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Getting Into Focus: The Importance of Back To School Eye Exams for Kids

by Sep 1, 2018

Pop quiz! What is your child’s #1 learning tool?

If you answered their eyes, you earn an A+! Unfortunately most parents don’t pass this quiz. 80% of a child’s learning is visual but an annual eye exam doesn’t make it onto the back to school list for most parents. An undiagnosed and untreated vision problem can impact academic success at a very young age. According to the American Optometrists Association there are an estimated 10 million children in the U.S. with undiagnosed vision problems.

Pediatric Vision Screenings are not the same as a Comprehensive Eye Exam

back to school eye examsThe eye exam that you get at the pediatrician’s office or with the school nurse are only screening for distance vision and sharpness and can miss a large majority of vision problems like amblyopia (lazy eye).  During a comprehensive eye exam, optometrists will look at how the eyes work together, their ability to focus, and look at overall health while taking family history into consideration. Optometrists can detect other health problems beyond including diabetes and hypertension.

“One in four children has an undiagnosed vision problem because changes in their eyesight go unrecognized by both the child and their parents or guardian,” said Andrea Thau, O.D., president of the AOA. “

Look for common vision problem signs
From ages 6 to 18 a child’s vision can change frequently and unfortunately according the AOA 1 in 4 children go undiagnosed. As a parent you can spot common vision problem signs including:

  • pediatric eye exams for kids 1Loses place while reading
  • Holds reading material closer than normal
  • Frequent blinking or eye-rubbing
  • Poor reading comprehension
  • Slow to finish schoolwork
  • Short attention span for close work
  • Tendency to fidget and look away from work
  • Frequent headaches
  • Tendency to cover one eye
  • Squints while reading or watching TV

Eyes are a critical learning tool
Kids don’t know what normal is when it comes to their eye health. If vision problems are detected early it can have a direct impact on their school performance.

Learning is visual which makes eyes a critical learning tool in school. If your child can’t see the board clearly, how are they supposed to learn what is up there?

It is Never Too Early
The AOA suggests that a child have an initial comprehensive eye exam around 1 year old. This begins to create a baseline for your child’s eye health. After this initial exam, it is a good idea to follow up at 3 years old and then just before first grade. If no vision issues are found, it is a good idea to follow up every two years. If a vision issue is detected, you would then of course follow the recommendations of your optometrist.

Watch the Electronics
The constant eye strain from digital devices can be tough on kids’ developing eyes. If your child has been using a device or video game all summer, their eyes could be suffering. Kids can help themselves and prevent eye strain following the 20-20-20 rule… take a 20 second break, every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away.

Anytime is a Good Time
You don’t have to wait for back to school season but adding it to the back to school checklist can certainly help intercede before any learning problems develop during the school year. Making a comprehensive eye examination a priority this year is one of the single most important investments you can make in your child’s education and overall health.


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