Teachers know that good vision is essential for children being fit, healthy and ready to learn.1 Unfortunately, two in five children have vision conditions that affect learning.2
Teachers and parents often rely on vision screenings to catch vision problems, but these screenings often do not tell the full vision or eye health story. Vision screenings use monocular visual acuity testing to determine which children need an eye exam. However, this testing is inaccurate 63 to 73 percent of the time.3, 4
For this reason, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that all children have a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor, as opposed to a vision screening, before beginning first grade. Children beyond first grade who have not yet had an eye exam by an eye doctor should be referred for an eye exam regardless of vision screening status.
Undiagnosed and untreated vision disorders increase the potential for misdiagnosis of special needs and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), placing unnecessary stress on families and classrooms.5
Vision disorders are often "silent," with no outward symptoms. Parents are unaware that their child needs an eye exam. Left untreated, vision conditions may cause irreparable harm.
Fortunately, the U.S. Congress and federal agency officials have made children's vision care a true national health care priority. Now, under federal law and regulations, pediatric eye health is recognized as essential medical care. Millions of previously uninsured children now have insurance coverage for annual eye exams and follow-up care.6 As the starting point for primary prevention, children's eye exams can help assure children a lifetime of vision health and learning.
Schools and teachers can also help by moving away from relying on vision screenings to assuring all children receive eye examinations from an eye doctor.
1. Association Between Reading Speed, Cycloplegic Refractive Error, and Oculomotor Function in Reading Disabled Children Versus Controls, Patrick Quaid and Trefford Simpson, Graefes Arch Clin Ophthalmology (2013) 251:169-87.
2. National Institutes of Health The Multi-Ethnic Pediatric Eye Disease and Baltimore Pediatric Eye Disease Studies (NEI.2011)
5. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: Effectiveness of Treatment in At-Risk Preschoolers; Long-Term Effectiveness in All Ages; and Variability in Prevalence, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Comparative Effectiveness Review No. 44. AHRQ Publication No. 12-EHC003-EF. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. October 2011. Available at: www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/reports/final.cfm.