UI students eye vision problems


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Imagine trying to read a third-grade level book — now attempt to read it with double vision.

On Wednesday evening, students in the University of Iowa College of Education participated in a two-hour boot camp full of simulations on how young children with visual disabilities feel while trying to learn in a classroom.

Sheri Roggy, an optometry doctor for Eye Associates in Iowa City, said recent statistics show that 25 percent of children have a vision problem that affects their performance in school. Out of those 25 percent of children, she said 13 percent go undiagnosed. 

“It is fairly common and is more common than you would think,” Roggy said. “A normal eye exam that tests for 20/20 vision does not detect this; what is needed is a comprehensive eye exam.”

Some major problems children have with vision are far- and near_ sighted issues, as well as trouble reading from left to right smoothly. She said therapy techniques can help children fix these problems.

Will Coghill-Behrends, in charge of the professional development for the education school, said nearly 70 to 90 percent of classroom learning uses a visual component and that means the visual system is one of the most important tools in the classroom.

Classes that are taught in the TILE learning style —the transform, interact, learn, and engage program — have several visual screens during class to keep student learning interactive. This is one of the major learning techniques of the education school and in local schools.

“We try to make all of our workshops interactive,” Coghill-Behrends said. “By giving teachers the ability to help detect visual dysfunctions children suffer from, ensures success for children in the classroom and in life.”

He said in some cases the problem for children begins as a reading problem but slowly brings in other issues.

“It’s kind of a domino effect,” Coghill-Behrends said. “It may affect the ability with reading, then math, sometimes it also affects them socially. When something fails for a child so many other side effects can manifest from that single problem.” 

Susie Poulton, the director of Health and Student Services for the Iowa City School District, said she has seen a few cases with children having these visual problems. However, she said, right now, the district does not have the essential resources to provide the necessary treatment.

“It’s a learning process for us right now,” Poulton said. “There is definitely validity to what Doctor Roggy is finding, and so much of learning is through the visual system.”

Poulton said the schools are learning more about this issue, but do not have health insurance to cover the therapy required. She said if children are having these issues, officials will refer them to Eye Associates for further tests.

“When parents are told their child is struggling in school, they may not realize it’s a visual problem instead of a learning problem,” Roggy said. “That’s why we have these tests; it’s amazing how many kids and even families we can help.”

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