Could a Child with ‘20/20 Sight’ have a Vision Problem?

Editor: Dr. Russel Lazarus, Published March 16, 2021

Studies have found that 1 out of 4 school children suffer from a vision problem that impacts their learning.

If your child has 20/20 vision, it doesn’t mean they don’t have vision problems that are making school difficult and undermining their academic success.

When children get a vision screening at school, it measures their visual acuity — how well they see — and it’s usually very limited. It does not assess the visual skills necessary for learning, reading, and even athletics.

If you think your child may have a vision problem, schedule an appointment with an eye doctor as soon as possible

The Find an Eye Doctor directory lists eye doctors near you that provide eye exams and vision therapy for children.

What is 20/20 vision?

The term ‘20/20 vision’ only means that you can see clearly at 20 feet away.

Visual acuity is measured by the clarity or sharpness of vision at a distance.

20/20 does not mean ‘perfect vision’, as a child with ‘20/20’ sight can still have other vision problems affecting their visual skills.

There are actually 17 key visual skills, including depth perception, color vision, eye coordination, focusing ability, peripheral vision, to name a few. These contribute to your ability to successfully perform many routine tasks and activities — reading, writing, driving, playing sports, and more.

Additionally, while some people can see well at a distance, they may have difficulty seeing images that are near. Others can see near objects clearly, but have difficulty seeing distant objects.

Is a vision screening test enough to determine a vision problem?

It’s important to know while your child’s school may conduct vision screenings, these screenings are very limited as they only test for vision acuity, and not vision problems. However, some vision problems may be detected.

Vision screenings should not be a substitute for a comprehensive eye examination performed by an eye doctor.

The vision chart used for screenings does not measure how well your child’s eyes are working for reading, writing, homework, computer use, and all other activities or tasks that require your child to use their visual skills.

It is critical for parents to understand that relying solely on school vision screenings may cause many complications for a child. These screenings can only uncover some vision problems, such as severe lazy eye or myopia, but cannot effectively identify most of the visual problems experienced by children.

A comprehensive eye exam at an eye doctor is the only effective measure of ocular and visual health. When vision problems are not detected in childhood, they can significantly affect a person throughout their life.

Vision problems can be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, or a program of vision therapy.

Signs of a vision problem

Parents and teachers should be aware of how to identify a vision problem.

The most common signs include:

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

    When to see an eye doctor

    If your child shows any of the above signs of a vision problem, it is important to schedule a comprehensive eye exam so their eye doctor can check their functional vision as soon as possible.

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

    Vision therapy can help your child to develop the visual skills necessary to succeed in school, sports, and all aspects of life.

    Schedule a functional vision evaluation with an optometrist experienced in children’s vision and vision therapy, and give your child the chance to achieve success— both inside and outside the classroom.