Posted by: Janet Hughes | July 23, 2008

Vision First in the news!

j0439493Wild water slides, cool wave pools, and soothing hot tubs proved another great vacation for the Hughes clan at the Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

But at the same time, a break from cooking and cleaning can’t top making the front page of a newspaper!

Thanks to Dr. Sam Forzley and Dr. Sandra Bury, two great reporters called me about my part in Illinois’ new eye exam law. The Lemont Reporter-Met, the Southtown Star, and the Herald News covered the reason all kindergarteners should have an eye exam by an eye doctor before starting school.

It was the press we needed. It’s about time the public knows the truth. Required vision screenings miss vision problems, yet screening advocates are planning to repeal this law and stop any future bills for required eye exams in other states! Do you believe that?!

Vision First will continue to fight for what’s best for the children. Will you join us in our Kids Eyes Count Campaign?

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


  1. No, I can’t believe it! I can’t believe that screening advocates are planning to repeal this law and stop future bills for required eye exams in other states. My daughter was not diagnosed with a vision problem until she was 17… a junior in high school. In some cases her eyes were operating at a 7-year-old level. How did vision screenings miss this? Research shows that vision screenings miss on average between 30-60% of vision problems in kids. This is absolutely appalling! Whose interests are the vision screeners serving by working to repeal this bill and subsequent bills?

  2. Who are the screening advocates that you refer to that plan to repeal this bill and other bills? Is there an organization?

  3. Yes. The American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus (AAPOS) started a movement to protect vision screenings. Other groups will be expected to join this effort. Sad, isn’t it?

  4. On June 9, 2008, the newly appointed chair of the AAPOS, John Simon, MD, asked his organization’s members for legislative support in lobbying against any new laws under consideration that would require comprehensive vision exams in any state, deeming a set standard as a “terrible public policy.” Read this mom’s response!

    Dear Dr. Simon:

    By way of various affiliations with vision practitioners, recently I was e-mailed a copy of your post, authored and dated June 9, 2008. Reading it, I was mortified and gravely disappointed.

    I am very sorry to learn, and astonished, that a pediatric organization, and its “newly appointed chair,” would deem comprehensive vision exams for children, “a terrible public policy, designed to break down referral sources.” Of even greater concern is that an MD would seek “allies” that would “keep vision screenings in their medical home,” when the greatest number of screenings performed occur in schools rather than doctors’ offices, for years, which is precisely why this law was deemed necessary. And now you suspect that, from this law, the likely outcome will be, “needlessly expensive optometric examinations for the effective screenings now done by primary care physicians”? What statistics or studies validate this statement? My primary care physician did a lightning-fast E-chart eye exam on my daughter before he rushed off to his next patient, and though it might’ve been time and cost effective, it was NOT, I later learned, a thorough assessment of her vision, and it terrifies me that now with a standard in place, it’s become the target of territorial-medical-thinking and declared Public Enemy #1, set for demolition, nationwide. Is there some shortage of vision patients in this country that you have time to warrant such futile warfare?

    By title alone, are you not a man who is supposed to specialize in the care of children and their VISION? Yet your “call to arms” is near-sighted, transparent, and frankly, self-serving. Have you researched how little the cost for a comprehensive optometric exam is compared to that of weekly psychological therapy and meds for depression due to poor grades and low self-esteem? Have you researched how many vision problems go undetected annually, whether they are due to busy pediatricians, general MDs, or fast-serve school vision screenings? Have you reviewed any of the documented volumes of testimonials–medical, clinical, parental and academic journaling–that cite cases of undetected vision challenges in children and adults, that should’ve been diagnosed years, decades earlier? Are you also aware that PTAs in Illinois lobbied hard for this legislation, despite the lawyers and lobbyists in doctors’ pockets who fought it? Are you aware of how long a school nurse spends in training to conduct a “vision screening”? In some districts, less than a day. Yet, you would entrust my child’s vision, a fundamental learning tool for reading, to a school nurse’s screening assessment rather than a licensed and certified optometrist? And you would ask school nurses to fight for this responsibility, overloaded as they are with administering countless prescribed meds these days, on top of stomachaches, pink eye, and playground mishaps? Perhaps for your child, NOT mine.

    Recently, another new standard was passed as law, requiring school age children to have dental exams, though most surely can read and write and learn with a cavity or three, or teeth missing. In the wake of that, comes this law requiring comprehensive vision exams for children who have spent thousands of hours in front of TVs and GameBoys before ever entering school, their vision already strained, yet they must now try to track text to read and to write, to SEE and record the information on a blackboard, to copy it to a notebook accurately and quickly, legibly, before it’s too-soon erased, and this same law’s purpose is to “red flag” the children having difficulty doing that, and in your mind, it is “a terrible public policy?” Surely, you jest.

    I am an Illinois resident, a college teacher, and the parent of a child whose three-minute annual “vision screening” by a school nurse FAILED to detect her convergence excess, severe tracking disorder, and mild dyslexia from kindergarten through third grade. Starting 4th grade, she was struggling to read 2nd grade texts and NOT happy about it, profusely apologizing for being born stupid, an incurable condition, at least in her mind. Except she is not, never was, stupid. The system was. The school claimed it was merely a “developmental” problem, to “wait and see.” Her original optometrist, a well-respected practitioner for over 40 years, failed to identify any of these vision conditions that exasperated her learning, reading, writing, and all near-sighted desk work. Her exasperation haunted me, as a parent, and her teachers, causing us to feel frustrated and helpless against assisting this smart girl’s downward spiral, academically. Even her pediatrician dismissed our concerns as “not that serious” when told that one eye occasionally roamed inward, but he did add, “let’s keep an eye on it.”

