Schools’ Vision Screening Won’t Show Vision Misalignment
Parents must pay attention to children’s attitude toward reading
When a child undergoes the vision screening process at school, s/he is primarily being tested for how well s/he sees at a distance. While it’s important to know whether or not your child can see the blackboard, it’s not the only test on which you (as the parent) should rely. Many children can pass their school’s vision screening while still struggling to actually read or concentrate on what they’re reading. That’s because most schools aren’t checking for a vision misalignment (or a subtlevision dysfunction).
A vision misalignment occurs when a person’s two eyes see different images. The brain cannot compute the two images coming in and as a result, double vision, shadowy vision, or overlapping vision can occur. Imagine being six or seven and not knowing that it’s not normal because it’s all you’ve ever known or seen.
That’s what happened to Tim*, one of our younger patients at Vision Specialists. Tim’s mother discovered his reading difficulty quite by accident: together they were reading a book and at one point, two of the pages were stuck together. Tim didn’t notice, though, skipping right over and it continuing to read aloud. She was astonished to realize he was “reading” the words from the pages that were stuck together—that is, he had memorized the book and wasn’t actually reading it at all.
Tim had passed his school’s vision screening every year, so there had never been any indication he was struggling. He’d grown accustomed to memorizing as much as he could while at school so that he wouldn’t have to read. Taken to an optometrist after this startling revelation, Tim’s mother learned he couldn’t read the biggest letter on the nearsighted test. He tested a 20/400 (to be legally blind is 20/200).
Tim was sent to vision therapy for six months, which resulted in no improvement. When reading, Tim explained he’d see the page itself as well as another version of it almost transparent-like or shadowy, which made it impossible to distinguish the letters. For three years Tim struggled—as did his parents as they kept searching for an answer to his reading difficulties.
It wasn’t until Tim was at the emergency room of a hospital for a completely unrelated accident that they actually made progress. The emergency physician noticed Tim had a head tilt. Tim’s parents explained he’d had it since he was a baby. The physician then asked if Tim had any vision issues, and after learning he did indeed, referred them to Vision Specialists of Michigan.
The moment Tim and his mother filled out a children’s screening questionnaire online, they knew they were onto something. The questions fit Tim’s symptoms exactly and his initial appointment was setup soon thereafter.
One of the first tests Tim underwent at his appointment was to walk straight down the hallway. He drifted to the left on every walk. When asked if he ever felt nauseated, he revealed in the car he often felt motion sickness especially during sharp turns - more symptoms of a vision misalignment.
When fitted with the aligning lenses, Tim did not want to take them off. His head tilt disappeared instantly; he was able to walk straight down the hallway and with much more confidence; and, finally, he was able to read. Finally, after years of tests and treatments, the glasses were giving Tim what he should have had all along: relief and near-normal vision.
Now Tim is like a new person—the person he’s supposed to be—his mother said. He used to cling to her in groups or at big stores, another symptom of a vision misalignment in children. Now he confidently strolls through buffet lines, amazed at the detail of all the food he can see!
If Tim and his parents hadn’t run into a doctor who recognized a vision misalignment so quickly, he may have continued on for years searching for an answer. Unfortunately, many children do continue without discovering they have a vision misalignment, and without realizing what they see isn’t normal. And even though 10% of the population suffers from a vision misalignment, it’s just not widely understood. We’re on a mission to change that.
If your child struggles with reading or learning, have their eyes checked by a professional or visit IsItMyEyes.com. Vision misalignments aren’t currently screened for at schools, which means we, as educators and parents, need to be vigilant for the sake of all those struggling children.
*name changed for privacy