Posted by: Janet Hughes | April 18, 2008

Vision First has a great form for eye exams. No excuses.

website-photo-amy-and-mommy-in-2001In 2001, only the health and dental forms were in my eldest daughter’s kindergarten registration packet. Now it’s 2008, and again, only the health and dental forms are in my grade school district’s kindergarten registration packet. An important form is missing—a vision report for eye examinations.

This should be a “no-brainer.” Experts estimate 80% of a child’s learning is obtained through the eyes. But many schools across Illinois and the nation are doing what my school district is doing—the minimum or nothing at all. Aren’t children’s eyes important to reading and learning?

The passage of Senate Bill 805 in 2003 (Public Act 93-0504) would at least encourage Illinois schools to recommend eye exams with the health exams. A vision report form should be in every child’s registration packet. Named after my daughter who passed vision screenings with high refractive error, “Amy’s Law” is a simple disclaimer that confirms vision screening is not a substitute for an eye exam by an eye doctor. In place of a vision screening, parents would have the choice of an eye examination. Every vision screening across America needs this law.

The passage of Senate Bill 641 (Public Act 95-0671) in October 2007 took that law one step further. Effective January 1, 2008, all children entering kindergarten in Illinois are required to have an eye exam by an eye doctor. Illinois’ law follows Kentucky’s lead in 2000 followed by Missouri in 2007.

Unfortunately, the rule-making process has not begun for Illinois’ required eye exam law. A state vision report form has not been approved nor released. I’ve been told it could take another year or two before a rule is proposed. Unfortunately, many schools are choosing to wait until further notice by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and State Board of Education. What happened to “Amy’s Law,” Illinois Public Act 93-0504?

I understand IDPH has been overwhelmed with many new laws that took effect on January 1, 2008. The recent smoking ban in public places was a big one. As the largest department in Illinois government, an understaffed and overworked team is doing the best job they can. But ask any parent who had a child struggle in school due to an undetected vision problem and you will be told that the new kindergarten eye exam requirement is just as important as a smoking ban.

According to the current IDPH Vision Screening Manual, Chapter 1, “Impaired vision in children can seriously impede learning and contributes to the development of emotional and behavioral problems. Nationally, the percentage of eye defects among all school children is between 20 and 25%. It is doubtful if any other handicapping condition so drastically affects such a large segment of the school population. Early discovery and treatment can prevent or at least alleviate many of these problems.”

My daughter, Amy, passed her screenings with poor vision. And she wasn’t the only one. That drove me into action. As the parent behind Illinois’ two vision laws for children, eye exams should be promoted, not vision screenings. Only licensed eye doctors have the training, equipment, and education to diagnose eye and vision problems. How can a child learn to read and write with an uncorrected vision problem?

Vision First Foundation formed in 2005 to support vision laws in Illinois and across the nation. The Vision First “Kids Eyes Count Campaign” is a simple action plan. Prewritten letters for schools, helpful fact sheets, and, of course, a preschool and student vision report form for eye exams, are available free on our Vision First Foundation website. Do you think parents and teachers should know a child’s visual abilities before academic learning can take place?

The Vision First report form was made for the parent and teacher. A completed report will help a school provide an excellent educational program for a child. Every parent, school, and eye doctor across the nation can freely use this great form.

You may ask, along with school officials, “Will the Vision First report be accepted by the state as proof of an eye exam?” We hope so! Vision First is currently seeking the approval of the Illinois version as proof of completing a required eye exam in Illinois.

The Vision First report form for eye exams exceeds state standards.The form raises the bar from an eye health exam (typical) to one that includes visual efficiency (not typical yet this area is most often the cause of learning related vision problems). And finally…it’s part of the “Kids Eyes Count Campaign.” Does it make sense to have an eye doctor complete two forms for one eye exam?

I know April and May are busy months for schools and parents. Wrapping-up the year while getting ready for the next is a challenge. Health packets are assembled and requests for crayons and glue sticks will soon top every school supply list. But where are our priorities?

Let’s not make excuses. Vision First is raising the standards. All children deserve quality eye care. All children deserve the best vision possible for learning in school. Parents, schools, and eye doctors need to be responsible for their part to ensure this happens. Do you agree or disagree?

Copyright (c) 2008 Vision First Foundation. All rights reserved.


  1. The wheels of change move slowly. Hang in there, Janet!

  2. Except technology. Do you believe my new custom wall unit is already out-dated? And it’s only five years old! That square opening just won’t work with the new rectangular sets they’re only making now. And I’m stuck with two other fancy armoir TV cabinets with the same thing…ugh.

    Thanks for encouraging me to hang in there, Kathy. Your support keeps me hangin’ happy with hope. 🙂

  3. It would be in Illinois’ best interest to use the Vision First form which safeguards the laws now in place, “Required Kindergarten Eye Exams” as well as “Amy’s Law,” without the danger of any watering down of its intent. The Vision First campaign is solely invested in all children, not just kindergarteners.

    I am a bit uncomfortable with the Department of Public Health approving a form for distribution that they created. There is a real danger that the interests of others, rather than our children,will take place. My son fell through the cracks for years because of school vision screenings and poor eye exams.

    I believe that the form now in place with Vision First should be the model for any form the State will use because Vision First is responsible for the current new law. This is not the time to just brush them aside and say. “OK Honey. You can go home now. We will take over from here.”

