The first day of school is just around the corner, and most parents are busily making their way through a list of “to-dos”: school clothes shopping, appointments for immunizations and physicals, and trips to the store for pencils, pens, paper and all the other “must-haves” for the classroom—all with the intention of getting students Ready for School.
Is a visit to the optometrist on your list? A comprehensive eye examination for students is one of the most important “to-dos” and yet one that is often overlooked. Without an eye exam, many children have vision problems that remain undiagnosed, and may even be misdiagnosed as a learning disorder.
The idea that children need to be ready to learn—visually—is beginning to catch the attention of legislators. Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois have laws requiring mandatory eye examinations for children prior to entering school, and a federal bill has been introduced in the Senate that would provide funding to establish a federal grant program focusing on treatment to bolster children’s vision initiatives in the states and encourage children’s vision partnerships with non-profit entities. To educate parents on the importance of comprehensive eye exams, AOA has created an online survey parents can take to quiz their knowledge of children’s vision topics. AOA members want the classroom experience to be a positive and productive one for all children.
In addition to the online survey, parents can download the Difference between Vision Screenings and Vision Examinations resource as well as a Word Hunt Activity Sheet and Night Vision coloring page for children.
To find an optometrist in your area, please click here.
Q: Why is it so important that children have a comprehensive eye exam prior to heading back to school?
A: One of the most important things a parent can do to help their children succeed in school is to take them for a comprehensive eye exam. According to the AOA, vision screenings are not diagnostic, and therefore, typically identify only a small portion of the vision problems in children. Comprehensive eye exams are necessary to detect problems that a simple screening can miss, such as eye coordination, lazy eye, and near and farsightedness.For more information, please click here.
Q: What risks does a child who does not receive an eye exam face before entering school?
A: Millions of children will start school this year with a vision problem that may inhibit their ability to learn and ultimately affect the rest of their lives.
When vision problems have an adverse effect on learning, they are referred to as learning-related vision problems. Learning-related vision problems can affect comprehension performance in reading, writing and concentration. According to one study,approximately 60 percent of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision problems.
When parents send their children back to school, one of the most important things they can do to help ensure their child's ability to learn is to take them for an eye exam.
Q: What are some warning signs that a child might have a vision problem?
A: Parents can help identify vision problems by watching for the following warning signs:
If parents notice any of those symptoms, they should schedule an appointment for their child to see an optometrist.
For more information on vision warning signs, please click here.
Q: How are behavioral problems an indication that a child's vision may be impaired?
A: According to the American Eye-Q® survey, 39 percent of parents don't realize that behavioral problems can be an indication that a child's vision is impaired. A child with undetected vision problems may get frustrated or bored in school because he or she can't see the board, the teacher or read a book easily. Therefore, students with problems seeing sometimes act out in school.
Q: Many children already receive vision screenings before they enter school. Why is a comprehensive eye exam necessary as well?
A: Most vision screenings only check to determine how well a person can see at a distance. Vision exams, however, are much more thorough. A comprehensive eye exam includes tests to determine nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, eye coordination and eye muscle function, eye focusing abilities and an overall eye health exam-which in most cases involves dilation.
Eye exams are also especially important in diagnosing diseases and disorders in young children. They are critical for the diagnosis and treatment of eye and vision problems that can lead to vision loss and other issues that affect a person's quality of life.
Simple screenings identify only a small portion of the vision problems in children. Screenings do not measure visual alignment, color vision or visual perception, among other important visual abilities. In reality, screenings only indicate a need for further evaluation and often miss many children with vision problems. According to the Vision in Preschoolers study, screenings, even when performed by the most highly trained screeners, miss more than one third of children who should be referred for a comprehensive eye examination.
Q: What specific things are tested during a comprehensive eye exam?
A: There are several essential elements an optometrist will check during a comprehensive eye examination to help ensure learning is maximized through good vision.
Q: How often should children receive a comprehensive eye exam?
A: The AOA recommends that a child's first eye exam take place at six months of age. Unless problems are detected, the next exam should be at age three, again before entering school and then every two years thereafter. Unfortunately, the Eye-Q® survey showed that 57 percent of children did not receive their first eye exam until age five or older.
For more information on frequency of children's eye exams, please click here.
Q: Are comprehensive eye exams expensive?
A: Comprehensive eye exams are a wise investment in your child's future. Typically, these exams are covered by insurance policies, so we encourage you to check with your medical provider.
In addition, the AOA has relationships with organizations like the Lions Club and special AOA programs such as VISION USA, which offer exams and care at discounted rates and some programs, such as InfantSEE®, provide care at no cost for the patient.
For more information on these programs, please click here.
Q: How many children have undetected vision problems?
A: According to the AOA, one in four kids has a vision problem. However, most parents weren't aware of the number of children with vision problems. In fact, 87 percent of Eye-Q® survey respondents didn't know how many children have undetected vision problems.
Q: Where can I find an optometrist in my area?
A: The easiest way to find an optometrist and to set an appointment is by accessing the Dr. Locator. The AOA's Doctor Locator allows users to type in their zip code and to find an optometrist in their area.