Magendanz’s vision screening bill approved by House

During floor action on Friday, the House approved Senate Bill 6245 by a vote of 96-1. This proposal would help identify possible losses in visual acuity for children attending school throughout the state. Rep. Chad Magendanz, R-Issaquah sponsored the House companion bill, that would provide for, and require, visual screening that includes testing for both distance and near vision.

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% of children with potential vision problems, including hyperopia (farsightedness), binocular disorders (e.g. “lazy eye”) and astigmatism.

“Many common vision problems go unnoticed because Washington schools don’t conduct near vision screening. These problems can, and do adversely affect a students’ ability to function and enjoy learning. In fact, 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. By screening students vision we can help correct visual impairments, enabling them to participate fully in the learning process.” said Magendanz.

Studies have found one in four children have undiagnosed eye problems which can interfere with learning and lead to academic and/or behavioral problems. However, many times these children do not report symptoms because they think everyone sees the same way they do. 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.

“Early testing is key to preventing learning disabilities down the road. All children first entering school, and regularly throughout their school-aged years need to have these vision exams to ensure they have healthy eyes and adequate visual skills to succeed academically.” continued Magendanz.

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 may negatively affect a students’ ability to learn, schools inform parents or guardians of their observations. Magendanz’s proposal would add near vision screening to this process.

Senate Bill 6245 passed both House with a vote of 96-1, and the Senate with a vote of 48-1. The bill is now on its way to the Governor for signature.

Upload Flicker PhotosRep. Chad Magendanz speaks on the House floor.

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