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By Far, Too Many Children

Are In Remedial Classes

For The Want Of

A Competent Visual Skill Exam

 

"Knowledge regarding the relationship between
poorly developed visual skills and poor academic
performance is not widely held among students,
parents, teachers, administrators, and public
health officials...."

(Maryland Parent Teachers Association
Resolution to the June, 1999 National
PTA Convention
)

 

Many visual skills are required for competent and successful learning. The lack of these skills doesn't CAUSE learning disabilities...however, they can mask as ADHD, Dyslexia, Learning Disabilities, and Behaviour Disorders.

Vision Problem ... Or ... ???

Many children get treatment for ADHD when, in fact, they have vision problems. More than a few struggle in remedial settings... with little success...because their reading and learning approaches look like learning disabilities. Their skills are just like those of children who really do have learning disabilities. Because of that, it would be wise to check out children who are suspected of this and other conditions. A first step in the process is to have a competent vision examination with a paediatric ophthalmologist or a developmental optometrist BEFORE pursuing any other course of action.

It's essential that children have the ability
to see...BEFORE...they learn to read.

 

HERE'S WHY... 

 

Reading and writing are two common school tasks. Vision plays a very important role in the Kindergarten classroom. In all probability, 75 to 90 percent of classroom learning is visual.

Teachers teach by "showing" and by "talking." If your child can't physically see what the teacher sees, your child won't learn easily.

 

Recent studies suggest that 80 percent of children with reading difficulties have eye problems. Visual problems lead to struggles that are interpreted as...

he's lazy...
she doesn't try hard enough...
he doesn't pay attention...
she disrupts the class so much...
there must be something wrong with the child.

Undetected visual problems often show up as behavioral problems disruptive to the class. Of course, the teacher works hard at controlling behavior -- that's a major issue in teacher evaluations -- all the while unaware that the real problem may be VISION!

To learn to read well, the eyes must work, mechanically, in 4 ways:

1. The eyes have to see well to send clear messages to the brain.

2. The eyes have to work together as a team. 

3. The eyes have to adjust quickly to changes in distance and in light.

4. The eyes must move together in a controlled manner.

Is your kindergartener having trouble learning the alphabet?

Is your kindergartener a bright child who doesn't appear to be working to potential?

Does your kindergartener come home with statements like...

"I'm dumb."
"I don't like school."
"I can't do it."
"Teacher says I don't listen...
I don't pay attention...
I'm bad?"
 

If you haven't checked out your child's vision, you may be in for a surprise when you do.

"Vision is almost always overlooked by parents
and educators as one of the roadblocks a child
must be encountering." 
(www.visionandlearning.org)

According to the information presented in this website, here are some facts: 

"25% of ALL children have a vision problem
significant enough to affect their performance
in school."

"As many as 80% of children who are reading
disabled, including those considered dyslexic,
show a deficiency in one or more basic visual
skills."
 

An overwhelming majority of vision professionals support these findings.

 

These statistics confirm that vision is essential to learning. This is especially so in kindergarten and first grade...where the foundation for reading has its beginning. Most importantly, the vision that is required for classroom work differs from the 20/20 visual acuity tested on many school eye charts.

More than that, how we see is integrated into our movement behaviours along with information, sent to our brains, from our other senses. And...it must be developed to a level of automaticity.  It's no different from driving. 

Once you've learned the mechanics of driving and you've had enough practice, your skills are automatic ... you're no longer aware, consciously, of how to drive.  You become aware of it only when conditions require a greater sense of being alert.

Delays in function and adaptation affect efficiency.

 

Try this activity ...

Close your eyes and walk 30 paces in a straight line.

Were you able to do it?
Did you drift to the left or the right from that straight line?

Close your eyes and stand on one foot.

How soon did you have to open your eyes?
Were you able to do it for one minute?

Close your eyes. Extend your arm away from the trunk of your body. With eyes still closed, touch the tip of your nose with the tip of your pinkie finger.

What was the result?
Did you miss your nose?
Did you have to peek?

 

Now...imagine what it would be like if YOU looked at a straight line...and, instead, YOU saw it as a squiggly line.

 

Would reading be easy?

How long would you concentrate on a reading passage where the letters appear to be crawling around, or jumping on the page as though they are ants moving in ever-changing patterns?

Would you enjoy reading if each of your eyes fixated on different points causing you to see double? How long would you be able to focus on the page before you needed relief?

What if your undetected vision problems created restlessness in you? Or...created frustration in you strong enough to create disturbances...and you were accused of bad behavior?

Would you stick with a task where the letters of 3- and 4-letter words changed position each time you saw them? And...you felt you had to learn every combination of those letters in hopes of guessing correctly the next time you saw each word? All that extra work saps your energy for learning!

By the way, each 4-letter word has 24 different combinations!
Would you be eager to tackle 5-letter words? 

What if you had excellent -- even outstanding -- verbal skills, or speaking ability, but you had trouble remembering what each letter and number looked like?

What if the words ran together...were blurry...the lines appearing to move...the letters looking funny...and the white spaces dancing around on the page?

Would you find reading easy?

Would you enjoy the struggle?

Wouldn't you dread reading?

 

What would happen to your self-esteem...your self-confidence?

Would you be a happy child?

What would your stress level be?

How would you feel if you couldn't copy the work to be done...completely...and your classmates could...because you couldn't see the chalkboard?

What if you lost your place when reading ... skipped lines ... reversed b's and d's and m's and w's ... couldn't spell ... were clumsy ... bumped into everything and everyone ... and complained of headaches?

Would you be a desirable playmate?

Wouldn't you HATE reading?

Wouldn't you bargain to reduce the time spent on reading? 

Wouldn't you beg for a reduction in the amount of reading you had to do?

