Posted by: Janet Hughes | August 14, 2008

New law headlines Chicago Tribune!

Brother Reading a BookThirty-nine years late. But hey, it’s required now and who’s counting anything today except Michael Phelps’ fans! 🙂

It’s about time all children starting school for the first time in Illinois have an eye exam. Opponents of the new law disagree.

“Not Seeing Eye to Eye” appeared on the front page of the Chicago Tribune today. I was quoted along with a parent, school superintendent, optometrist, ophthalmologist, and the chief sponsor of the bill, Senator Deanna Demuzio.

I’m shocked educated professionals would “question the merits of the new law.” Illinois requires health and dental exams. Since academic learning is estimated to be 80% visual, shouldn’t eye exams be included?

In 1969, Illinois enacted the Vision and Hearing Test Act. Mass vision screenings would be mandated for all children. Screeners would be certified after a three-day-class for $100. Illinois tax-payers would pay the bill for these vision screenings. Fast and cheap was said to be the best way to find possible vision problems. Yikes! Shouldn’t we question the merits of mandated vision screenings?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “recommends screenings as a cost-effective way to evaluate a child’s vision.” A cost-effective way to evaluate a child’s vision? Sure…as long as it’s not my child! Do you feel the same way?

j0433816I’m disappointed the AAP would make this statement. The bill for my son’s kindergarten health exam, blood and urine samples, and shots was $629! Screenings do not evaluate, and screeners cannot diagnose vision problems. Illinois law confirms vision screening is not a substitute for an eye exam.

Tribune reporter Tara Malone summed-up the controversy very well with my quote near the end of the story…we needed to raise the standards. And we did in Illinois.

Do you think children’s vision should be brought into the 21st century?

Read another great news story that headlined last month in the Lemont Reporter-Met: State Turns Its Eye to Student Vision!

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


  1. Janet….

    I posted info about this story and my commentary on my blog at

    Please also note that I have linked your blog to mine….see left hand side of webpage…

    Thanks for all you do…


  2. Hundreds of young children will now be seeing with two eyes the rest of their lives in Illinois this year and more with years to come because of Illinois’ new mandated professional eye examination law.

    Just already hundreds of amblyopia cases, (using one eye) and the reasons are many why, have been reported in the state. Catching this early is the only solution.

    If the one eye only pattern becomes established for any period of time, the brain loses its most important visual skill. This loss will interfer with everything…reading, depth perception, driving, sports…cosmetic, the whole person.

    The old costly ineffective way of just quessing at how our children see had to lose out. The box score was pathetic. How could we live with ourselves allowing this primative way to continue?

    The eye professionals have been questioning the inadequate vision screening program for many years. However, it reached a point that the parents got wise and objected to the false sense of security of thinking “all is well” when it was not. Their child passed like many others, and they should not have passed.

    We would laugh to think that we would turn over general health screenings and dental screenings to a one-day-trained state screener, which by the way, would not be free to the tax-payers. (Salaries, pensions and all, let alone administration costs.) Maybe these greatly trained screeners could say when to see the dentist or physician? Do you think that would fly? The screeners can not diagnose or treat. How many deserving childen needing health or dental care would be missed?

    Now it is obvious why the parents can not sit back any longer. They can not take the chance that their child will be one of the 60% that the screeners have no clue to find.

    Amblyopia is only one of many missed visual tasks. Numerous eye health conditions need a doctor to diagnose, the same for functional binocular skills. Besides refractive errors, the biggest one missed is excessive hyperopia plus astigmatism. It’s easy to pick up myopia or distance vision loss.

    Hope this helps makes the case in question. It did for the parent caught in this merry-go-round.

    Dr. Floyd Mizener, Optometrist

  3. In 1974, my oldest son was having difficulty with reading. When I asked the teacher about taking him for a vision exam, she checked his screening report and said that he had passed. As an inexperienced mom, I took it to mean that his vision was fine. It was not. After a few months and continued difficulties with reading, I took him for a comprehensive vision exam. The vision screening had given me a false sense of security that his vision was ok. Since that time I have encountered numerous parents who had the same experience. This needed to change.

