Do Vision Screenings Assess Functional Vision?

Dr. Russel Lazarus, January 17, 2021

Most vision screenings conducted at schools measure visual acuity, or how well you can see, but unfortunately, do not assess other important aspects of a child’s vision.

Vision screenings are usually very limited and do not assess the visual skills necessary for success in reading, learning, and even athletics.

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Why are visual skills important?

There are 17 different visual skills, including eye tracking, focusing, convergence, depth perception, peripheral vision, and more.

These visual skills allow us to accurately interpret what we see in order to make sense of it. 

For success in reading fluency and comprehension, the eyes need to work together to converge, focus, and track letters on a line. A problem with any of these visual skills can hinder a child’s reading and overall academic performance.

The visual skills are equally important for success on the sports field. Reaction time, accurate eye movements, depth perception, peripheral vision, eye-hand coordination, and visualization are all visual skills necessary to be a successful sports player.

Unfortunately, since vision screenings don’t test for any of these skills, many children with 20/20 eyesight continue to struggle in school, leaving many teachers and parents wondering, why?

Moreover, when reduced visual skills interfere with learning and athletic performance, a child’s confidence and self-esteem can also be affected— leading to potential social and behavioral problems as well.

Red flags that may signal a vision problem

Teachers and parents should be aware of the red flags that can indicate a vision problem. 

The most common signs include:

  • Poor handwriting
  • Reading avoidance
  • Headaches or fatigue following prolonged near vision tasks
  • Using a finger to keep their place while reading
  • Skipping words or lines while reading a text
  • Falling or bumping into objects
  • Difficulty catching a ball
  • Struggling to remain focused
  • Squinting or tilting their head
  • Frequently rubbing, covering or closing one eye

When to see an eye doctor

If your child is showing signs of a vision problem, it is important to schedule a comprehensive evaluation of their functional vision as soon as possible. 

Since a functional vision problem can impact learning, athletics and even self esteem, identifying the vision problem and treating it early on can significantly reduce its effects.

Vision therapy is a highly effective treatment for reduced functional vision. The goal of vision therapy is to strengthen the communication between the eyes and the brain to improve the visual skills and enable clear and comfortable vision.

If your child is showing signs of a vision problem, or is struggling to keep up with their classmates, speak with your eye doctor about vision therapy.

Vision therapy can help your child to obtain the visual skills necessary for success in school, on the sports field, and for all aspects of life.