VISION IS MORE THAN EYESIGHT

It is the ability to visualise, understand and apply the information that comes through the eyes.
We need to understand the difference between the terms SIGHT and VISION.

SIGHT is merely what results from the eyes’ responses to light shining into them and is measured by determining how well we can see different sized letters on a chart in the distance.
VISION results from the child actively interpreting and understanding the information made available through the eyes.

Children with normal (20/20 or 6/6) EYESIGHT may not have these abilities.  Therefore, learning problems are often related to vision problems.

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It is generally accepted that 87% of all learning takes place through the visual system. Clearly, if the visual system is not working effectively, learning and the learning process must be negatively impacted.

The American Foundation for Vision Awareness has released the following information:

  • A research study cited by the American Optometric Association indicates that 9.2% of
  • children studied have significant vision impairments.
  • Vision disorders are the 4th most common disability in the US and leading cause of disabling
  • conditions in childhood according to a study recently reported in Optometry and Visual Science.
  • Of 6500 children screened in Kansas, 15% were found to have vision problems.
  • Of 1000 school-aged children screened in Los Angeles, 47% were found to suffer from
  • vision impairments.

Each of these four studies quoted above dealt with the general population and each related to general vision problems, not sight (i.e. not blindness or sight impairment).

Among at risk children, the statistical information is even more staggering:

  • One study of cerebral palsied children found that 68% had refractive errors or other
  • visual difficulties; 58% of hearing impaired children had vision abnormalities;
  • 74% of learning disabled children had vision defects.
  • Among high risk children in another study, 85% failed one or more vision tests.
  • Of adolescent adjudicated delinquents, 74% failed one vision test; a study of children
  • living in public (subsidised for poor families) housing found that 51 of 59 (86%)
  • children failed a vision test.

Perhaps the biggest barrier in fully understanding this problem is not having a single study that effectively demonstrates the scope of the vision problems among children. Most authorities select a conservative figure of 10-15%. Some private studies put this figure as high as 85% in an average school classroom. Even if we take the very conservative figure of 10%, as many as 8,000,000 children in the United States suffer from undetected and untreated vision problems. It is reasonable to assume that similar results would come from other developed countries.

These figures give an idea of the extent of the problem in schools and learning in general. Parents and educators are looking for solutions. We feel that behavioural vision care is a major part of the answer for many of these children.

The efficacy of behavioural vision care and vision therapy has been well researched and documented although it is appreciated that those not familiar with behavioural vision care will find this difficult to follow and understand and often, therefore, do not consider this as a partial solution to many of the learning problems that affect children worldwide.

The Optometric Extension Programme Foundation in the USA has approximately 3000 Associates worldwide, practicing behavioural vision care in more than 30 countries. Behavioural or functional optometry is now well established in the UK, being introduced by Keith Holland, a British optometrist, in 1990.

One supporter of behavioural vision care in the USA, a retired special education teacher, is advocating the placement of a behavioural optometrist on the staff of every school district in the USA. He claims that the cost will be more than compensated for by the number of children who will not have to be placed in special education classes.

Children with any level of learning difficulties very commonly have undiagnosed and untreated vision problems. Behavioural optometry can help resolve many of these problems. At the very least, parents of children with learning problems should have their children examined by a behavioural optometrist to determine whether or not visual problems exist.