Are Your Child’s Eyes Ready For School?

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By Stephen Cohen, O.D. – 

For most people, vision is their most precious sense.  For children, this is even more evident, as about 80 percent of what a child learns is through the visual system.  Most parents take their children to the dentist for regular preventative care, but rely only upon obvious signs of a vision problem, or upon a school or pediatrician screening before seeking professional eye care for their children.

A vision screening does not diagnose a problem, but rather identifies children in need of further assessments.  A vision screening is often performed by parent volunteers, with just a few minutes of training or by pediatrician offices.  However, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, vision screenings were not even attempted on almost two-thirds of three-year olds, and a screening “attempt” was defined as “10 seconds or more” of testing.

Even with completed screenings, there can be false positives (a suspicion of a problems where there is none), and false negatives (passing a screening in spite of a problem).

Many vision screenings test for visual acuity only, and according to the American Foundation for Vision Awareness, this only identifies about five percent of vision problems in children.  Although a child may see clearly from 20 feet away, it doesn’t mean that the child’s eyes work together efficiently, can see and read comfortably at 12 inches away or can make easy visual transitions from distance to near and from near to distance.  Even for children who “fail” a vision screening, studies show that less than half ever receive professional eye care and the average time between the screening and the eye exam is 18 months!

One of the symptoms observed with vision problems is having a headache.  Most headaches are not related to the eyes, but there is one pattern that often is related.  A dull, throbbing headache that occurs later in the day versus upon waking, and more often on school days than on weekends, can be indicative of a vision problem.

Now that the school year has begun, make sure you are setting your children up for success by making sure their vision, the predominant sense in learning, receives a grade of 100 percent.

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