Expanded eye tests for state's students soon to go into effect

Kiro 7 News -- The signs can be easy to miss, even for dedicated educators. "Like if they were holding their head sideways when they were reading," said former state legislator and King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert. "If they would kind of slump down when they were reading." 

That's what Lambert noticed when she worked as a remedial education teacher -- signs, she says, that many of her students could not see.

"And so the kids would get glasses," said Lambert. "And then they would just thrive."

The state has required eye tests for far distances since the 1930s. But Lambert faced an uphill battle to get "near" vision tested. 

She turned to a longtime Kent optometrist to prove that a more complete vision test was needed.

Dr. Larry Jones came to the King County Juvenile Detention Center in Seattle. And for three years beginning in 2008, he tested the vision of some 300 young offenders.

"Kids from 12 to 18, we got to test," Dr. Jones said.

What he found was startling. Some 80 percent of juvenile offenders had difficulty seeing.

"And I was surprised myself," he said.

When asked if any correlation has been made between vision problems and crime, Dr. Jones responded.

"Having that high of a percentage of children with a disorder, it kind of points at it, I think."

It may simply be that some kids can't focus on a different future because they can't see the present clearly.    

It's something Lambert recognized in one of her own granddaughters, who struggled, for a time, to see.

"I gave her the gift of sight," said Lambert, smiling.

She hopes the new law will give the same gift to all the state's children.