Vision screening bill sponsored by Rep. Chad Magendanz signed into law

Legislation to provide for, and require, visual screening that includes testing for both distance and near vision for students in every school district was signed into law today by the governor. Senate Bill 6245 will help identify possible losses in visual acuity for children attending school throughout the state. Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah, sponsored companion House Bill 1865.

Currently in Washington schools, students are routinely checked for distance, but not near vision impairments, which can affect their ability to read. Screening solely for distance visual impairment may miss up to 40 percent of children with potential vision problems, including hyperopia (farsightedness), binocular disorders (e.g. “lazy eye”) and astigmatism.

“It’s great to see this bill become law. Early testing is key to preventing learning disabilities down the road,” said Magendanz. “These problems can, and do, adversely affect a student’s ability to function and enjoy learning. By adding near-vision screening we can help correct visual impairments enabling them to participate fully in the learning process.”

Studies have found one in four children have undiagnosed eye problems which can interfere with learning and lead to academic and/or behavioral problems. Vision deficits account for illiteracy in 25 percent of students, 66 percent of adults, 70 percent of juvenile delinquents, and 90 percent of prison inmates. According to the American Optometric Association if vision problems go undetected children can display fatigue, fidgeting, and frustrations in the classroom – traits that can lead to a misdiagnosis of dyslexia or other learning disabilities.

Schools districts conduct screening in kindergarten, and in grades 1,2,3,5, and 7. If resources permit, schools may screen children at other grade levels. If the school screening identifies symptoms related to vision that could negatively affect a students’ ability to learn they are directed to inform parents or guardians of their observations. Magendanz’s bill adds near-vision screening to this process.

Senate Bill 6245 was approved by the House with a vote of 96-1 and Senate 48-1 before being signed into law by the governor.

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