Some Arizona kids will soon get free vision screenings at school

Arizona schools will soon begin giving kids free vision screenings, thanks to a new law.

The legislation, introduced by state Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, requires schools to give vision screenings to:

  • Students just entering school.
  • Students who receive or are being considered to receive special education services.
  • Students whose teachers have requested a screening.
  • Students not reading at grade level by third grade.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed the vision screening law, Senate Bill 1456, on June 7. It goes into effect in late August.

“When a child can’t see properly, they will of course struggle in school,” Allen said. “And young children don’t necessarily know they have vision issues. They may think what they’re seeing is normal vision.”

Other states, like Illinois and Texas, already require vision screenings for younger children, according to the National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health.

Advocates say the ability to see clearly is critical in a child’s education: 80% of a child’s learning is done visually, according to Eyes on Learning, a nonprofit that advocates for early childhood vision screenings in Arizona.

It’s unclear exactly how this new law will be implemented in schools. Originally, the bill came with $100,000 to help facilitate the new screenings, but a floor amendment by Republican Rep. Nancy Barto stripped the requirement of that funding.

The law requires that a trained school official or volunteer administer the tests. District and charter schools must notify parents about their child’s test results if they fail, and parents can opt their child out being tested.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @LilyAlta.

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Vision Screenings Critical to AZ Kids’ Reading, Learning

Eye exam

February 7, 2019

PHOENIX – The ability to see clearly is critical for young children, particularly when they’re learning to read.

The nonprofit Eyes on Learning Vision Coalition aims to have all preschool-age children in Arizona screened for vision problems and for those needing it, to receive an eye exam and follow-up treatment for better vision health.

Nicol Russell, deputy superintendent for early childhood education of the Arizona Department of Education, says taking her pre-school daughter to get a vision screening at a local school district was, literally, an eye-opener.

“They used a machine to take pictures of her eyes and said, ‘Do you notice an issue with her vision at home?’” she relates. “I said, ‘No,’ and they said, ‘Well, it looks like she has a pretty significant vision problem.’ And I was sort of dumbfounded. I said, ‘I had no idea.'”

Russell says until that point, her daughter had shown no signs of difficulty with her vision and had never complained about not seeing well.

The pediatric ophthalmologist who examined Russell’s child recommended glasses.

Russell says the screening results have made a significant difference in her daughter’s life, allowing her to see clearly for the first time.

That’s exactly the result Eyes on Learning wants, according to Karen Woodhouse, vision screening director for the Eyes on Learning Vision Coalition.

She says the coalition includes local, state and national representatives from a variety of medical, educational and social service agencies.

The coalition works with school districts and charter schools to ensure vision screenings are available. Woodhouse says the goal is for all Arizona children to be able to read and learn.

“We want to make sure that kids have their best vision health, because vision health is critical for a child’s early development,” she stresses. “It’s really important for learning in school, and especially critical for kids who are starting to learn to read.

Russell says since her daughter put on her new glasses, the change has been remarkable.

“We thought it would be a struggle for her to keep it on,” she relates. “She’s only three. She won’t like it.

“She hasn’t had any issues. I said, ‘Do you need to take a break?’ She said, ‘No, I can see!’ We had no idea she couldn’t see before that.”

The Eyes on Learning Vision Coalition is funded by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust and other community partners.

Mark Richardson, Public News Service – AZ

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First Things First Podcast: Eyes on Learning

Young child with glasses plays with parents

Episode 7: Eyes on Learning

Young kids take in a lot of information about the world through their eyes. And healthy vision is important for their overall development and later school success. Listen to this episode of the pArentZ pod for information and advice on how to support your child’s developing vision, where to get simple early childhood vision screenings (often at no cost), and how to follow-up to ensure your child’s healthy vision.

“Children don’t know what they can’t see.”

Our guest is Karen Woodhouse, who leads Eyes on Learning, a statewide coalition dedicated to making sure that Arizona children with vision problems are identified early and receive an eye exam and follow-up treatment to achieve better vision health.

In this episode:

  • Vision contributes to all areas of a child’s development.
  • Vision develops in the first five years of life, and there are things you can do to help.
  • Early childhood vision screenings are easy ways to check on your child’s vision. Just ask your pediatrician or health care provider at your well-child visit. If needed, you’ll be referred to an eye doctor for a more complete exam.
  • Most insurance plans that cover young children include vision services.
    • If you’re covered by AHCCCS, (Arizona’s Medicaid program), all children’s vision services are free. That includes screenings, eye exams and treatment.
  • You can also get vision screenings through home visiting programs, Head Start and other child care programs, and community fairs.
  • Treatment to help correct your child’s vision is usually very easy.

Visit for more information, tools and resources to help support your child’s healthy vision.

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