An optometrist from central Iowa is praising the work of family eye doctors from around the country who gathered in Washington, D.C. this week for a first of its kind meeting.

Dr. Beth Triebel of Urbandale says the School Readiness Summit also included educators, doctors, nurses and public health officials to discuss high-rates of learning-related vision issues among children. Triebel says the summit’s participants agreed that finding children with learning problems should involve more than just a basic vision screening.

“They’ve emphasized the importance of children getting a comprehensive eye exam and using that as the foundation to finding what some causes of these vision problems can be, rather than relying on a system where the children might get screened – but may not be getting appropriate follow up or the screening actually misses a lot of these things we want to catch early,” Triebel said.

The current system, Triebel says, forces many children to endure diseases that are treatable and vision loss that is preventable. She hopes the summit leads to a shift in policy at the state level.

“We need to get more states emphasizing comprehensive eye exams for children before starting school,” Triebel said. “Right now, the only states that actually do mandate that are Missouri, Kentucky and Illinois.” Triebel says it’s a critical issue, as there’s a clear tie between vision and learning.

She says 80% of learning is done through the visual system. “There’s been many studies that have shown one out of four children in school today do have an undiagnosed learning-related vision problem,” Triebel said. “A lot of these problems are easily treated if they’re caught early with a comprehensive eye exam.”

Triebel says every child should have a comprehensive eye exam before starting school and every one to two years afterwards, depending on the findings.