Vision and Students on Individualized Education Programs

Imagine strugglgirl new glassesing to determine the numbers on a clock, distinguish letters on a sign or see the number on a school bus. Imagine getting a headache when reading, doing homework or viewing the board in the classroom. For a student to be able to learn, he or she must be able to see. For students referred to an Individualized Education Program (IEP), this is even more important because vision is critical to improving performance in school.

Ohio law requires that students referred to an IEP must receive an eye exam from an eye doctor. Senator Randy Gardner of Bowling Green said, “Through my family’s experience, I know how important good vision is to the learning process. Correcting vision problems early on can help improve a child’s performance in school.”

Parents need to be informed of this requirement so they can schedule an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist, and then ask the doctor to send a copy of the exam form to the school. Parents should schedule the appointment with the eye doctor within 90 days after the student is initially identified with learning disabilities. If the student had an eye exam during the previous nine months, the requirement is already met. Be sure to inform your school’s IEP coordinator about this state law.

Why is an eye exam required for students referred to special education programs?

Since 80 percent of learning is through vision, a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor—optometrist or ophthalmologist—can detect and correct vision problems, which could improve the child’s performance in school. Although one in four school-aged children have a vision disorder, about 70 percent of students on an IEP have an undiagnosed vision disorder. Eliminating or correcting vision problems is the first step to helping these students.

If the eye exam is not done within 90 days of identification for IEP, can the student attend school?

The goal is to help students. Students will not be kept out of school if the eye exam requirement is not met.

Why is an eye exam needed?

While school nurses may detect a vision problem through a vision screening, vision screenings never diagnose or treat a vision disorder. A comprehensive eye exam is a detailed assessment of the overall eye and vision health including measuring for distance vision, eye alignment, focusing, eye shape, depth perception, and more. Eye doctors are trained to make a definitive diagnosis and prescribe treatment such as glasses, contact lenses and medication.

One aspect of learning preparation that is often overlooked is good vision, which is essential for a child to learn. A trip to an eye doctor can help students. Teachers are in a unique position to help students and parents understand the importance of regular eye exams.

“Healthy eyes and clear vision can make all the difference in how a child learns and preforms in the classroom,” said Karla Zadnik, OD, PhD, Associate Dean at The Ohio State University College of Optometry and medical director of Realeyes. “Poor vision makes a child work harder in the classroom, which can result in lower grades. A comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor is the best way to ensure vision is not holding a child back.”

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