    Only a behavioral optometrist helped us–there I said it, the dirtiest two words to every ophthalmologist–and without the expense or risks of surgery. He was a blessing, though many tried to convince me otherwise. My daughter’s tutor, a certified special ed teacher, referred me to him. Her daughter had a similar affliction except her daughter went undiagnosed until the age of 13, 8th grade. There are countless other stories like this, sadly many students are misdiagnosed as ADD or ADHD and treated with meds rather than glasses. SHAMEFUL.

    This Godsend tested and evaluated my daughter’s vision for more than an hour, giving her a series of exams, a ‘COMPREHENSIVE’ exam, explaining to me each procedure, what he was looking for, and how, and if he found it or not. Are you, a busy MD, willing to spend that kind of time per patient? Even HALF of that time? Would your fee be less? If not, set down your double-edged sword. He HELPED when others would barely listen, and he got results not only for my child, but for me as a parent who had agonized with my daughter over homework, and naturally, his diagnosis helped her teachers, too. With prescribed bifocals that were not glamorous but eliminated the strain of convergence on her eyes, our Godsend eliminated blurry vision for near work and annoying headaches. Reading and comprehension improved; her attention span increased, so did her test scores, her reading speed, and her copying time from a blackboard. She actually got most board notes written down, as opposed to only a sentence or two. As a result, she’s a high school freshman now with a positive, new attitude toward learning and an entirely new aptitude. Her grades, social skills, and self-esteem are exponentially better than when we first met our Godsend.

    I am personally stunned that you would use your rank and organization to purposefully get in the way of any child’s learning and chances for success, based on mere suspicion and an eccentric professional rivalry that’s well-documented. How tragic that the victims in your power struggle are the children, the patients you took an oath to help.

    K thru 12 teachers struggle enough with classroom management and weapons on campus without also worrying about their students’ vision. Most are also warned by administration to keep to themselves any unsolicited “professional” opinion about learning difficulties, lest the school and its budget be held accountable. Yet, for students and parents, teachers are a first line of defense. Without input from teachers or the school system, or primary physicians giving thorough eye exams, people have sought help and answers outside of the box, and now there is a law that endorses that thinking. I understand your concern, the embarrassment, that a group had the gall to go AROUND MDs rather than through them, but must we now throw the baby out with the bath water?

    Bottom line, sir, you are ill-advised to undermine and obstruct the hard work of teams of caring and frustrated parents and teachers, not merely optometrists, who have pooled resources to raise awareness about children’s vision problems as an academic priority, before the child is convinced that he/she is STUPID and struggling against insurmountable odds (labeled a LOSER), showing delinquent behaviors as a “dummy,” an outsider, and all over a correctible vision problem. Granted, it would have been a bonus to have the blessings of medical professionals leading the fight for this breakthrough that you deem a terrible public policy, but rather than blow it up, can’t you and your kind simply make it better–and without making it a flagrant professional vendetta? CHILDREN and their futures, the planet’s future, is at stake here, while white lab coats argue about who will cash in on comprehensive exams.

    I heartily suggest you consider this “List” in undertaking your campaign to ultimately hinder and booby-trap American children’s education, especially those struggling like my child was, unnecessarily.

    1. Drop the universal prejudice against optometrists. Flaws may exist individually and collectively, but your field is not without exception.

    2. Before undercutting all legislation nationwide that could benefit struggling students, parents, and teachers, consider the wealth of new studies, facts, data, and technology, not merely fiction and suspicion.

    3. Compete rather than destroy. If you don’t trust optometry, compete. Do glasses and vision testing better, more thoroughly, less expensively. Or, drop the artillery. There is a profound and unmet need.

    4. Be part of the solution instead of perpetuating and exasperating a very real problem, in dire need of a solution like a national eye exam law.

    D C Elsbury

  5. Thank you, Darlene, for sharing your excellent letter with all of us. I felt your pain and frustration from a broken system that needs fixing. I hope the AAPOS drops their swords and joins our efforts at Vision First. 🙂

  6. Kudos to you for being an advocate for children’s vision!!

    As an Optometrist (practicing in Florida), this is something that I see all the time…a parent will come in with their child who has passed a school or a pediatrician’s vision screening and the child is having problems at school. After a comprehensive eye exam–usually the underlying issue is able to be identified and addressed.

    Unfortunately the education is not out there for parents to be aware of the difference between an eye exam and a vision screening.

    Here is a link to a great and informative video about Vision Screenings Vs Eye Exams that is on YouTube by the Illinois Optometric Association:

  7. Thank you, Dr. Bearden, for the kudos. It’s not easy being an advocate…your kind words made my day.

    Thanks, too, for sharing that you see patients all the time who passed vision screenings. I’m sure you’re not the only eye doctor who’s said that.

    Good news! Vision First is providing the education you said we need! Check out our new website at:

    And thanks for the link to the great video on YouTube. Did you know that’s me? 🙂

  8. Right on, Darlene! Don’t mess with moms!

  9. Janet,

    Congratulations on the media attention…I hope
    that it helps spark even more coverage. Media folks tend to travel in herds!

    My kids enter Kindergarten in three weeks. Fortunately, we caught our daughter’s eye problems when her lazy eye at 1-year-old led to an exam, which led to glasses. We also examined our son at the time, and his vision proved to be excellent. Thank you for your advocacy for all of us parents!

  10. Thanks, Matt, for sharing your story about your kids with us. What a blessing your daughter’s lazy eye was caught when she was one! The sooner, the better. You sound like a great dad.

    And thanks for your kind words, Matt. I enjoy advocating for what’s best for our children. Afterall, I’m a parent, too! 🙂

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