As you prepare your children for a great new school year, don’t forget their vision. Experts say 80 percent of what we learn is through our eyes. So it is key to make sure your children can see if you want to see them succeed. August is not only when students go back to school, but it’s also National Children’s Vision and Learning Month, so there is no better time to consider your child’s potential vision needs.
First, don’t assume the vision screening at school is sufficient. While helpful for big issues, school exams only detect a small fraction of vision problems. One in four school-aged children has an undetected or untreated vision problem. Further, 61 percent of children never receive the follow-up care or treatment that they need.
Most of the problems detected at screenings are refractive error: nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism. Ruling out the need for glasses is the first step in making sure your child is ready to learn in school, but there is more to vision than clear sight. There are 17 skills that go into good vision, including focusing (making images clear at distance and at near), vergence (keeping objects single while using two eyes) and tracking (being able to accurately follow an object or shift one’s gaze between two objects).
If your child has had a comprehensive eye exam and is still struggling in school, they should be evaluated by an eye expert to see if treatment can help. A provider can be found on the website for the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, www.COVD.org or the Optometric Extension Program Foundation, www.OEPF.org. Some common symptoms that can be addressed with therapy include:
§ Skipping lines, rereading lines
§ Poor reading comprehension
§ Taking longer than it should to complete homework tasks
§ Reversing letters like “b” and “d” when reading
§ Short attention span or falling asleep with reading and schoolwork.
It’s never too early to have your child’s eyes examined. According to the 2017 American Optometric Association guidelines, children should have their first eye exam at age 6-12 months, again between 3 and 5 years of age, before the first grade, and then annually. The AOA also supports more frequent visits according to the eye-care provider’s recommendations. See www.aoa.org for more information.
Kids often don’t know what is “normal.” They will adjust to what they can do. One 4-year-old girl asked, “Daddy, why do we have two eyes when we can only see out of one?” However, with proper treatment, children can get the best vision possible.
To make sure your children have the best advantage possible in school, bring them in to see an optometrist in your area for a back-to-school comprehensive eye exam. Go to https://hmd.humana-military.com/ProviderSelection/ and select “Medical Specialist” for provider type, then select “Optometrist” for the specialty to find a Tricare provider near you.