Optometrist Beth Triebel and a patient.

As schools get back into session across Iowa some students won’t be able to see the chalkboard clearly at the front of the classroom, though they may not admit it.

 Optometrist Beth Triebel, of West Des Moines, says teachers and parents need to be watching for indicators their kids may have a vision problem.

“One of the most obvious signs is squinting,” Dr. Triebel says. “If after they’ve been reading or working on something, their eyes start to water a lot of if they complain of headaches or their eyes hurting, those are big signs.”

According to a study from the American Optometric Association, 60% of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision problems. Triebel says parents must continue to monitor their child’s vision.

“As they get into the school year and they’re starting to do more work, be on the lookout for them losing their place a lot, skipping lines, not being able to remember what they read, all of those things could indicate a vision problem,” she says. Many Iowa schools do vision and hearing screenings on all students, but Triebel says those tests are pretty basic.

“The screenings at the schools are pretty good at picking out the near-sighted kids, the kids that have trouble seeing the board, far away,” Triebel says. “They really don’t catch the kids that might have problems that affect reading and up-close vision. The only way to really rule that out is with a good, comprehensive eye exam.” Early on, she says vision problems may just cause mild discomfort.

“If they’re left untreated, sometimes it could lead to a child that just doesn’t want to read, doesn’t care about succeeding in school, will develop a bad attitude or they’ll even start to think they’re dumb and lose their self-respect,” Triebel says. “It’s great if we can fix these things so they can feel good about themselves and go on to succeed in whatever they choose to do with the rest of their life.”

A study finds 80% of all learning during the first 12 years of life requires vision.