Who’s looking out for these kids? Uncovering the red herring in vision screenings


“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” ― Dr. Seuss

In this post you will read about a common story experienced by many parents. That is, what it’s like to have a bright child that struggles in reading and in school with undetected vision problems and going through the miriad of obstacles and misdiagnosis before they find help. What’s more in a video you will meet a boy, Ben and his mother who describe his story; one that resonates because it impacts so many children. Take a look as Ben shows off some of his new-found skills!

The story begins…

For many Moms and Dads, having a bright child who struggles to read, often leads to frustration and upset for the entire family. It usually begins with blame heaped upon the child for not trying hard enough. Certainly the problem is simply a matter of working harder and having a better attitude, right?

When that doesn’t work the parents may blame one another for not being a good parent. Dad may accuse Mom of being too easy on the child and Mom may accuse Dad of being an overbearing disciplinarian. The child is caught in the middle of the emotional battles.

Then the blame usually shifts to the schools and the teacher. It must be because of poor teaching, but when it continues on to the next year with a different teacher then the question may shift again from “why is this happening?” to “what is wrong with my child?”

Mom’s often begin by looking for answers to these discrepancies in her child’s behavior. For example, her son seems to have trouble miscalling easy words, frequently losing his place, re-reading lines, confusing “b’s” for “d’s”, “p’s” for “q’s” and has poor comprehension; could it be that he has dyslexia? Or maybe, since he is having a tough time with his memory, math and spelling, could it be because of a specific learning disability?

Another clue…he always is relying on his finger to keep his place and his handwriting is very sloppy, writing uphill and downhill. Wait a minute, could it be that he has a vision problem? She takes him to the pediatrician asking more questions and looking for answers. The pediatrician performs a vision screening and declares that the child has 20/20 eye sight, therefore the conclusion is no vision problem.

Mom persists, “Doctor what else could be the problem?  What about the headache he seems to get when he attempts homework which, by the way, homework is always such a battle and he just can’t concentrate!” The doctor concludes,  “Well, since he passed the eye sight test and his vision is ok, it appears that he has ADD/ADHD.” Finally, there you have it…the parents have an explanation and a course of treatment. The next step is to put the child on psycho-stimulant medicine so that he can concentrate better. After all if he could just concentrate his problems would be solved…right!?

Not so fast! As many parents will attest, a child with these problems do not always go away simply by putting them on psycho-stimulants. There is a “red herring” in this story. That is, the assumption that this child has “normal vision” because he saw 20/20 in the vision screening. Could it really be that he has a vision problem even though he has 20/20 eye sight?

I invite you to take a look at this video and  meet Ben and his Mom who tells his story…

Researchers have shown that a significant percentage of children who struggle in reading and learning have vision problems that interfere with performance in reading and classroom, but could still pass a distance eye sight test. This was explained in VisionHelp posts:

If you are a parent of a child who has struggled with a vision related reading or learning problem like Ben, I invite you to take a few minutes of your time to share your story in the comment section below. With more parents voices, the message will begin to be heard. After all, why should a child with treatable vision problems have to endure the obstacles that currently exists to find help? They shouldn’t and here is how you can help. Share this important message in any way you can!

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Dan L. Fortenbacher, O.D., FCOVD

One thought on “Who’s looking out for these kids? Uncovering the red herring in vision screenings

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