    “A screening is generally a routine check for eye alignment and strength” from Tribune. It is checking farsightedness. This would be good for an elephant hunting in school. I have been told that vision screeners have three days of training for $100. Vision screenings are not a substitute for a vision exam.

    Well-informed parents take their children for vision exams by age three. Earlier is even better. Some conditions can be reversed if caught early.

    In 1975, I was involved in getting a bill started in the Illinois House of Representatives that would have required vison exams in kindergarten, fifth, and ninth grades. It did not make it out of committee due to expense concerns, plus opthamologists and screeners lobbied against it. I am not sure what their motivation was. I was a mom who didn’t want other children to suffer needlessly as my son had. That was and still is my only agenda.

    8/14, Tribune article “Not Seeing Eye to Eye” refers to “Questioning the merits of the law” and “Excessive and expensive.” A pediatrition will have the child read a chart for farsightedness. This is not sufficient to ensure that the child’s vision is appropriate for the demands of school and learning.

    As for me, the questions should be:
    1. Is a screening sufficient?
    2. Is a vision exam superior to a screening done by a person who had three days of training?
    3. Do you want your child to have the best start in school or do you want your child to have an undetected vision problem that interferes with learning?
    4. Is it excessive to keep your child from suffering needlessly and possibly have their self-esteem suffer?
    5. Are the doctors and medical associations concerned with the high cost of physicals and dental exams as they are about a vision exam?
    6. What is best for the child?

    To address “expensive,” most parents want the best for their children. They will make sacrifices to meet the needs of their children. There are state programs and private organizations to help parents meet the visual needs of their children.

    What does it cost to evaluate and service a student who is having difficulties in school due to undetected vision problems?

    Regarding a tax-payers cost when a child is having difficulties in school:

    The teacher observes and keeps records.
    A meeting of professionals is called.
    An intervention plan is developed and implemented.
    Then there will be observation and record keeping for about a month.
    Another meeting to evaluate.
    New interventions may be developed by the team.
    More meetings.
    A meeting to evaluate the Response-to-Interventions (RTI). They may develop some additional interventions.
    New plan or referred for a case study. A psychologist observes and tests the student.
    More meetings.
    An Individual Education Plan (IEP) is developed and implemented.
    The student may receive additional services such as Resource, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, possibly an Aid and the purchase of additional items to assist the student.
    At least yearly, there is a meeting (Annual Review) to discuss progress and to develop a new IEP.
    Every three years there is a complete evaluation with tests, observations, the psychologist, the classroom teacher, any other professionals dealing with the student, and a meeting with the parent.
    In addition the teacher is taken from class time. There is an additional cost for a substitute and precious time lost for the students.
    All of these are costly steps, when it could be an undetected vision problem. Which do you think is more costly?
    The detriment to the child – priceless.

    The article referred to the child as being “nervous.” Many children are “nervous at a pediatrician’s and dentist’s office. They are “nervous” about new/unfamiliar people and things. Is it in their best interest to completely shelter them from anything that makes them “nervous?” Do we help them learn how to deal with situations?

    A child knows when something hurts, such as a toothache. A child does not know that they could/should see better.

  4. Great article! You are doing a wonderful job for the children. Keep up the great work!


  5. Now that the parents, the PTA, the teachers, and Mrs. Hughes and her army has had its investigation and that the legislators agreed 100% to their issues, the two children’s vision examinaion laws are in effect and the professionals in eye care better be on their toes.

    These parent groups have been doing their homework and now are investigating what doctors do. What? It has been a long time confusion because they are finding complications in the medical field where the doctors are not trained formally to do a comprehensive vision examination but are allowed to if they can because they are exempt from other specialities like optometry.

    The parents are reacting. Calls, letters, and blogs are reaching out on this discovery and the parent has lost its credit to medicine to be all things just as it has to the faulty vision screening programs in the schools, the very thing that promoted the vision revolution.

    These parents now know, as well as optometrists, that when a patient has a medical eye problem outside of their scope of practice and treatment, that they will refer to the properly trained medical practioner. But the children are not getting properly corrected for their non-medical vision problems by the wrong kind of eye doctor. Thus the revolution.

    It has always been an uncomfortable ethical position for one profession to complain about another, but it is a parents and legislators world now.

    The past has to accept the new world.

    Dr. Floyd Mizener

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