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Children with IEP's At Risk For Vision Problems

A recently published book titled: A Parent’s Guide to Special Education by authors, Linda Wilmshurst, Ph. D. and Alan W. Brue, Ph. D. offers advice to parents on how to navigate the system and help their children succeed.  This easy to read text offers a wealth of information about services and strategies available for children with learning problems who qualify for special services within the public school system.
One such program is an Individualized Education Program (IEP). The purpose of the IEP is to mobilize all of the educational team to bring a coordinated, goal oriented, measurable process of educational support services to the child who qualifies. An IEP is the individual plan for the child who has been shown to have a learning problem or disability.
But, what if a child with an IEP also has a vision problem? Wouldn’t that pose a risk to the child responding effectively to their IEP?   Several states have mandatory eye examinations but most typically provide a vision screening to determine that vision is functioning “normally”. This is where problems begin.  Vision screenings are predominantly an eye sight test. That is, if the child’s visual acuity (eye sight) is better than 20/40 they pass the vision screening!
The fact is, however, that many vision problems occur at normal reading distance rather than the farther distance that the eye chart tests for.
A recent Ohio State University study looked at the link between children that had an IEP and a vision problem and compared them to children in the general population.  The research team concluded, “There is considerable association between ocular anomalies and poor school performance. These problems are illustrated by the high prevalence of a variety of eye problems experienced in patients with IEPs.” 
They found that 69% of the children with IEPs would have passed the school vision screening test.  That is to say, nearly 70% of those children with an IEP were identified with treatable vision problems and yet would pass the vision screening because their vision problem did not affect their distant eye sight!
Problems such as Convergence insufficiency,  Accommodative dysfunction, Strabismus, and  Amblyopia significantly exceeded the general pediatric population.  These four categories are effectively treated with vision therapy.  Eyeglasses do not treat these problems.
The final concluding statement by the research team was, “Children with IEPs are likely to have a greater prevalence of nearly all vision-related problems compared to pediatric samples represented in the general population reported in the literature. Because students with IEPs are likely to experience vision-related problems more often than the general population, these children should undergo comprehensive vision examinations to identify and treat these conditions.”
This evidence-based research shows the link between learning problems and vision problems to help children.  Children with vision-related learning problems should be identified with a comprehensive vision examination so that effective treatment can be prescribed.
Dr. Roth. OD, FCOVD,  is a developmental optometrist, and is Board certified in Vision Development and Vision Therapy.  As part of his full scope practice, he diagnoses and treats patients of all ages who have had vision problems that ultimately affect learning.  He is available to speak to parent groups. Dr Roth, Lic#  4635 OM# 27OM0005600, practices at Family Eye Care, in Old Bridge and may be reached at 1-732-679-2020.