Helping Kids See Better

A recent test at three LAUSD middle schools showed that 40% of kids had eye coordination problems that cannot be detected by a regular vision test.  In some cases, these kids slip under the radar and are thought to be bad students, when the real problem is their eyesight.  Now a non-profit organization is trying to change that, Dr. Bruce Hensel reported.

Reading is an essential part of a child's schooling.  However, there are many children who are not able to read.  It's not that they're not smart... it's because they have undetected vision problems, according to Maureen Powers, a scientist at the Gemstone Foundation.

"We define the problem as the inability to coordinate the two eyes well enough, and the inability to track across the page... they will see words wiggle jump or float around the page," Powers said.

This has a tremendous impact on how they learn.  If unaddressed, many children simply slip under the radar and labeled as bad students.

The Gemstone Foundation goes into low income schools, such as Ann Street Middle School, and trains the kids to use their eyes in the most efficient way.

Using a computer program and 3D glasses, the program takes them through various vision exercises. Think of it as gymnastics for the eyes.

"They're training to be able to look far away and near, rapidly so looking at the board, say the blackboard, and the book." Powers said, adding, "They're training to track, moving their eyes rapidly and accurately around the screen. and they're training to converge their eyes appropriately at the plane of the paper."

Eight year old Shakira Areval says the program has helped her: "When i read I kinda struggle in words cause I can't really see it.  But when i started doing this, I stopped struggling."

And the reading scores bolster what the kids say.  Recent results show big improvements.  80% of the children improved an average of over 12 words per minute.

11-year-old Brandon Espinoza sees the improvement: "I couldn't do my homework cause I tried to look at the board and I couldn't see that much.  so they had to bring me to the front.  but now that I'm doing this program I can see from the back now."

"Tests show a large majority of juvenile offenders have these eye problems. Early intervention may make a big difference. The gemstone foundation continues to look for grants to expand their program into low income schools," Dr. Hensel said.

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