The Science – A Glimpse into our Children’s Vision

As I go out and speak with parents, teachers, and doctors, I am almost invariably asked one question.  How can we do a better job of detecting vision problems in our children?  It really is a great question when you consider the following grim statistics:

  • One in four children have a vision problem that can affect learning1
  • 60% of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision problems2
  • 64% of children ages five and younger have never had their vision screened by a healthcare professional3
  • 32-63% of vision problems identified by comprehensive eye examinations were missed in school screenings4

Looking at the scope of the problem, anyone can see that this issue is not going to be solved overnight.  Enhanced vision screenings in our schools, more children receiving comprehensive vision exams before entering school, and educating the public on how vision can affect school performance; these are large-scale efforts currently underway by many of COVD’s members throughout the country.  However, there are things each of us can do to help those children we work with everyday.

One great tool we have is the Convergence Insufficiency Treatment Trial (CITT) Symptom Survey.  Other than being a mouthful, this checklist represents one of the great accomplishments of evidence-based medicine.  In 2008, the Archives of Ophthalmology published the results of research sponsored by the National Institute of Health on the treatment of  Convergence Insufficiency, one of the leading vision problems in children.  This condition is often associated with headaches, double vision, and eyestrain.  The study concluded that for an overwhelming majority of these children, the condition is very treatable.

From that study, we have gleaned the CITT Symptom Survey.  In a matter of a few minutes we can now screen children with a tool that is highly predictive for both convergence insufficiency and other functional vision problems5.  This one-page symptom survey can easily be filled out as part of the intake process in any office or can be sent home with parents.  It is quick, easy to score, and communicates to parents the types of vision struggles their child is having.   Here is a copy of the CITT Symptom Survey.

Unfortunately, we can’t see through a child’s eyes.  The CITT symptom survey at least gives us a glimpse.

1. Comprehensive Eye Exams Particularly Important for Classroom Success(2008, August 4). American Optometric Association.

2. ADD/ADHD and Vision(2011).  College of Optometrists in Vision Development

3. Cotch, M. (2002). Visual Impairment and Use of Eyecare Services and Protective Eyewear Among Children. USA Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 425-429.

4. Danahuse, S. P., Johnson, T. M., & Leonard-Martin, T. C. (2000). Screening for Amblyogenic Factors Using a Volunteer Lay Network and the MTI Photoscreener: Initial results from 15,000 Preschool Children in a Statwide Effort. Ophthalmology, 1637-1644.

5. Rouse, M., Borsting, E., Mitchell, G., Cotter, S., Kulp, M., Scheiman, M., et al. (2009). Validity of the Convergence Insufficiency Symptom Survey: A Confirmatory Study. Optometry and Vision Science, 357-363.