Identifying Vision Problems Complements Literacy Efforts

Article excerpt

Even the best tutoring programs and literacy efforts may result in time and money wasted if hidden vision problems remain undetected. These problems are present in many participants in literacy programs, according to two studies reported by the St. Louis-based American Optometric Association.

In one study, three-fourths of the students in a Virginia literacy program failed a vision screening. The most common difficulty identified during the screening was an eye-tracking problem, which made it difficult for subjects to move their eyes smoothly along a line of print.

In the other study, two-thirds of the students in a literacy program in New York failed the vision screening. In this study, the most common difficulty was the inability to see clearly at a normal reading distance.

Just because your literacy-program students already wear glasses doesn't mean that they don't have undetected vision problems. Although most schools screen for these problems today, many older people in the work force may have received screening tests for distance vision only, according to Joel Zaba, OD, who headed the Virginia study. "Many in the adult illiterate population may not have had their learning-related visual problems detected earlier," he says.

The American Optometric Association lists the vision skills needed for good reading performance:

1) Visual Acuity: Visual acuity is the ability to see objects clearly. Reading letters on an eye chart only measures how well or poorly the person can see at that distance.

2) Visual Fixation: Direct fixation is the ability to aim the eyes accurately when looking at a stationary object, such as reading a line of print in a book. Pursuit fixation is the ability to follow a moving object with the eyes, such as reading a sign on a moving bus.

3) Accommodation: Accommodation is the ability to adjust the focus of the eyes as the distance between the individual and the viewed object changes. For example, this enables the person to read an instruction manual while working on a machine.

4) Binocular Fusion: Binocular fusion is the brain's ability to gather information received from each eye separately to form a single, unified image. …