In 2013, the American Academy of Optometry published a position paper on Optometric Care of the Struggling Student.  The position paper includes this story about Zach, which beautifully illustrates why every struggling student should have a comprehensive eye examination that only BEGINS when a child can read 20/20.

Zach is a nine-year old child who was struggling in the first few months of third grade.  His teacher noticed him rubbing his eyes during classroom work and he was often the last child to finish his work.  He regularly asked to go to the school nurse because of headaches. His teacher also noticed that his oral reading was choppy, although he seemed to be able to decode words and was a good speller.  His teacher asked the school nurse to do a vision screening.  The school nurse reported that Zach had 20/20 eyesight in each eye, but she recommended that he have an eye exam because of his headaches.  His parents took him to an eye doctor recommended by their pediatrician who reported that Zach’s eyes were healthy and that he didn’t need glasses.  Another health care provider suspected that allergies were the cause of Zach’s headaches and suggested allergy testing.  As the year progressed, Zach’s classroom performance continued to deteriorate.  His parents and teacher were concerned about his low reading comprehension score on the mid-year standardized test.  Homework was becoming very difficult and Zach became very reluctant to read at home.  After his teacher advocated for a second opinion, his parents took Zach to an optometrist who diagnosed him with an eye teaming problem called convergence insufficiency and prescribed optometric vision therapy.  Zach received four months of office-based vision therapy supplemented with assigned home therapy, and his parents and teacher noticed significant changes.  Of note, he completed his classroom work and homework much faster, no longer rubbed his eyes, read willingly at home and enjoyed it, and his headaches were gone.  Nothing had changed in his curriculum or his overall health, but Zach was a more engaged and successful student after the visual problem was resolved.
Vision is more than 20/20 eyesight!  Many children have difficulty with eye teaming, eye focusing, and eye movements, even in the presence of 20/20 vision and no need for lenses.  These visual deficits are contributing to their academic difficulties.  They have poor reading comprehension, difficulty completing assignments and struggle when compared to their peers.   Some of them, like Zach, have visual symptoms such as headaches, eye fatigue, and loss of place when reading.  Others just avoid reading to avoid the discomfort.  These deficits can be treated with vision therapy.  Some studies have shown improvements in academic performance after completing a vision therapy program.   Many students shown marked gains in their ability to sustain visual attention while reading and studying, thus eliminating a visual obstacle to learning.
It all begins with a comprehensive vision examination that looks beyond refractive status and eye health.  Schedule your child’s “Back to School” vision examination today!
mom and girl