Checklist aims to catch visual problems early

Vision problems could be the cause of educational challenges for many children

A pair of Saanich residents are hoping everyone takes notice of a new checklist going home as a handout to the parents of Saanich kindergarteners this month.

Both School District 61 and 63 already employ the B.C. Doctors of Optometry’s school program, Eye See… Eye Learn, which offers eye examinations and even a free pair of eyeglasses, if needed, to all kindergarteners.

The program is underway throughout the rest of the month.

However, what Saanich optometrist Cam McCrodan is really hoping is that parents won’t overlook the vision problem checklist on the back of the Eye See… Eye Learn handout, one that goes beyond simple vision focus.

“It’s important but what we don’t want is for vision screenings to give a false sense of security, it tests acuity but not efficiency,” said McCrodan, who is on the B.C. Doctors of Optometry board of directors.

The new list is called a Parent’s Checklist of Vision Problems, and it describes a variety of symptoms that were previously unassociated with visual problems, such as poor posture when reading or writing, frequently watery eyes, balance issues and a lack of co-ordination. It’s caused by a lack of eye co-ordination.

“One of the main things about the checklist and why we brought it in is people don’t understand all the problems vision difficulties can cause,” McCrodan said. “It creates a difficulty with paying attention or focus, yet we don’t habitually see these behaviour as vision problems.”

McCrodan focuses his optometrist practice on diagnosing visual inefficiencies. He can’t go a week, or even a day or two, without diagnosing a youth who is struggling without knowing it.

“You see kids who are labelled that they’re not trying, and that’s simply not true,” he said.

A great number of students who suffer from visual problems go undiagnosed and it can turn into many things, often a disinterest or misbehaviour.

What’s worse, these kids are told to try harder, McCrodan said.

“It’s like telling a kid with a twisted ankle to run harder. It’s heartbreaking to see the crap kids will put up with.”

Getting the checklist into the hands of parents and teachers is a big step forward, says Anita Murray-Hill. The Saanich mother has founded a non-profit, The Visual Process, after seeing her daughter’s grades and life quality suffer because of visual inefficiencies. Her daughter was able to recover, thanks to visual exercises and training.

If undetected, a lack of eye co-ordination can cause symptoms that closely resemble ADD and ADHD, she said.

“About seven out of 10 kids with learning disabilities are at risk of [visual] inefficiency.”

The Vision Problems checklist is borrowed and adapted from an existing Ontario checklist. The Eye See… Eye Learn program is in 15 B.C. school districts.

 

reporter@saanichnews.com