What are the essential vision skills?
Good vision involves the development of many different vision skills working together. This ‘team’ approach allows students to see clearly and understand what they are seeing. The visual demands of schoolwork can affect vision skills, causing a problem where none existed before. Clearly, vision problems that go unchecked can slow achievement, create frustration and can negate or cancel out your efforts in the classroom. Knowing the essential visual skills will help you become an “eye” witness to trouble spots.
- Near vision is the ability to see clearly and comfortably at 25-30 cm (deskwork)
- Distance vision is used for seeing beyond an arm’s length
- Binocular co-ordination is the ability to use both eyes together
- Eye movement skills help us aim our eyes accurately, move them smoothly across a page and shift them quickly from one object to another
- Focusing skills help keep both eyes accurately focused at the proper distance to see clearly and to change focus quickly from chalkboard to desk and back
- Peripheral awareness is when we are aware of things located to the side while looking straight ahead (helpful when passing notes!)
- Eye/hand co-ordination is the essential ability to use eyes and hands together
It Takes a Team
All too often, visual defects go undetected until a child is identified with a learning or behavioral problem. Children at risk for learning-related vision problems need to receive a comprehensive optometric evaluation as part of a multi-disciplinary approach. Learning is a complex process.
The relationship between vision and learning involves more than evaluating eye health and clarity of sight. When optometrists, teachers and parents work together, we give every child a chance to learn without obstacles.
A checklist of symptoms and habits that can point to learning-related vision problems:
- Failing to progress educationally
- Exhibits a reading or learning problem
- Performing below ability levels
- Performing in the lower third of the class
- Dislikes or avoids close work
- Has a short attention span for age; frequent bouts of daydreaming
- Loses place while reading or uses finger or marker to guide eyes
- Has trouble finishing written assignments when timed
- Has difficulty remembering what is read
- Omits, repeats or miscalls words or confuses similar words
- Frequent reversal problem (after second grade)
- Difficulty with sequential concepts
- Has poor hand-eye coordination
- Displays evidence of developmental immaturity
- Complains of headaches, nausea and dizziness
- Complains of burning or itching eyes
- Reports blurring of vision
- Reports double vision
- Has eyes that cross or turn in or out, or move independently of each other
- Displays red, watery eyes with encrusted eyelids and/or frequent styes
There is nothing more difficult than watching a child struggle in your class.
By keeping a watchful eye for these warning signs it is possible to identify many of these children. By reviewing your observations with your student’s parents or guardian you’ll be taking an essential first step. The amazing thing is, once a vision problem is identified and treated the results are heart warming. Children who can see all that you are offering in your classroom will begin to flourish again.
Vision and ocular health conditions are not always accompanied by recognizable symptoms, which makes you, the educator, an ideal candidate in identifying ‘visually at risk’ children.
Even children that are performing well in school may have vision problems that are affecting their ability to reach their full potential.
Did You Know?
- 20/20 vision does not equal good vision
- 25% of grade school children have vision problems that stop them from being as successful as they could be – poor vision can lower grades of even your best students if left unchecked
- it is estimated that 60% of students identified as having learning difficulties have undetected vision problems
- of those 60%, the majority would have passed a conventional school vision screening test
Confused about the difference between 20/20 vision and good vision?
Join the club. For many of us, 20/20 vision means perfect sight. But that is not always the case. A vision screening test of 20/20 simply means that a child can see at 20 feet what he or she should be able to see at that distance. It does not relate to any of the other vision skills that are crucial to learning.
Your classroom is a sight to see
Look around your classroom. It’s full of information, stimulation and inspiration! There’s information to be seen on the chalkboards, walls, written on books and handouts and on posters. As an educator you recognize the importance of vision, but did you know that over 80% of learning involves vision and that every student benefits from regular eye health exams?