision)
• Eye movement
• Visual perceptual skills
• Color vision

At the center of its national “August is Children’s Vision and Learning Month” public awareness campaign, COVD urges parents, teachers, and all other decision-makers involved in the health and welfare of children to learn more about how vision impacts children’s ability to learn. Two articles recently published in the COVD journal, Optometry & Vision Development, found that children with vision problems have a hard time learning basic mathematical skills and that if the appropriate vision therapy is given, math skills improve.

Parents and teachers are encouraged to make a comprehensive eye examination part of their preparations for the new school year and to look for the following indications that vision problems may be contributing to learning challenges of their children and students:
• Frequent loss of place when reading
• Poor reading comprehension
• Sloppy handwriting
• Confusing similar looking words
• Failure to recognize the same word in sequential sentences
• Complaints of eyes hurting or headaches after reading
• Avoidance of close work (such as reading)
• Attention problems

Any of the above symptoms may be a sign that your child may be struggling with a learning-related vision problem. Fortunately, through vision therapy, many learning-related vision problems can be corrected. Protocols typically involve a prescribed program aimed at eliminating faulty vision skill patterns and rebuilding them correctly. For an in-depth checklist of symptoms, information on vision therapy and the critical link between vision and learning or to find a doctor near you, visit our website, www.covd.org.

About COVD
The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is an international, non-profit Optometric membership organization that provides education, evaluation and board certification programs in behavioral and developmental vision care, vision therapy and visual rehabilitation. The organization is comprised of doctors of optometry, vision therapists and other vision specialists. For more information on learning-related vision problems, vision therapy and COVD, please visit www.covd.org or call 888.268.3770.

Doctors of Optometry Applaud New Law Requiring Eye Exams for Illinois Children

You may not know it, but there is a grass-roots effort across the country to improve the vision care that children receive. Because there are many children through out the country that struggle in school due to undetected visual problems, there is a growing trend for individual states to require comprehensive visual evaluations for children before starting school. This is much like early dental visits to ensure that teeth come in correctly.

States such as Kentucky and North Carolina have been the front lines of this effort, with laws designed to make sure children have complete eye and vision examinations before starting school. Illinois has recently joined this growing group.

"Clear and comfortable vision is essential for learning, and 
this new law will help Illinois children succeed and reach 
their full potential," Ed Geppert, Jr., president of the Illinois 
Federation of Teachers, said. "This measure will help 
children read and see chalkboards more clearly. All Illinois 
children deserve the tools they need to fulfill their potential, 
and our students will benefit from this law."

With the exception of a Vision Therapy externship I did in Denver, Colorado, I received all of my Optometric training in Chicago, IL. During my Pediatric Vision residency, I saw many children who were in school who did not have the necessary clarity of vision or visual skills to reach their full academic potential. I enjoyed helping them, either by prescribing their first pair of glasses or making them more comfortable when they read by providing them with vision therapy. It is my hope that Florida will one day have a similar law in place that will ensure that all children in Florida have proper eyecare before enrolling in school. One major national initiative is the InfantSEE program, that I will write about later, that provides one no-cost visual assessment for any infant between 6 and 12 months old. This will benefit Florida’s children by detecting visual issues before they become problems.

Be well!

Dr. Bonilla-Warford
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care
Westchase, Tampa, FL

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