In 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.