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Help children learn better by seeing better

Vision ExamWhen: August

What: When young children struggle in school, their frustration and lack of confidence can leave them uninterested or even anxious about studying or asking for help. Most frustrating of all is when a curious child cannot follow school lessons despite the best efforts of parents and teachers. For these children, a comprehensive vision screening, going beyond eyesight testing, can reveal treatable problems. Even with 20/20 eyesight, a child may have vision problems that interfere with the ability to follow words on a page or see letters and numbers clearly. While they may be trying their best, children with vision problems are often misdiagnosed with a learning disability, or even labeled as uncooperative or lazy. A child just learning to read may never realize the issue, but good screening can. As children prepare to return to school this August, make sure their vision isn’t keeping them behind the learning curve during National Children’s Vision and Learning Month.

Background: National Children’s Vision and Learning Month was started in 1995 by the College of Optometrists in Vision Development, an association of eye care professionals and students. Each year, states and cities throughout the U.S. issue proclamations recognizing and supporting the month. It urges comprehensive vision exams, which screens for more problems than eyesight testing, as a way to identify vision-based learning problems among children. Uncovering these problems early on can keep children from struggling with learning for the rest of their life.

Story Pitch: A number of businesses and organizations can help support this month. Vision care providers, optometrists and ophthalmologists can promote their services and explain to patients and the public why a vision exam is an essential part of getting ready for back to school. They should also emphasize how children may not realize their vision is causing them problems. Vision care professionals should educate parents and teachers alike on ways to recognize when vision problems are affecting a child’s ability to read and understand information. Health organizations should also acknowledge the importance of early screening and encourage parents to have their children’s vision tested. Eyewear manufacturers can also use the month to promote their children’s glasses. For growing children, eyeglasses need to be fitted correctly and comfortably, and manufacturers should discuss how parents can find their child’s correct fit so they keep their glasses on during school. They should also note that a good fit can keep children from fidgeting or being distracted during school.

Story Hook: Vision screening is critically important for young children, and it is estimated that about 15 percent of preschool-age children have a condition that can affect their vision and their ability to learn in school. Unfortunately, fewer than 25 percent of preschoolers have vision screening, leaving many children with vision problems untreated. Some states require eyesight testing before children enter school, but do these tests screen for all vision problems that can affect learning? When these problems are identified, are children receiving appropriate follow-up care? Consider the following as you make your pitch:

  • What types of disorders affect vision? Who can test for them?
  • As children use more technology, like computers, smartphones, and videogames, is their vision being affected? Do parents need to limit time spent in front of the screen to protect their children’s vision?
  • What is the difference between an optometrist and an ophthalmologist?
  • Why isn’t an eyesight test enough to find vision problems? What does a comprehensive vision screening look for that an eyesight test doesn’t?
  • How treatable are vision problems?

Tips: Provide contact information for an eye care professional who can discuss the specifics of a vision screening. Additionally, someone who struggled with learning until a vision screening revealed a problem can talk about why it’s important to catch these problems early on.

Resources:

College of Optometrists in Vision Development
(330) 995-0718
info(at)covd.org
www.covd.org

Lighthouse International
www.lighthouse.org

National Eye Institute
(301) 496-5248
ww.nei.nih.gov

The Vision Council
(703) 548-4580
www.thevisioncouncil.org


–Researched, compiled & written by Kristina Elliott
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