More Important Than a New Pair of Shoes
Now is the time of year to remind parents the importance of getting a comprehensive eye exam for their children. To do well in school, kids need to be able to see the blackboard, desktop computer or projection screen. But when it comes to good eyesight in kids, here’s a startling statistic – up to 70 percent of juvenile offenders have an undiagnosed vision problem.
There is a strong link between good vision and performance in school. Kids who can’t focus properly or see what’s on a blackboard or video screen struggle. They do poorly and fall behind, and they could lose interest or drop out entirely. And that, in turn, can impact the likelihood of juvenile delinquency and run-ins with law enforcement.
If we were able to catch their vision problems early, instead, and fix them, we might have a positive impact on those kids’ lives and significantly reduce that figure.
And the only way to do that is to make sure every child receives a proper comprehensive eye exam, not solely a vision screening offered at school that is run by untrained volunteers who might not have the test set correctly. In addition, the eye tests they do at school are, by and large, screenings for distance. Your child could have 20/20 vision and still have an undetected vision problem.
They screenings don’t test for binocular vision, either. Doing so would identify any issues with the six muscles of the eye. When those muscles fail to coordinate, it can create eye strain and fatigue.
Bottom line: a vision screening is not a reliable substitute for a comprehensive eye exam.
Eye Exams: How Often & By Whom?
The National Optometric Association has set guidelines for vision screenings in children and adults to detect vision problems in kids and adults.
Age 1: first eye exam
Ages 3-5: second eye exam
Ages 6-60: an exam every two years
Ages 61+: annual exams
At the early ages, we’re trying to rule out amblyopia, which is more commonly known as lazy eye. People with amblyopia have one eye that doesn’t focus as clearly as the other. Once a person reaches age 7, the vision cells in the back part of the brain where vision is processed are pretty much like poured concrete; they’ve laid down their adult form, and you’re not going to be able to change it.
Get Vision Checked
If you notice your kids sitting too close to the television, holding a book, phone or tablet too close, if they’re squinting or tilting their heads to focus or see better or have frequent headaches, it’s time to get their eyes checked. Same cues apply to adults.
To avoid problems, or worsening of issues with eyesight, follow the guidelines of set by the National Optometric Association, above. Between exams, if you or someone you know is having difficulty seeing clearly, get to the optometrist for a comprehensive eye exam as soon as possible.
Because, in reality, the only number that matters is two. As in your child’s two eyes and how clearly they’re able to see.