Alberta Schools Inadvertently Violating Children’s Rights?

In any given classroom in any school in the Province, there are a number of children struggling with difficult vision. These children are not blind, but their vision problems are in a way much worse: A child with visual impediments to learning will not likely be identified and helped, unlike children who are legally and obviously blind. Because they must struggle to try to overcome vision deficits just to read and function in the classroom, everything falls apart for them. Because they are not fully blind, they are virtually ignored.

Schools and school divisions, while they require strong vision for modern instruction, do virtually nothing to ensure children’s vision is up to the task.

Schools and school divisions, while they require strong vision for modern instruction, do virtually nothing to ensure children’s vision is up to the task. Children affected by visual impediments to learning fall behind in class, and frequently behave in ways that are more often described as ‘dyslexic’ or ‘attention deficit’ than having anything to do with vision. Sadly, these children are also subjected to dangerous medical and psychological testing and treatment, not to mention hundreds of hours of tedious reading training to try to overcome something that should be relatively simple to address.

Vision is complex and very easy to underestimate in its role in child learning and development. Most teachers, psychologists, family physicians, and parents will see ‘healthy eyes’ and assume that ‘vision’ is intact. Nothing could be further from the truth. The state of a car’s tires, for example, has no reflection on the state of the engine, steering, or brakes.

… the capture rate for detection of visual impediments in schools is abysmal. While 15% to 30% or more of children in schoolrooms suffer with vision problems, some quite serious, only a small fraction are ever detected

Currently, the capture rate for detection of visual impediments in schools is abysmal. While 15% to 30% or more of children in schoolrooms suffer with vision problems, some quite serious, only a small fraction are ever detected, perhaps 15-20%. Those who are detected can be helped with usually simple means, while those who are never checked often remain in the category of ‘reading or learning disability’ and never get the help they really need. While schools are eager to assist Alberta Health to ensure children are vaccinated (a program with questionable benefits in some respects), there is no effort to ensure children’s most important sensory needs for learning are met. Indeed, not only do schools not recognize the basic importance of strong vision for child learning and development, they typically block any efforts to address these concerns in a meaningful way. Such has been my experience, and the excuses are embarrassingly ‘back woods’.

Aboriginal children in particular are more often affected by visual impediments to learning, and this contributes to the extreme low graduation rates. It is no surprise that when we look at prison populations, we also find much higher rates of visual impediments. Ignoring vision contributes to this problem, and it’s easy to see why.

When people miss out on life opportunities because they could not succeed in school, we all lose. Schools for their part, by not insisting on vision assessments for all children, are guilty of ignoring a real problem in exchange for pursuing a ghost, a journey that is much more expensive (than looking at vision first) with little or no value.

… too many children are now suffering due to inadequate vision management in schools. The current attitude and approach to vision in Alberta schools would suggest that they will continue to suffer for years to come.

We have arrived at an age where we can count angels on the head of a pin using advanced technology, but we have lost the common sense to look for obvious problems to common concerns. Our children are our greatest resource, and research shows that too many children are now suffering due to inadequate vision management in schools. The current attitude and approach to vision in Alberta schools would suggest that they will continue to suffer for years to come.

All parents are strongly encouraged to have their children checked for vision concerns as early as possible. Schools do not require this, and it is a big mistake. It frankly exposes schools as lacking in fundamental knowledge and understanding of how children learn.

All parents are strongly encouraged to have their children checked for vision concerns as early as possible. Schools do not require this, and it is a big mistake. It frankly exposes schools as lacking in fundamental knowledge and understanding of how children learn. The lack of attention in Alberta schools regarding vision needs is causing a true violation of children’s lives in many cases. Parents are advised to take action on their own to ensure their children are checked: Don’t let the lack of attention in Alberta schools get in the way of your child’s fundamental rights and success in school.

There is a true crisis in Alberta schools, and too many children are affected. We all need to stand up and take action…

There is a true crisis in Alberta schools, and too many children are affected. We all need to stand up and take action before any more children are subjected to expensive and dangerous medical and psychological testing before something so basic as vision is checked. It is nothing less than a matter of protecting their basic rights as Canadians. It is our duty as caregivers, and our right as taxpayers.

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