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A View to the Future

At a Glance

  • Vision assessments and comprehensive, dilated/cycloplegic eye examinations are critical to ensure that children succeed in school, and to prevent academic issues at all levels
  • An estimated one in five preschool children in the US has a vision problem, yet less than 15 percent of preschoolers receive an eye exam by an eye care professional
  • Inadequate vision may cause children to become frustrated with learning, enhancing the likelihood of need for special education 
  • Reports have found that as many as 70 percent of juvenile criminal offenders tested had undetected vision problems that affected learning.

Most learning, cognition, and perception – maybe as much as 80–85 percent – is mediated through vision. Although researchers cannot be exact on this statistic, they have found significantly lower achievement test scores (1), reduced letter and work recognition, receptive vocabulary, emergent orthography (2), and verbal and performance intelligence quotients (3) among children with uncorrected hyperopia. It is also known that vision-related problems are more prevalent in children with learning disabilities compared with the entire population (4).

Inadequate vision may cause children to become frustrated with learning, enhancing the likelihood of underachievement and/or a need for special education. These children can develop a negative self-image, exhibit behavior problems, and even drop out of school. Reports have found that as many as 70 percent of juvenile criminal offenders tested had undetected vision problems affecting learning (5)(6). The societal consequences of inadequate vision care for children is significant, and the effect on workforce quality and productivity is obvious. As vision problems that can affect learning are often related to refractive error, vision evaluations are imperative in children, and especially in the management of children with learning disabilities. Here, I overview the current ‘state of play’, and how best to approach visual testing in children to unlock their learning potential.

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About the Author

Andrew Morgenstern

Andrew S. Morgenstern is a Diplomate and the American Board of Optometry Chief Methodologist of the American Optometric Association (AOA) Evidence Based Clinical Practice Guideline Development Group.

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