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School and Vision: 2 Important Partners

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It’s February and that means we’re right in the middle of winter and right in the middle of the school year. Kids hope for snow days while parents hope that doesn’t happen.  As we head towards the second half of the school year, you’ve probably attended a few parent-teacher conferences and discussed your child’s education.  Like peanut butter and jelly, school and vision go hand-in-hand. Both are important partners to make sure children excel in learning and sports. 

ADD/ADHD and Vision Problems

Did you know that a vision problem can be at the root of a behavioral problem or learning difficulties? In fact, 80% of what we learn is through our visual system. 

A child may be misdiagnosed with ADD or ADHD if they display behaviors like being fidgety, having difficulty focusing or concentrating, or having a short attention span. These behavioral symptoms are often due to the visual system. 

A child who experiences blurry vision, suffers from headaches or eyestrain, or itches their eyes excessively may, in fact, have convergence insufficiency.  That means they have difficulty using their two eyes together as a team and that makes learning and reading difficult.  This may be the child’s “normal” and they may assume everyone sees that way, so it is common for a child not to know to complain. 

This can also impact a child emotionally and may affect their self-esteem.  When they feel like they’re not keeping up with their peers or their learning is inferior in some way, it can then lead to the child acting out verbally or even physically. 

Wouldn’t a school Vision Screenings find these types of problems? 

Many parents may think that a school vision screening is good enough, or reading the distance eye chart at the pediatrician’s office is the same as an eye exam.  That type of test checks only visual acuity at distance.  It is usually done with one eye closed.  But if you think about it, we read at NEAR, and NOT at distance.  We read with both eyes OPEN and NOT with one eye shut. 

The point is that kids may pass a vision screening but still struggling to read, write, or focus on the board. Children who have problems with their binocular vision, (their ability to use both eyes together to focus on something) may pass a vision screening when they use just one eye to read the chart.

Studies show that a huge (43%) number of children who have vision problems, can successfully pass a school vision screening.  This means that the vision screening fails to detect significant and treatable vision problems. Early detection and diagnosis is critical.  That’s why it’s so important to make eye care a part of your child’s healthcare routine.  As a matter of fact, there is a bill before the NJ state legislature to require that an eye exam is needed for each school child. 

The Importance of Yearly Eye Exams

To help your child succeed in school, it is strongly suggested that they have a comprehensive eye examination every year, by a doctor who looks for more than just eye health or eyeglass issues.  In addition, you should see an eye doctor that tests for eye coordination issues.   

A child should have a full eye examination at age 1,3, and 5, and every year they are in school.


It is extremely important for parents to know that vision issues impact learning.  If you know of a child who is struggling in school, if they have a learning disability, or if ADD / ADHD is suspected, it is all the more important for them to have a comprehensive eye examination with a Developmental Optometrist.  To succeed in school, a child must have all the needed tools at their disposal.  Vision is an essential component to achieve that.