One in four children struggles to see the words on the pages of their books or the numbers written on the front board of their classrooms. That’s why back-to-school season provides an important reminder to check your child’s eye health, because 80 percent of what children learn occurs through their eyes.
Determining whether your child has a vision problem can be difficult. Kids are often unaware – or won’t complain – that they strain their eyes. A few symptoms that may indicate poor eyesight include if your child experiences headaches after doing homework, loses place while reading, rubs their eyes while concentrating or squints while watching TV.
Those are just some of the signs. The only way to know if your child truly has poor vision is to get a comprehensive eye exam.
“It’s important for children to receive routine exams, even if they’re not complaining, especially if they’re not doing well in school. If a child doesn’t want to read anymore, it can be a tell-tale sign that they have a vision problem,” explains Dr. Linda Chous, chief eye care officer at UnitedHealthcare.
While many schools offer vision screenings, 31 percent of parents incorrectly believe these are just as good at detecting eye health issues as comprehensive eye exams. School screenings can miss some vision conditions, such as poor eye alignment and focusing problems. If problems like these are left untreated, a child may fall behind – academically, emotionally and socially.
With all of the things on our back-to-school checklists, an eye exam can seem like just one more thing to do and one more cost to incur. That’s why UnitedHealthcare collaborated with Eye Care 4 Kids to develop a new program that aims to make vision screenings easier, more affordable and readily accessible. Community events in seven cities across the country, including ones in collaboration with Prevent Blindness, are providing vision screenings, comprehensive eye exams and glasses to more than 700 kids.
“We want to look at eye health to make sure there aren’t problems that could be causing difficulties with vision. There are certain types of eye diseases that occur in childhood, so we want to identify those early and work to help provide access to care,” says Dr. Chous.
While these events are focused on school-age children, it doesn’t mean that vision problems can’t occur at a younger age. In fact, the American Optometric Association (AOA) suggests that a child’s first comprehensive eye exam should occur when a child is between six and 12 months old, again at age 3 and before entering school, with regular vision checks after that.
Children’s eyesight can change quickly, so make a comprehensive eye exam part of your child’s back-to-school routine. Taking this important step may help improve your child’s eye health and help prepare them to learn.