As the school year approaches, what does the whirlwind of preparation look like at your house? Are there multiple trips to stores for back-to-school clothes and school supplies? Getting yearly physicals and up-to-date immunizations? Oh, and does your child need a sports physical, too?
If a back-to-school eye exam is not on that to-do list, it should be.
According to the 2015 American Eye-Q® survey conducted by the American Optometric Association (AOA), 89% of those surveyed thought the simple vision screening done in their child’s school was an adequate way to find vision problems. While those basic screenings give some very basic information about the status of a child’s vision, they simply cannot detect specific or serious eye issues.
Since a student can experience many changes in their vision between preschool and high school graduation, it is important that they have a comprehensive eye exam at the start of every school year. Vision problems can affect a child’s ability to learn, and can also lead to attention and behavioral issues in the classroom.
Signs of a problem
Even if your student has a comprehensive eye exam at the beginning of the school year, vision changes can happen at any time. If you notice your child covering one eye, holding material close to their face when reading, complaining of headaches, or you notice them having a shorter than usual attention span, your child could be experiencing a vision problem or other eye health issue and it would be a good idea to schedule an appointment with your child’s optometrist.
Prevention and safety
It may sound like a broken record to some, but it is important to remember that prolonged use of electronic devices can cause digital eye strain. Kids use computers and mobile devices both in and out of the classroom these days, so parents should try and monitor their use whenever possible. Signs of digital eye strain include burning or itchy eyes, headaches, blurry vision, and old-fashioned exhaustion. The AOA has a few recommendations to prevent discomfort: the “20-20-20 rule” (take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away), blinking frequently and adjusting your child’s computer screen to prevent glare.
Additionally, it is important for kids that play sports or do outdoor activities to wear well-fitting protective eyewear to prevent injuries and sunglasses that offer proper UV protection.