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 G..E..T..E..Y..E.. We  all know how to read an eye chart. For some, the whole chart is crystal clear, for others the smaller prints are a blur. The eye is a fascinating organ, allowing us to see. But perhaps the most important function of our eye is that it enables us to learn.

Did you know that you need 17 visual skills to succeed in reading and learning? Seeing 20/20 is just one of those visual skills. According to statistics from the WHO, this year estimated that approximately 19 million children are currently living with visual impairments and most go undetected. According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD), “Children often are misdiagnosed as having attention deficit disorder/attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, labelled‘dumb,’ when academic or behaviour struggles actually arise from correctable vision problems.”

So in accordance with this major problem, the month of August is declared as International Children’s Vision and Learning Month.  August was declared Vision & Learning Month in 1995. Its main aim is to make the society, especially parents and teachers, aware about the important link between vision and learning. It also encourages parents and educators to address learning-related issues in a new light. Dr. Jen Simonson at Boulder Valley Vision Therapy in the States says, “When students understand the lesson when it is read to them yet struggle to read it this is a very strong sign that a vision problem may be contributing to their difficulties.”  The five most common signs that a vision problem may be interfering with a student’s ability to read and learn are:
Learning to write

1.  Skips lines, rereads lines

2.  Poor reading comprehension

3. Takes much longer doing homework than it should take

4. Reverses letters like “b” into “d” when reading

5. Has a short attention span with reading and schoolwork

 Any one of these symptoms is a sign for a possible vision problem.  Thus it is essential for parents to make sure their child does a comprehensive eye examination that also evaluates vision needed for learning.

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Activities done during this month are usually state campaigns. State governments usually work with COVD to educate parents and teachers on the importance of vision. Parents also share their experience with others in facing this issue.

The College of Optometrists in Vision Development (COVD) is an international, non-profit optometric membership organization that provides education, evaluation and board certification programs in behavioural and developmental vision care, vision therapy and visual rehabilitation. The organization is comprised of doctors of optometry, vision therapists and other vision specialists.

 Reading and learning don’t only depend on crystal clear vision but also skill. So in celebrating International Children’s Vision and Learning Month, let us all share and spread the word. Who knows, maybe our little sister or brother who has 20/20 vision but is struggling in school just might have a simple and treatable vision problem. You can make a difference.

Author: Zatil Hidayah binti Adnan
3rd Year, Cairo University.