Kansas City Vision Performance Center Launches Kindergarten Vision Readiness Class

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Vision therapist Kristen Mehrer prepares pre-kindergarten children for academic success by focusing on fundamental vision skills.

Preparing for the first day of kindergarten is an exciting time for parents and children. It's the beginning of an important stage in a child’s life and what they learn during these early years of school will be the foundation on which they build the rest of their education.

Parents are busy choosing the best preschools and self-teaching their children shapes, letters and sounds early, but many parents underestimate the impact that eye health and visual function have on a child’s success in learning. According to the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, up to 25% of children have vision problems significant enough to impair their academic performance. Visual pathways are how children receive more than 75% of what they learn. If these pathways are interrupted or under developed, it can prevent learning and can cause reading failure or behavioral problems in school age children.

To give children a baseline of visual performance before they begin school, Kansas City Vision Performance Center in Overland Park, Kansas, has launched the first class in a series called Kindergarten Vision Readiness. Vision therapist Kristen Mehrer leads this interactive class designed for one parent and one child, between the ages of three and five, to attend together. One hour a week for six weeks, each parent-child team is introduced to a variety of developmental vision milestones through activities as they relate to eye coordination, visual motor integration and other fundamental vision skills.

Mehrer’s love for children and learning lead her to a career in vision therapy. More than 11 years as an occupational therapy assistant in metro area schools has given her insight into what life can be like for a child who is struggling with vision related learning problems. Because the symptoms are so similar, many children with vision problems are misdiagnosed with ADD/ADHD and other learning disabilities which ultimately lead to them being placed in special education classes unnecessarily.

The Kindergarten Vision Readiness Class gives children a head start in learning while it also offers Mehrer the opportunity to observe each child and their visual processing skills. This is a great help to parents who are often unaware that developmental vision problems go undetected even if their child has been diagnosed with 20/20 vision. To offer each child as much personal interaction with Mehrer as possible, each class is limited to 6 sets of parent/child participants.

“What a high percentage of children have difficulty with is using both their eyes together, especially for skills like visual tracking. You won’t learn about those issues in a typical eye exam,” says Mehrer. “We want to find these children quickly and prevent some bigger issues down the line. If I notice any of these problems during class then we can recommend a developmental evaluation and keep the child from falling behind in school before they even get a chance to start.”

Though the children are working hard during the class to prepare for school, Mehrer understands that learning something new can be a source of frustration for some children. She focuses on keeping the children interested in learning by making the Kindergarten Vision Readiness class a fun experience.

“Kids want to put their foot down and resist if what they are doing isn’t fun for them,” Mehrer explains. “One child I was working with wanted nothing to do with writing his name because he thought it was too difficult. I incorporated doing fun things like the prewriting strokes, never once having him hold a pencil. Soon afterward I received word from his mother that he wanted to hold pencils and was no longer resisting writing his name.”

Meher is excited to be able to give the children she works with extra help so that each of them are prepared to learn and grow to the best of their abilities.

“My favorite part of this program is when I see the parents excited and the kids enjoying themselves, it’s the greatest reward for me,“ says Mehrer. “Learning is not just about sitting down at a desk and holding a pencil. It’s about using their whole body and their eyes together to promote the skills that they need to be great students.”

Building a strong foundation of visual skills during childhood will enhance and improve how your child’s visual system will perform in later school years. If you are interested in the Kindergarten Vision Readiness Class, or would like to schedule a developmental vision evaluation for your child, call Kansas City Vision Performance Center at (913) 469-8686.

Kristen Mehrer practices vision therapy for Dr. John Metzger at Kansas City Vision Performance Center, located in Overland Park, Kansas. It is the only optometry practice in Kansas and Missouri dedicated solely to the full spectrum of visual performance, including vision therapy, developmental optometry, low vision rehabilitation and neuro-optometry. Dr. Metzger and his team of therapists provide an advanced level of vision care to patients of all ages through individualized diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitative services.

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