Children's vision care scores a failing grade

July 1, 2009
Joel N. Zaba, MA, OD

Healthy vision is vital for success in life, and it all begins with regular vision screenings during childhood-or it should. The level of inadequate vision care for children in the United States is significant.

Key Points

Most of us assume schools are addressing the vision problems of children by performing vision screenings. Research has shown, however, that only 10% of children aged 9 to 15 years who needed eyeglasses actually had them.

When schools perform vision screenings, typically only distance vision is tested. Most classroom activities-such as reading, writing, and computer work-involve the use of near vision, however.

What does this mean to society?

Children with undiagnosed and untreated vision problems grow up to become adults with undiagnosed and untreated vision problems. The failure to detect and treat vision disorders in children affects, among other things, issues such as childhood development, learning performance, self-esteem, social-emotional behavior, academic achievement, high-school dropout rates, and juvenile delinquency.

From the standpoint of society in general, the failure to detect and treat children's vision disorders affects the rates of adult criminality, literacy, and labor productivity.

Looking at the problem of undiagnosed and untreated children's vision disorders strictly from the standpoint of dollars and cents, a clearer picture of the costs emerges:

Is there any doubt that children must have the vision care and vision skills required to perform successfully in the school and workplace environments?

What can be done to address this situation?

Steps to success:

Editor's Note: Although an estimated 80% of what people learn comes through visual information processing, two-thirds of children in the United States do not receive any preventive vision care before starting elementary school, according to Joel N. Zaba, MA, OD. For an in-depth perspective on this issue, read Dr. Zaba's complete white paper at http://OptometryTimes.com/children.

Joel N. Zaba, MA, OD, is a practitioner, researcher, lecturer, and the author of numerous research articles relating vision to child and adult learning problems, literacy problems, school performance, and social-emotional problems. Readers may contact Dr. Zaba at 757/497-9575 or joelzaba@cox.net
. Support for Dr. Zaba's project was made possible by the Essilor Vision Foundation.