Vision Therapy Pilot Projects are Grant Program Target

As part of a broader effort to combat non-academic barriers to learning, a bill to appropriate $1 million to start up a vision therapy pilot program is working its way through the committee process. Under the bill, a three year grant program would be established to fund vision therapy pilot projects in up to four school districts. In each year of the pilot, second and third grade students would be admitted into the pilot study under certain criteria. The involved students would receive a comprehensive eye exam, and those identified with a diagnosis of convergence insufficiency must undergo a vision efficiency evaluation by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist who is trained in the evaluation of learning-related vision problems.

Comprehensive eye exams break down one non-academic barrier to learning. Non-academic barriers to learning can impede a student’s ability to learn by not allowing them to be engaged in the classroom or to make the most of their learning time. Many children and adults do not realize that the struggles they may have in the classroom or workplace are not linked to intelligence or how hard they are trying. Instead, they may be unable to visually process information.

Not knowing the cause of classroom and work place problems can have a hidden, detrimental effect on self-esteem and behavior. Without an exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, many children are often labeled as classroom problems, grow into troubled teens, and eventually into struggling adults. An estimated one out of four children and seven out of ten juvenile delinquents have a vision disorder that may be interfering with their ability to achieve. The bill heard earlier this week and was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus budget bill. (S.F. 652)

Senate DFL Media