By Wendy LaRoche, Health EducatorAugust 3, 2011
One of the best ways to help your children in school is to ensure their vision has been checked at least every two years by an eye care professional. Vision and eye health are key to a student’s ability to do well in the classroom and when studying at home. Children with poor visual skills may struggle to read, have a short attention span, perform poorly in sports and develop low self-esteem. In most cases, unless a child complains about a vision problem, parents don’t ask questions concerning their vision. Research also demonstrates that children tend to not complain about subtle problems with their eyesight.
Some common signs that may indicate a problem with vision or eye health are tearing, squinting, unusual light sensitivity, eye redness or discharge, a jiggle in one or both eyes, persistent head turning, frequent headaches, droopy eyelids or a misalignment of the eyes. As with any condition, earlier diagnosis leads to better outcomes. Other signs to look for are changes in your child’s academic performance, including trouble focusing on reading, reversals in writing and reading, and holding reading materials closer than normal. Talk with your child’s teacher and primary care physician, or PCP, if you witness any of these signs.
Taking advantage of regular screenings is one way to check your child’s vision. Many elementary schools offer vision screenings that are carried out by volunteer professionals, school nurses and/or properly trained persons. Screening can be done quickly, accurately and with minimum expense by one of these individuals. These screenings detect the more common eye and vision problems (nearsightedness, etc.) in children.
If you suspect that your child may have a vision problem, make an appointment with an eye-care professional, either an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Take the screening information from your PCP with you, as it will be beneficial when assessing your child’s vision. Although screenings are an important way to determine changes in vision, they are not a complete eye exam and do not evaluate eye health. Routine vision and health examinations are recommended, even for children who do not require vision correction.
The American Optometric Association recommends that all children receive a professional eye and vision examination at critical stages in their visual development. These critical stages are by six months of age, 3 years, before first grade and every other year between the ages of 6 and 18. TRICARE Prime, Standard and Extra cover vision screening for children up to age six during well-child exams. For school-aged children beyond 6 years of age, generally TRICARE covers yearly exams for active-duty Families.
For more information on children’s eye health:
American Optometric Association, http://www.aoa.org/x9419.xml