Go to the Head of the Class with Good Vision

Recognizing Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, August 2011

children-eye health

As the calendar turns to August, thoughts of fall weather and kids going back to school come to mind. Shopping for new clothes, books and school supplies are often priorities on parents’ to-do lists, but don’t forget to schedule eye appointments to evaluate your kids’ vision.

Nearly 80 percent of what kids learn through age 12 is visual, and kids need more than 15 visual skills to succeed in reading, learning, playing sports activities and participating in everyday situations. Seeing 20/20 is just one of those skills, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).

The most common vision problems in children are refractive errors, such as nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Unfortunately, one in four school-age kids has vision problems that, if left untreated, can hinder their ability to learn and negatively affect their personality and performance in school.

Protect Kids’ Eyes

Eye injuries are the leading cause of blindness in children in the United States. Many are sports related, but accidents with toys, chemicals, fireworks and sharp objects can also damage their eyes. Approximately 90 percent of eye injuries are preventable if protective eyewear is worn. Take steps to protect your kids’ vision by providing protective eyewear appropriate for their activities.

Eye Exam Recommendations

The AOA recommends that children receive their first eye exam by age 1, the next one when they are 3 years old, and another before starting kindergarten. After that, students should have a yearly comprehensive exam to evaluate their total vision—not just a screening to check their ability to see. If there is a family history of eye problems, or if you notice a change in your kids’ eyesight, schedule an exam to have their vision evaluated.

Identifying Potential Vision Problems

The National Institutes of Health and the National Eye Institute report that more than 60 percent of students with learning problems have undiagnosed vision abnormalities. Consider the following signs that a child may be experiencing a vision problem:

  • Complains frequently about headaches or tired eyes
  • Avoids activities that require near vision, such as reading, homework or distance vision, including participation in sports or play activities
  • Sits too close to the TV or holds reading material close to his/her face
  • Loses place or skips words while reading
  • Uses a finger to guide eyes when reading
  • Squints or tilts head to see better
  • Rubs eyes frequently
  • Closes one eye to read, watch TV or see better
  • Writes uphill or downhill
  • Finds it difficult to copy material from the board

If any of these vision warning signs are detected, schedule an appointment with an eye care professional. A comprehensive eye exam and vision evaluation and can identify possible issues and treatment options, enhancing your child’s time in school and overall quality of life.

Do you have kids, or know of any, who have experienced vision problems? What symptoms were detected? What actions were taken to evaluate the concerns? – Ken VanCleave, Ameritas Group

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