While an annual comprehensive eye exam is recommended for children and adults of all ages, providing access to comprehensive eye exams to school-aged children can help ensure academic success in school.
Did you know that 1 in 4 children has a vision problem? The vision problems found in 25% of children could have been treated if the child had been properly screened upon entering school. However, more frequently than not, children do not receive the vision attention needed and, as a result, 60% of children labeled as problem learners have an undetected vision problem. Therefore, recent studies indicate that visual factors are better predictors of academic success than race or socioeconomic status.¹
What’s the difference between a vision screening and an eye exam?
A vision screening (whether conducted by a primary care physician, a school nurse, or in a community-based setting) is not a diagnostic process and does not replace a comprehensive examination by an eye doctor. The purpose of vision screening is to increase the number of individuals in need of care, who ultimately receive comprehensive eye exams and necessary treatment.
Screenings can identify subjects at high risk for eye disease, detect disorders in an early, treatable stage, and provide valuable information and education about eye care. Screenings do not test for eye function or mobility and will miss 60% of undiagnosed vision conditions. Often, they result in a referral to an eye care professional where a doctor can prescribe a treatment plan. It is possible for your child to pass a vision screening and still need glasses. An annual eye exam performed by a doctor is the only way to thoroughly assess eye function, vision correction, and eye health.
A comprehensive eye exam can only be conducted by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Specialized equipment and procedures are used that allow the doctor to evaluate vision and eye health, make a definitive diagnosis, and prescribe a prescription for vision correction if necessary. Eye exams are non-invasive and typically take about 30 minutes.
How would a parent know if their child needs an annual eye exam?
While parents should not wait until their children report visual problems to take them in for an annual eye exam, parents should pay attention to these indications that a child might be experiencing visual problems:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Holding books close to their face or too far away
- Sitting close to the TV, computer, or tablet
- Twisting or tilting their head to favor one eye
- Frequent blinking or rubbing their eyes
- Inability to judge distance properly (bumping into things)
- Decreased performance in school and athletics
What are the consequences of not getting an annual eye exam for your child?
As previously mentioned, research indicates that visual factors are better predictors of academic success than race or socioeconomic status.¹ Approximately 80% of everything children learn comes through their eyes, making clear vision an essential school supply for every child, every year. An unattended vision problem can result in the mislabeling of vision-impaired children as problem learners or behavioral problems. In fact, 39% of parents don’t realize behavioral problems can be an indication of visual problems. Research even reveals that approximately 70% of juvenile delinquents have an undetected visual problem.
What are the additional benefits of an annual eye exam for children?
In addition to the potential for enhanced academic success, clear vision can also affect a child’s athletic performance as well. This includes improved hand-eye coordination, better depth perception, and enhanced eye-tracking ability.
What resources are available for uninsured children?
According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, approximately 15 million children in the United States—21% of all children—live in families with incomes below the federal poverty threshold. Furthermore, 83% of kids whose families earn less than twice the federal poverty level have not had an eye exam in the last year, putting those children at risk for falling behind in school. Under the Affordable Care Act, children up to 18 years of age can receive vision care that’s provided by an optometrist. Visit healthcare.gov to view or change your current coverage.
For children who don’t have vision insurance or Medicaid, aren’t signed up for ACA, and can’t afford an eye exam and glasses, Visionworks has a vision initiative, Let’s Go See, for school-aged children that can benefit individual children, ages 5 to 18, as well as schools and nonprofit organizations. Anyone can help a child or group of children to see better and ultimately reduce the academic success gap, by nominating a child, school, or nonprofit organization to receive free comprehensive eye exams and free pairs of glasses at http://www.letsgosee.net/help/.
What is the secret to why school-aged children need access to comprehensive eye exams?
Academic success. One in four children has a vision problem that can be mislabeled as a learning difficulty or behavioral problem. Vision is a necessity for all children—insured and uninsured. For insured families, parents should provide the best platform for their child’s academic success by visiting an optometrist for an annual comprehensive eye exam each school year. For uninsured families, parents can research alternative options, such as the Let’s Go See initiative, to provide the best opportunities for a child’s academic success. An annual comprehensive eye exam might not be the world’s answer to poverty, but proper vision care for school-aged children can absolutely contribute to eliminating the disparity of academic success between socioeconomic classes—annual comprehensive exams for every child, every year.