 

What if the answer to those problems were recommendations for medication or special needs testing?

Think how your child would feel!

What is the typical reaction to children who see in that way? Are these children treated with empathy and understanding? 

Children self-report comments to the contrary!

Faulty input can only lead to faulty output. Some of the words used in reaction to that faulty output are:

Dumb...stupid...retard...slow...lazy...fidgety... unfocused...

There are many more. I'm sure you've heard them all on the playground...if not in class...when you were in school. 

Inability to concentrate...limited attention span...class clown
personality...sloppy writing...poor coordination...inability to
participate in sports or excel in them...

are the comments we read on report cards sent home to parents. 

Yet...ALL of these effects MAY be due to
the inability to see correctly!

Not only are the terms, listed above, hurled at the afflicted ... they are used in self-accusation, as well. And...that makes the damage even worse. These terms destroy your child's belief that he is a capable learner.  

Restoring the belief in being a capable learner
is a real challenge for your child, as well as for
the remedial reading teacher.

So....What's the answer? 

As any parent who's been through the mill will tell you, many visual processing problems are difficult to identify. When the problems are identified, and proper corrective measures and treatment are put into play, dramatic changes to the child's levels of performance are soon in evidence.

ALL parents can readily identify severe physical abnormalities in their children's eyes. They are concerned, and rightfully so, about their child's self-esteem. They seek professional help at the first sign.

The parent who's "been there and done that" will also tell you that their wisdom KNEW there was a problem...sought professional help...and followed that advice...only to be dead-ended time and again. 

Relief for most came by chance!

 

Many of those children wore glasses...but were still struggling at learning. Some visual conditions can't be treated adequately with glasses, alone. 

Learning-related visual problems...

are those that affect...How we learn...How we read...How we handle distance-related work. 

They are often mistaken for other problems since many of the behaviors are THE SAME! These include:

Can the eyes stay on target in following a line of print?
Do the eyes work together as a team?
Can the eyes blend images of each eye into one single
clear image?
Can the eyes adjust their focus at near-point and
far-points, in rapid succession?
Is there coordination between the eyes and the hands?

 

 

Can the eyes see where an object is...how far it is...how big it is...how fast it is moving...what texture it has...and...the direction in which it is moving?

What is KEY is that these abilities must be developed to a level of automatic function and use. 

All aspects of vision are critical to efficient and effective learning.

One would expect that parents and educators would see it as a first course of action when dealing with learning and reading problems. The reality is that, despite its importance, a vision examination is low priority! 

"Only 14% of children have had a
comprehensive vison exam by first grade!"      
(Better Vision Institute

Better vision is key to better learning. When vision is integrated with all sensory-motor systems, your child's school and personal life is enhanced.

 

The take-home message is this: 

If your child is in Kindergarten, now -- book an appointment for a complete vision examination.
If your child is about to enter Kindergarten -- get a vision exam BEFORE the start of the next school year.

You are the consumer. You have a right to ask the vision professional of your choice if the eye exam goes beyond refraction and eye-health issues. You have the right to ask if the eye exam tests for visual skills that contribute to your child's success with reading and school achievement.  

School achievement is your child's job.

The vision professional's job is to determine if all systems are functional ... 

so that your child can do her job.

According to the Optometrists Network, a comprehensive eye examination should include tests for the following visual skills:

Acuity-Distance: visual acuity (sharpness, clearness) at 20 feet distance.

Acuity-Near: visual acuity for short distance (specifically, reading distance)

Focusing Skills: the ability of the eyes to maintain clear vision at varying distances.

Eye Tracking and Fixation Skills: the ability of the eyes to look at and accurately follow an object; this includes the ability to use both eyes together at the same time.

Stereopsis: binocular depth perception.

Convergence and Eye Teaming Skills: the ability of the eyes to aim, move and work as a coordinated team.

Hyperopia: a refractive condition that makes it difficult to focus, especially at near viewing distances.

Color Vision: the ability to differentiate colors.

Reversal Frequency: confusing letters or words (b,d; p,q; saw, was; etc.)

Visual Memory: the ability to store and retrieve visual information.

Visual Form Discrimination: the ability to determine if two shapes, colors, sizes, positions, or distances are the same or different.

Visual Motor Integration: the ability to combine visual input with other sensory input (hand and body movements, balance, hearing, etc.); the ability to transform from a vertical to a horizontal plane (such as from the blackboard to the desk surface).

Some basic eye exams or vison screenings test only one of the above: Acuity-Distance (clarity of sight in the distance, 20/20 eyesight).

(Quoted, in whole, from Pediatric Eye Care, Eye Exams, at www.children-special-needs.org)

Learning-related problems are quite different from those of ADHD, Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities, despite the overlap in behavioral display and achievement. Visual problems MAY require the prescription of glasses for near-point work. They MAY require a therapy progam to improve visual abilities.

"Untreated eye conditions can worsen and lead
to other serious problems, as well as affect
learning ability, athletic performance and self-esteem."
(Children and Eye Problems
Prevent Blindness America, 2000)
As Luci Baines Johnson, Honorary Chair of the American Foundation for Vision Awareness, states:
"If the key to a better society is education,
the key to a better education is better
vision. If you don't have the key, you
can't open the door to a better life."
(Children's Vision and Learning Campaign, 1999)

 

Kindergarten children who see with distortions have only ever seen that way. They don't know any differently. They expect that everyone sees that way, and...therefore...can't tell you.

Good vision skill, in all its dimensions, along with good hearing and good physical balance are vital to learning. Without a competent vision exam, far too many children are in remedial settings...who shouldn't be.

It all boils down to this: Only YOU can take your child for a vision exam. It's YOUR responsibility!

Now, you know why.

Just do it!