Parents of school-age children are getting ready for a new school year. Perhaps a few are still trying to locate that last obscure item on their child’s school supply list.
For all their back-to-school preparations, many parents forget a critical component of their child’s academic success – good eyesight.
Poor vision can have negative impacts on a child’s development and academic performance. But many parents are unaware of the importance of an annual eye exam for their child’s overall health and education.
“Kids seem to be one of the most overlooked age groups when it comes to quality of vision and eye health,” says Dr. Chris Wroten, a founding partner at the Bond-Wroten Eye Clinic, “largely because they don’t have a point of reference from which to know when their vision is poor if it’s been that way all their life. And even if they do, they often don’t yet know how to describe their symptoms.”
That is why vision health advocates and professionals declared Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness month in August. It’s a health observance reminding parents about the correlation between healthy eyesight and healthy grades.
This August, make sure your kids have the vision to succeed in school with these four tips:
Tip #1: Take your child to an eye doctor once a year. The American Optometric Association recommends starting preventive annual eye exams between ages three to five years old.
“So much learning occurs through the visual system, especially in young children,” Dr. Wroten says, “that it’s imperative that children start to receive annual, comprehensive eye exams as early as possible.”
Tip #2: Don’t rely on vision screenings. Vision screenings should not replace a comprehensive eye exam from an eye care professional. Dr. Wroten warns that these screenings have been known to miss many common vision disorders and eye health problems.
Tip #3: Listen to your child and watch for the physical signs. A child’s complaints of headaches, double vision, or not being able to appreciate 3-D pictures or movies could be signs of vision problems. Children may also display physical signs of vision problems, such as squinting, rubbing their eyes, excessive blinking, losing their place when reading, or noticing one of their eyes turning in or out. (The American Optometric Association provides more information on the importance of children’s vision and other signs of potential vision problems.)
Not all children will voice symptoms or display physical signs, but parents and teachers should still actively look for these common cues. As Dr. Wroten points out, early intervention of vision problems is effective and critical to good eye health and quality vision.
Tip #4: Make eye safety a priority when purchasing toys. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s annual report, Toy-Related Deaths and Injuries, estimates that approximately 240,000 to 245,000 kids visit emergency rooms each year with toy-related injuries. Parents should make sure toys are age-appropriate and proper safety/eye protection is worn.
Vision insurance provides affordable access to preventive care from eye doctors and corrective lenses, if needed. So, don’t neglect your child’s eyes, and make vision health and eye safety a priority all year!
Chris Wroten, O.D., is a partner at the Bond-Wroten Eye Clinic, and has a special interest in primary eye care and in the treatment and management of eye disease. Dr. Wroten has lectured internationally, participated in clinical research, and authored clinical case reports at numerous conferences in the U.S. and abroad. He is an adjunct professor at Southern College of Optometry, the University of Incarnate Word’s Rosenberg School of Optometry, and the University of Alabama-Birmingham College of Optometry.