Adequate vision and hearing are paramount to educational performance. Impaired vision and/or hearing in children can seriously impede learning and contribute to the development of educational, emotional and behavioral problems. Early discovery and treatment can prevent or at least alleviate many of these problems.
Hearing loss can happen anytime during life (from before birth to adulthood). There are many causes of hearing loss, including genetics, infections, noise, aging, trauma and some medications. Hearing loss seriously affects a child’s ability to communicate because it interferes with the development of normal language and learning. It may affect a child’s ability to develop normal speech and serves to isolate the child from everyday surroundings, including parents, other family members and playmates.
Vision loss can also happen anytime during life. Babies can be born unable to see, and vision loss can occur anytime during a person’s life. Vision loss can be caused by damage to the eye itself, by the eye being shaped incorrectly or even by a problem in the brain. In the United States, the most prevalent disabling childhood conditions are vision disorders, including amblyopia, strabismus and significant refractive errors. Early detection increases the likelihood of effective treatment.
Children experiencing hearing or vision loss often are not aware they do not hear or see as they should. For this reason, it is up to the adults responsible for the child’s health care and educational process to identify those children with hearing or vision problems and to make sure they receive the appropriate follow-up care.
Vision and Hearing Screening
The Illinois Department of Public Health works to prevent the detrimental effects of hearing and vision loss in children by implementing the Illinois Child Vision and Hearing Test Act (410 ILCS 205/see LAWS & RULES in the right-hand column), which mandates vision and hearing screening programs for preschool and school age children. Screenings are mandated at specific age and grade levels and must be done by technicians/nurses trained and certified by the Department. These screenings result in approximately 1 million children screened annually for both vision and hearing.
Vision and Hearing Screening Mandates
Hearing screening must be provided annually for preschool children 3 years of age or older in any public or private educational program or licensed child care facility, and for all school age children grades kindergarten, first, second and third; are in special education class; have been referred by a teacher; or are transfer students. These screening services shall be provided in all public, private, and parochial schools. In lieu of the screening services required, a completed and signed report form, indicating the child had an ear examination by a physician and an audiological evaluation completed by an audiologist within the previous 12 months, is acceptable.
Vision screening must be provided annually for preschool children 3 years of age or older in any public or private educational program or licensed child care facility, and for school age children in kindergarten, second and eighth grades; are in special education class; have been referred by a teacher; or are transfer students. Such screening services shall be provided in all public, private and parochial schools. In lieu of the screening services required, a completed and signed report form, indicating that an eye examination by a doctor specializing in diseases of the eye or a licensed optometrist has been administered within the previous 12 months, is acceptable.
The parent or legal guardian of a student may object to hearing or vision screening tests for their children on religious grounds. If a religious objection is made, a written and signed statement from the parent or legal guardian detailing such objections must be presented to the local school authority.
Screening instruments, test procedures and referral criteria are defined in the Illinois Administrative Code (see LAWS & RULES in the right-hand column). Children whose test results meet referral criteria are referred to an eye doctor or family physician for further evaluation.
Mandated screening services must be provided by vision and hearing screening technicians trained and certified by the Department. Candidates must meet the prerequisite requirements in order to apply and be considered for training. In order to become certified, eligible candidates are required to attend and pass hearing and vision training courses conducted by the Department and pay the applicable fees. Certificates are valid for a period of three years and must be renewed by complying with recertification requirements and paying the applicable fees.
For more information about mandated hearing and vision screening, see LAWS & RULES in the right-hand column for links to the Child Vision and Hearing Test Act (410 ILCS 205), associated rules and regulations in the Illinois Administrative Code and forms available on the Department’s website. Additional hearing and vision informational resources also are listed on the right-hand side.