Advocate for Kids' Eye Care
Studies repeatedly emphasize the importance of diagnosing vision problems at an early age, but that's something many parents assume is being covered by their children's school system. In reality, an estimated one in four American school-age children have vision problems that – if untreated – can affect learning ability, personality and behavioral developments, adjustment in school and, ultimately, could lead to blindness.
While it's true that schools may provide vision screenings for younger children, one study found that even if a child failed such an exam, 50 percent of parents were unaware of the failure two months after the screening. Furthermore, these screenings do not adequately test for prevalent vision disorders such as amblyopia (lazy eye), strabismus (crossed eyes) or significant refractive error.
These disorders can, if left untreated, have an economic impact, too – children's vision disorders cost an estimated $10 billion annually in the United States alone. These issues can be addressed early on if children are given comprehensive eye examinations by eye care professionals, and the sooner they're identified, the better.
A recent study from The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine evaluated the status of vision in the U.S. health care system and recommended comprehensive eye exams as the "gold standard" in identifying potential vision disorders for children before they enter school – even though this is something only three states currently require of their school systems. What's more, research has shown that of children in the 9-to-15 age group, only 10 percent who needed eyeglasses actually had them
Through the Kids See: Success initiative, a partnership of the Vision Impact Institute, Optometry Giving Sight and VSP Vision Care, experts in the eye care field are working to educate parents, legislators, child advocacy groups, school nurses, teachers and administrators about the social, educational and future economic benefits of comprehensive eye exams for children prior to entering kindergarten.
Regardless of whether your local schools require eye exams before entry into kindergarten, your child and children you know deserve to start school with a baseline for academic success. One eye exam could change your child's academic future forever. In the meantime, watch for these signs that your child may benefit from glasses and schedule an eye exam promptly:
- Squinting is a classic symptom of either nearsightedness (not seeing well far away) or farsightedness (not seeing well up close).
- Closing one eye to see better could indicate a structural problem like astigmatism.
- Eye rubbing may be the result of eye strain.
- Sitting too close to the television or lowering the head while reading a book are signs of nearsightedness.
- Losing place while reading due to skipping lines may mean there is an eye muscle problem or vision problem, such as astigmatism.
- Frequent headaches or brow aches are often a result of uncorrected farsightedness.
Find more information about the importance of early eye exams for children at visionimpactinstitute.org.