    If a watered down version of the law’s intent is contained in the State form, then a whole new war will begin and I don’t think THAT is in anyone’s best interest. If I still get tears in my eyes thinking about the struggles my son had throughout his entire grade school days, then it now should be the responsibility of the State to continue bending their ears to Vision First to make sure that this NEVER happens again!

  4. Thanks for sharing, Dianne. I am so sorry your son’s vision problem went undetected throughout his schooling. I wish I could turn back the clock for you.

    Vision First is working very hard at educating parents, schools, and eye doctors about the importance of comprehensive eye and vision examinations. You’re right…we need to look out for our children so this never happens again!

  5. What an awesome website! The articles are excellent. I especially like your mother’s mission page, the inspirational quotes and Janet’s Journal.

    Janet, you and all who are a part of Vision First are doing such an important work. Thank you for giving your time and talent to inform us of this so important issue and being there for our children. I hope everyone spreads the word about Vision First Foundation and their website. Keep up the great work!

  6. Thanks, Janice, for your kinds words. Glad to know you think the website is awesome!

    This is just the beginning. Now that we’re “live” on the Internet, the word is speading quickly about Vision First. We hope to help a lot of children.

    Do you have a story to share? We’d love to include it on our “Shared Stories” page! You can contact us here…

    Remember, follow the three simple steps and you will have the best in eye care that you and your children deserve. 😉

  7. Hello Janet!
    Your website is awesome! I haven’t spoken to you for a bit…but it looks like you are doing very well with the foundation. BTW, I have a blog that emphasizes childrens’ vision and those with a disability…log on to MainosMemos and take a look!

  8. Your kind words about our new website made my day, Dr. Maino!

    And thanks for linking to us on your great blog. (I’m thrilled to meet another blogger!) You have a ton of helpful information. I’m looking forward to spending more time reading all your entries. BTW, I absolutely LOVE your picture!

    We should talk soon. Feel free to call me anytime. 😉

  9. I wish our schools would wake-up and stop making excuses. This is a serious matter.

  10. Yes, this is a serious matter. Vision First will continue to work hard to turn poor excuses that say, “we can’t” into good reasons that say, “we should.” 🙂

  11. I just wanted to let you know about a child I saw yesterday in my office. He will be entering high school this fall. This was his FIRST COMPREHENSIVE EYE EXAM, EVER. His father stated that he thought his son was having a problem with his vision. “He may have had a hard time on the school exam (screening).” This boy was seeing 20/200!! I asked the student if he was involved in sports (looked the athletic type). He said no. Now I know why. He couldn’t see anything. Now, with his glasses he will take on those high school classes with NEW VISION. He always received good grades, his dad reported. I told him, the smart ones know how to get around their vision problems. All the more reason to have comprehensive eye exams before entering school and to continue throughout school as the children grow.

  12. Thanks, Dr. Nielsen, for sharing this story about your recent patient. 20/200 is a significant vision problem!

    You’re so right…the only way to find vision problems is through complete exams by an eye doctor.

    God bless you for taking care of our children’s eyes! 🙂

  13. So many community newspapers had pictures and wrote praise for the new liberation of children that were going blind until this new kids bill was passed. A failed vision program that did not know that hundreds of young students were only using only eye and would stay blind in that one eye the rest of their life, with such a short detection and correction period. Just think how much this costs, not only the child, but the Illinois taxpayers?

    Yet the Chicago Tribune Editorial stated, ” We do not need another nanny-state manadate” on August 19, 2008. That was the only resolve, Mr. Editor, otherwise what you needed was a lawsuit by hundreds of parents who verbally threatened to sue, for a screening program knowingly poor, and the damage is done.

    Amblyopia is only one failed eye and vision anomaly missed. But also missed is the millions of wasted tax-payer dollars and pensions that go on after death.

    The next research by these mothers and fathers is the actual cost and distribution of the system. “Saving Money?” What a joke. Tell that to the kids with only one eye working when trying to get into a job or vocation that demands two eyes.
    Dr. Floyd Mizener

  14. […] Vision First has a great form for eye exams. No Excuses.  April 18, 2008 […]

  15. […] GOOD NEWS: The Honorable House Speaker Michael Madigan and State Senator Christine Radogno (Illinois Deputy Republican Leader) along with 1,048 persons from around the world supported the approval of the Vision First form during First Notice. The Illinois Optometric Association also adopted a resolution in 2007 to support the mission of Vision First. BAD NEWS: Michael Horstman, executive director of the Illinois Optometric Association, and eleven school nurses and screeners objected to the approval of more than one form that could be used as proof of an eye exam excluding our Vision First form that would help many, many children. […]

  16. […] Vision First has a great form for eye exams. No Excuses. April 18, 2008 Every parent, school, and eye doctor can freely use the Vision First form for eye exams. This post holds the number one spot for most reads total. […]

  17. […] the Illinois Department of Public Health.”  Vision First has a great form for eye exams.  Read more here… Why can’t the Vision First form be one of the […]

  18. Janet , thanks for the hard work you do , future generations should benefit from it .
    Hugs !!!

  19. Yes Jan, we heard many excuses when we went to Springfield.

    My dad always told me “When you want to do something, you find a way. When you don’t want to something, you find excuses.”

    I do believe that you and I were the only two at the hearings whose only “agenda” was totally for the children.

    Thanks for all your hard work and dedication.

  20. […] Vision First has a great form for eye exams. No Excuses. April 18, 2008 Every parent, school, and eye doctor can freely use the Vision First form for eye exams. This post holds the number one spot for most reads total. […]

  21. WOW! You’re doing a great job Janet! I’m impressed and wish you all the best.

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