Katie Johnson and Others Announce Educating Young Eyes Symposium (Nov. 8, University of Washington) at Fundraiser Talk: "We are Failing our Children and Youth"

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Teachers, scientists, retirees, nurses heard a report from Benjamin Winters, O.D., and Mary Pellicer, M.D. about the unmet vision needs of children in Washington's Yakima Valley. These doctors are working with Computer Science students at the University of Washington Bothell to implement near-vision screening for all children in Washington.

"How can we expect children to be successful readers if they see letters and words blurred and moving?" - Mary Pellicer, M.D.

On Saturday, June 28, a reception and fundraising dinner was held at the home of Fred Fontanilla, retired chemist, and Bob Plumb, retired professor at Heritage University. Speakers included Dr. Benjamin Winters, O.D., developmental optometrist in Yakima, and Dr. Mary Pellicer, M.D., family physician, also of Yakima, and Katie Johnson of Seattle, teacher and author of Red Flags for Primary Teachers: 27 VIsion and Neurodevelopmental Issues that Affect Learning with Activities to Help (2013).

One purpose of this event was to raise money for the Vision and Learning symposium scheduled for November 8 at the University of Washington, Bothell, "Right in Front of Our Eyes: How Undetected Vision Issues Impact Student Learning." Educators, vision care professionals, caregivers of young children, and several Washington state justice and politicians will meet to plan strategies for improving detection of vision problems in school-age children in Washington.

Another purpose of the fundraiser was to increase awareness among the group attending about just what the vision issues are that the children of Washington have to deal with. Because only distance vision screening is mandated by state statute, no one checks their binocular, or near, vision when they come to school. Between 25 and 30 percent of elementary-age children have undetected vision issues that interfere with their ability to learn to read.

"This is outrageous!" said Fontanilla. "We can do better than this for our children!"

An earlier AmeriCorps project (2010-2012) in Toppenish, Washington, found that 58 percent of children in the state foster-care system had unmet vision needs. Other studies are underway in other parts of the state.

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