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Are School Vision Screenings Reliable?

Dr. Heather McBryar cartoon

Take our Vision Quiz to learn whether you should explore Vision Therapy

Amplify Eyecare Chattanooga

Just How Accurate Are School Vision Screenings?

Children spend more time in school than with their parents or at home.  Likewise, parents spend much of their time working, whether they work from home or outside.  Making sure our kids get their annual eye exams, dental checkups, and assorted other follow up appointments takes time that many people simply don’t have. Having vision screening at your child's school can potentially provide important information about their children’s eyesight. However, the question of their reliability deserves to be looked at.

The short answer is that these screenings are not particularly accurate. Or, perhaps more accurately, they are not comprehensive. These screenings, which are generally just a simple eye test with a vision chart, cannot substitute for the sort of comprehensive exam a child would receive at an eye doctor, who will have access to devices that’ll more accurately examine both the child’s vision and check for overall eye health. 

These screenings are often performed by people who are not eye care professionals, so there may also be issues with the way the test is carried out and the results calculated. Additionally, the tests are not carried out in a properly controlled environment (in contrast to a doctor’s office), so other factors, such as the lighting and distractions, can influence the results and lead to incorrect conclusions.

They simply cannot detect many of the visual problems children may experience. These include near vision issues, eye tracking, focus, and the ability of the eyes to work together while reading from a book or computer screen--both things extremely important when it comes to schoolwork.

Vision screenings provide less than 4% of the information generated during a comprehensive eye exam and miss up to 75% of children with vision problems. (American Optometric Association)

Why This is a Problem

The main concern with in-school screenings is that parents will rely on them and not have them properly examined by an eye doctor, believing that passing this simple exam means they have perfect vision. This mistaken belief can lead to issues not being detected and treated, which in turn can lead to the problems getting worse over time before action is finally taken. If the problems continue and get worse, that can negatively impact their learning capabilities over time.

Is There Any Value to Vision Screenings?

While we have just established the limitations of in-school vision screenings, there can be some value to them. For example, if your child fails the screening, they likely have a serious vision issue and you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible. Perhaps because they view these screenings as a mere formality, many parents do not bother having their child get properly examined if they fail a screening. Subsequently, as much as 67 percent of children who fail vision screenings do not receive a proper examination or vision care from an eye doctor.

Dr. McBryar cartoon

Rely on Professional Care

You wouldn't rely on an overly simple screening carried out by people who are not professionals in that specific field, for checking other aspects of your health. Your eyes--your children’s eyes, in this case--deserve the highest level of care.

Related Articles


Vision therapy is well worth the response, time and effort. Our Son had a hard time focusing and writing neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time if previously took. His abilities to focus improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent, we wanted learning to be fun for our Son, and vision therapy made this possible.

Amanda T.

Vision Therapy is well worth the expense, time and effort. Our son had a hard time focusing handwriting neatly. After vision therapy Seth could complete a task in half the time it previously took his abilities to focus and improved greatly and so did his handwriting.

Also, he was better at listening. As a parent you wanted learning to be fun for our son and vision therapy made this possible.

Alexa H.

Vision Therapy has given or son the tools he needs to be able to scan and read the written word more effectively and efficiently.

He love working with John and these working sessions give him the motivation to gladly work on his homework assignments.

It amazed us to see the difference in the tracking of his eyes and along a line of it's from the beginning to the end of the treatment.

Dr. McBryar , Kristen and John  are all marvelous and we would recommend them to anyone I only wish that we would have found them sooner!

Charlotte M.

Prior to coming to the institute for vision development my son complained of daily headaches. Therapy has eliminated his headaches completely. I love knowing my son is able to learn pain-free for the rest of his life because of the work that has been done over just a few weeks in this office. He he absolutely loved coming that didn't even feel like going to a doctor or therapy. We are grateful for the relief he was able to find by coming here.

Thank you!

Olivia C.

Seems much less frustrated with life

Reads non-stop and fast

Spelling abilities have been hugely improved

Seems much more confident

Thank You!!!

Kelly O.

When we first came to the practice, my son did not have huge issues, but lots of small ones- trouble with reading, sports (hitting the baseball consistently), coordination, etc- that were not easily detectable,but when put together presented issues. The staff here were all very professional and loving towards him. While I was concerned in the reading, my son was concerned with the athletic side. Seeing improvement night off the bat gave him confidence that i have nor seen in him and made him want to not only Come to therapy, but also made him want to work hard. He has surpassed his grade level and above in reading and hit his first home run this year! Thank you!!!

Alice M.
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