Little is known about the prevalence of refractive error, binocular vision, and other visual conditions in Australian Indigenous children. This is important given the association of these visual conditions with reduced reading performance in the wider population, which may also contribute to the suboptimal reading performance reported in this population. The aim of this study was to develop a visual profile of Queensland Indigenous children.
Vision testing was performed on 595 primary schoolchildren in Queensland, Australia. Vision parameters measured included visual acuity, refractive error, color vision, nearpoint of convergence, horizontal heterophoria, fusional vergence range, accommodative facility, AC/A ratio, visual motor integration, and rapid automatized naming. Near heterophoria, nearpoint of convergence, and near fusional vergence range were used to classify convergence insufficiency (CI).
Although refractive error (Indigenous, 10%; non-Indigenous, 16%; p = 0.04) and strabismus (Indigenous, 0%; non-Indigenous, 3%; p = 0.03) were significantly less common in Indigenous children, CI was twice as prevalent (Indigenous, 10%; non-Indigenous, 5%; p = 0.04). Reduced visual information processing skills were more common in Indigenous children (reduced visual motor integration [Indigenous, 28%; non-Indigenous, 16%; p < 0.01] and slower rapid automatized naming [Indigenous, 67%; non-Indigenous, 59%; p = 0.04]). The prevalence of visual impairment (reduced visual acuity) and color vision deficiency was similar between groups.
Indigenous children have less refractive error and strabismus than their non-Indigenous peers. However, CI and reduced visual information processing skills were more common in this group. Given that vision screenings primarily target visual acuity assessment and strabismus detection, this is an important finding as many Indigenous children with CI and reduced visual information processing may be missed. Emphasis should be placed on identifying children with CI and reduced visual information processing given the potential effect of these conditions on school performance.