Educational ReadSources, Inc. wishes to thank the Pearle Vision Foundation for the $10,000 grant designed to provide eye examinations and glasses for at-risk high school students. Through this grant, we were able to provide eye examinations and glasses for 125 high school students at Catalina High Magnet School in Tucson, AZ, Compadre High School, in Tempe, AZ, and Harding High School, in Marion, OH.

It is estimated that 1 out of 4 school-age children have undiagnosed vision problems significant enough to affect their performance in school and in life. Research shows that in at-risk populations, such as children living in poverty, this percentage is likely to be much higher. This is significant because approximately 85% of all learning occurs through the visual system.

There is no guarantee that once a student’s uncorrected vision problem is corrected, his/her grades will immediately improve. However, because of the high correlation between uncorrected vision problems and learning difficulties, it can certainly be argued that if a student has a vision problem that interferes with his/her ability to read or to learn, this will surely hinder the student’s performance. Removing this roadblock will, at least, give the student a fighting chance at academic success.

We thank the Pearle Vision Foundation for helping us to give these young people a better chance for success in school and for achieving to their highest potentials.

  • Vision Problems of Children in Poverty. Their Effect on Learning and Correlation with Delinquent Behaviours.
  • 85% of all learning occurs through the visual system.
  • 25% of all children have a vision problem significant enough to affect learning.
  • 70% of juvenile delinquents have uncorrected vision problems.
  • 74% of illiterate adults fail the vision screening.

The Harvard Graduate School of Education hosted a conference in April, 2001, entitled, “Visual Problems of Children in Poverty and Their Interference with Learning.” One of the conclusions was that 53% of children of families living in poverty have uncorrected vision problems that interfere with reading, writing, classroom learning, and even sports.

Vision disorders are the fourth most common disability in the United States.

In spite of the high prevalence of vision disorders in the population, only 31% of children between ages 6 and 16 years have had a comprehensive eye examination within the past year, while below the age of 6, only 14% have had an eye examination. Possible explanations why children are not getting eye care include:

1. Uninsured parents’ or caregivers’ inability to pay.

2. Parents’ or caregivers’ lack of knowledge.

3. Reliance on paediatricians or primary care physicians.

4. False sense of security resulting from school screenings.

Early professional eye care is needed to prevent unnecessary loss of vision as well as to improve educational readiness and performance.

The relationship between vision problems and learning difficulties and the cost of undetected vision problems to society are enormous. Vision problems interfere with children’s abilities to perform to their potential and are the most frequently overlooked roadblock to learning by teachers, parents, and caregivers.

One concern is that the majority of school vision screenings, by well-intentioned nurses, primarily screen for amblyopia, myopia, and high degrees of astigmatism and hyperopia. Most screenings are for visual acuity alone, which generally detects only about 30% of children who would fail a professional eye examination. 6

Visual acuity screening often fails to detect those conditions that would be expected to affect learning, such as accommodation and convergence, the ability to focus the eyes and point them in the right direction. Problems with these visual skills have a detrimental impact on reading and computer use. Parents or caregivers of children who pass a vision screening may incorrectly assume that their children do not require further professional care.

Vision Problems and Juvenile Delinquency

Several studies have linked uncorrected vision problems with juvenile delinquency. One rather alarming statistic is that in the population of all school age students, 25% suffer from undiagnosed vision problems: however, it is estimated that 70% of juvenile offenders have undiagnosed vision problems.

This high incidence of uncorrected vision problems among children in juvenile detention:

a. Results in skill deficiencies.
b. Causes difficulty in learning, and consequently, poor academic performance.
c. Leads to feelings of failure, low self-esteem, and disinterest in school.
d. Contributes to unacceptable behaviours and discipline problems.
e. Frustrates the student, who may eventually drop out of school.

Uncorrected vision problems frequently result in poor literacy skills, and may contribute to the student’s becoming involved with the criminal justice system because of the strong correlation between illiteracy and criminal inclination. According to the National Institute for Literacy’s 1998 report entitled The State of Literacy in America, 70% of those incarcerated in this country are functionally illiterate.

In December, 2001, the Coalition for Juvenile Justice, based in Washington, D.C., released the finding of its report: “Abandoned in the Back Row: New Lessons in Education and Delinquency Prevention.” Coalition Director, David Doi, reported, ” The biggest finding is that school failure is one of the earliest and best predictors for future delinquent and criminal behaviour.”

Hispanic Population Patterns

The Hispanic population is the fastest growing segment of our population. According to the Hispanic Education Study by the RAND Corporation of California, two out of three of Hispanic students come from families where neither parent has a high school diploma, and one out of two Hispanic children lives in a family in the lowest income percentile.8

It is imperative that educators not ignore the research indicating the high incidence of undetected vision problems among students living in poverty. Schools need to provide comprehensive vision screenings that include vision skills that can affect reading and learning, and these should be repeated every two years.

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