August was declared Vision & Learning Month in 1995 with a presidential proclamation from President Bill Clinton. The goal of this national observance is to help educate parents and educators about the critical link between vision and learning. Since then, cities and states have continued to generate awareness by making yearly proclamations.
2015 August Campaign
This August marks the 20th year of National Children’s Vision & Learning Month. The purpose is to help parents and educators understand that undiagnosed vision problems can block learning and lead to years of unnecessary struggling.
When children struggle with reading and learning it can impact the entire family. “Homework was a daily battle. Tears often ensued as we attempted to work our way through the assignment; read a few words, stop, silence, frustration,” shares mother of three, Wendy Kinkade from San Antonio, Texas.
“Many homework battles occur when there is no apparent explanation for why the child avoids reading. The child is bright, interested in and understanding of material when presented in an auditory format,” Dr. Kara Heying, OD, FCOVD, President of COVD explains. “However, when reading, the child begins fine, but within a few minutes the child starts struggling. This is actually a sign of eye coordination and eye tracking disorders.”
"25% of students in grades K-6 have visual problems that are serious enough to impede learning.” - American Public Health Association
"When vision problems go undetected, children almost invariably have trouble reading and doing their schoolwork. They often display fatigue, fidgeting, and frustrations in the classroom—traits that can lead to a misdiagnosis of dyslexia or other learning disabilities.” - American Optometric Association
"It is estimated that 80% of children with a learning disability have an undiagnosed vision problem.” - Vision Council of America
"Early diagnosis and treatment of children’s vision problems is a necessary component to school readiness and academic learning; and that vision screening is not a substitute for a complete eye and vision evaluation by an eye doctor. Comprehensive eye and vision examinations ... are important for all children first entering school and regularly throughout their school-aged years to ensure healthy eyes and adequate visual skills essential for successful academic achievement.” - National PTA Policy Statement 2005, Elements of Comprehensive Health Programs
"Early testing for vision problems is key to preventing learning disabilities or, in some cases, significant visual impairment in children." - Ned Calonge, MD, MPH, Task Force Chairman, Chief Medical Officer and State Epidemiologist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
"A three year study of 540 children found that those children who had visual perceptual and eye movement difficulties did poorly on standardized tests.” - Dr. Lynn Hellerstein, FAAO, FCOVD, Developmental Optometrist and Past President of COVD.
Vision is More Than 20/20
Unfortunately, parents and educators often incorrectly assume that if a child passes a school vision screening, then there is no vision problem. However, school vision screenings often only test for visual acuity. In reality, the vision skills needed for successful reading and learning are much more complex. A child who can see 20/20 can still have a vision problem.
Vision is a complex process that involves over 20 visual abilities and more than 65% of all the pathways to the brain. One in four children has an undiagnosed vision problem which can interfere with learning and lead to academic and/or behavioral problems. However, it is important to know that these children frequently do not report symptoms because they think everyone sees the same way they do.
Often a child with a vision-based learning problem has excellent verbal skills, causing parents and educators to think the child must be lazy, have ADD/ADHD, or is learning disabled. The possible misdiagnosis can be due to similar symptoms, but the causes are not the same.