No. 622



A while back I heard an interesting story about this man who made a speech, and afterwards he asked a friend who was there to tell him how he did. This friend said, “Well, there were only three things wrong with your speech. First, you read it. Next, you read it poorly. And lastly, it was not worth reading.” I hope that is not the case today, because I want to tell you a true story that I believe you will find that is worth reading. As I’ve said many times, some of the best ideas I receive for these columns come from my readers.
Such is the case here and while not a topic that affects every person, the condition called Amblyopia, better known as “Lazy Eye” if undetected, can cause all kinds of physical and mental anguish.
For obvious reasons I will not provide the name and community of this reader, but let me share the content of her letter and you will get the picture. She begins, “While working in a public school system in Michigan, I had occasion to type my principal’s thesis for his doctorate. Every word I typed was an accurate learning description of my 9-year-old daughter. I was lucky in that the school system had teachers with Special Ed training. Since my child schooled in another town, I determined to find out all I could since I knew her to be smart. Unfortunately, not school wise. The result was very poor grades.
One look at her picture and the woman said, “She has a ‘Lazy Eye’ and she needed help” After receiving help, her grades did improve and she became an avid reader. It was a journey I never regretted setting out on. Alice is now 50 years old, has one daughter and one granddaughter who have similar problems, but teachers have been no help.” I might add, this was in another state. Her final words are really what motivated me to share this with you. “After all these years school systems are not addressing this problem and a lot of talented children are being wasted.”
After reading and thinking about this reader’s letter, I did a little research and found the problem of “Lazy Eye” is much more common than most people realize. Please understand that I am not a doctor and have no interest in practicing medicine, but if this information could help even a few people who suspect their child or grandchild may have a “Lazy Eye” it is certainly worth passing along to you. This information comes from the Internet and the Optometrists Network, and here is what sold me on sharing this with you. Amblyopia or “Lazy Eye” causes more visual loss in people under 40 than all other eye injuries and diseases combined.
You may say, “What is Amblyopia and what causes it?” It is an eye condition noted by reduced vision not correctable by glasses or contact lenses and is not due to any eye disease. For some reason, the brain does not fully acknowledge the images seen by the amblyopic eye. This almost always affects only one eye but may manifest with reduction of vision in both eyes. It is estimated that three percent of children under 6 have some form of Amblyopia. It is a neurologically active process. In other words, the loss of vision takes place in the brain. If one eye sees clearly and the other sees a blur, the brain can inhibit the eye with the blur. The brain can also suppress one eye to avoid double vision.
If not detected and treated early in life, Amblyopia can cause loss of vision and depth perception. Improvements are possible at any age with proper treatment, but early detection and treatment offer the best outcome. Comprehensive vision screenings are needed for infants and pre-school children. While this may not be true in some cases, the Optometrists Network states that an eye exam by a pediatrician or the 20/20 eye chart screening is not adequate for the detection of Amblyopia (and other visual conditions.)
The American Optometric Association (AOA) encourages parents to include a trip to an optometrist in the list of well-baby check-ups. Assessments at 6 to 12 months can determine healthy development of vision. Early detection of eye conditions is the best way to ensure your child has healthy vision.
To learn more about free infant eye exams through the AOA InfantSee Program (as announced by former president Jimmy Carter on the Today Show, June 8, 2005) go to When I set about writing this column I did not intend for it to be a commercial for the American Optometric Association, but these are the people who specialize in the treatment of eye problems, eye diseases and other vision problems. Obviously we have to use common sense, but for those people who have a history of “Lazy Eye” in their family, this would be worth checking out. Teachers should be on the lookout, too.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)