Back-to-school eye exams

Comprehensive Eye and Vision Examination

A comprehensive eye examination is as essential for back-to-school success as supplies for learning.

"The majority of demands in school are visual, whether a student is trying to see the board or sustain focus at near point. Knowing your child is prepared to meet those demands should be a relief for any parent," says Glen Steele, O.D., professor of pediatric optometry at Southern College of Optometry in Memphis,

The sooner the better


Studies
have consistently linked school performance to poor vision and visual disorders.

Many parents may not realize that vision is involved in almost every aspect of development, Dr. Steele says. Each stage of a child's development is built on previous stages.

"When there is a disruption at any stage or the stage is not completed, the next stage will have insufficient foundation," Dr. Steele says. "Whether help is needed from glasses or more intensive treatments, it is important to initiate treatment as early as possible.

"Finding out that your child has difficulty with seeing near or distance tasks or being able to sustain those tasks gives parent and child a head start on identification and remediation," he adds.

Screenings fall short of comprehensive eye exams

Some parents or caretakers rely on screenings conducted at their child's school as a measure of their vision. But screenings can give a false sense of security to parents, doctors of optometry say.

Undue reliance on vision screenings alone can lead to major issues throughout their child's school years.

A few key things to note:

  • Vision screening programs at schools are only intended to help identify children with eye or vision problems and can give parents a false sense of security as they only indicate a potential need for further evaluation.
  • Even the most sophisticated vision screening tools, administered by the most highly trained screeners, miss one-third of children with eye or vision disorders, according to a study funded by the National Eye Institute.
  • According to Children's Hospital of Orange County, screen time at school and home can expose a student 8-18 years of age to media for more than 10 hours a day, which can lead to a number of visual challenges-some of which children may not necessarily even realize.

Only a comprehensive eye and vision examination, conducted by a doctor of optometry, can detect and test for a full range of disorders that affect children's learning.

Parents of children who "pass" a vision screening are often given a false sense that their child's eyes are healthy, when they may have a serious, undiagnosed eye or vision condition. In fact, these screenings provide less than 4% of the information generated during a comprehensive eye exam and they miss up to 75% of children with vision problems. These children are less likely to receive timely treatment for their vision problem, allowing the impairment to become worse and to have a greater impact on their health and development.

And even if a child should pass a vision screening, they should receive a comprehensive eye exam if they:

  • Show any signs or symptoms of a vision problem.
  • Are not achieving up to their potential.
  • Are spending excessive time and effort to achieve academically even minimally.

AOA Resources

Find
a doctor of optometry near you.

Vision screenings versus comprehensive eye exams fact sheet

School aged vision:
6 to 18 Years of Age

View a brief on the evidence-based clinical practice guideline Comprehensive Pediatric Eye and Vision Examination.

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