By Dr. Robert L. Wegner
Imagine being a child who has difficulty with attention span, seeing a chalkboard, reading, writing or participating in sports or any other normal childhood activity. If a vision or perception problem exists and goes undetected frustrations and behavioral problems often follow and can lead to personality alterations. For many children the solution to these challenges is often as simple as a comprehensive vision exam by an Optometrist who is trained to recognize and treat such problems.
Optometrists have long recognized the importance of accurate visual perception and success in the classroom as well as in daily tasks. All children should have a complete vision-perception analysis performed by a board certified Optometrist before the age of 5 (preferably by an Optometrist with training and experience in the field of Developmental Vision). Many vision impairments can be diagnosed and treated if detected early enough, thus preventing years of frustration and failure.
Undetected and therefore untreated, perceptual problems among our children represent one of the most serious, yet overlooked heath issues in the United States according to the American Foundation of Vision Awareness (AFVA).
Visual perception disorders are the fourth most common disability on the U.S. and by far the most prevalent handicapping condition in childhood. According to AFVA statistics, 8 to 12 million school age children are at risk from undetected vision impairments. I believe that all children should have a complete comprehensive vision perception evaluation before they start school or even earlier if learning problems are suspected.
Most of what we do each day is initiated as a response to an input to the vision system. Vision is a learned response based on past experience as a child develops and if there is a malfunction or improper development as the foundations are laid, the final product will be altered most often will malfunction. Think of a computer with a defective or inaccurate program. If the initial input is not valid, the output will be altered and incorrect. The human brain is like a computer part that has to be correctly programmed with various forms of accurate information (unaltered by defects in the vision system) as we develop through childhood. 80% of all information we process each day is done through the vision system and if incoming stimuli are altered, the response we make to other stimuli cannot be correct and effortless.
A child with a vision problem may squint, blink, cover one eye, exhibit odd postures, complain of headaches, rub their eyes, etc. or they may not exhibit any symptoms or complaints. The child may simply try to avoid tasks that require accurate or comfortable vision. This child will usually exhibit short attention span or other behavioral problems, often being disciplined or put on various medications that may be unnecessary. There can be a significant vision-perception problems even for a child that has 20/20 vision. A vision therapy program (often done at home) may be required to establish the foundations and skills a child needs to excel in the classroom and in life.