Saint Paul, MINN – State Senator Alice Johnson’s bi-partisan legislation to establish vision therapy pilot projects in area schools was heard in the Senate Education Finance Committee this week. The three-year $1 million grant program would test the vision of second and third grade students to determine if they are one of 25 percent of school children with vision problems significant enough to impair academic performance.
According to Sen. Johnson, visual factors such as convergence insufficiency (CI) disorders are the primary cause of reading failures when evaluating beginning readers. Because CI causes difficulty with early reading, children with CI are often diagnosed as learning disabled. Unfortunately, a simple vision screening test given at school will not detect CI problems because the child with CI often has 20/20 vision.
Convergence insufficiency disorder is characterized by a reduced ability of one eye to turn toward the other when focusing on an object. This can cause double vision, eye strain and difficulty reading.
“Childhood vision problems, especially CI, are often misdiagnosed as learning disabilities or ADD/ADHD, leading to special education intervention and/or unnecessary drug treatment of school children,” Johnson said. “This pilot project is really the first step in identifying eye and vision problems early and treating these as medical problems rather than diagnosing and treating the child as learning disabled. Using special education reading strategies does not work with these kids because the problem is not a learning disability, but rather a physical problem.”
Under the proposed legislation, all second and third graders in up to four pilot schools must be given a comprehensive eye exam. If they are diagnosed with CI, they would be treated with vision therapy. The rationale for the pilot program is to determine how many children may be suffering from CI disorder and how vision therapy or corrective lenses may help. In addition, the bill will help resolve reading issues for children with CI disorder, reduce the number of children with vision problems that are misdiagnosed as needing special education, and may help close the achievement gap.
If you are interested in more information on this issue or others, please contact Sen. Johnson at (651) 296-2556 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.