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eye examAugust celebrates Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month.

Many children have healthy eyes, however, there are conditions that can threaten good vision. Unfortunately, you can’t always “look” into your child’s eyes to tell if they have eye health problems, such as tracking, convergence insufficiency and accommodative deficiency, all of which can negatively impact school performance. It is wise to set up some time this month, before the kids head back to school, for an eye exam with a developmental optometrist.

Parents should be aware of signs that may indicate their child has vision problems, including:

  • Wandering or crossed eyes
  • A family history of childhood vision problems
  • Disinterest in or trouble with reading or viewing distant objects
  • Squinting or turning the head in an unusual manner while watching television
  • Skipping words or lines when reading
  • Covering an eye when doing near work
  • Takes hours to do 20 minutes of homework
  • Doesn’t finish work in allotted class time
  • Doesn’t work up to potential
  • Frequent after school headaches

A Dream: Annual Eye Exams for All

I have a dream that one day, vision care and preventive eye exams for children will be just as routine as going to the dentist on a regular basis. Why is dental health any more important than vision health? Are your teeth more important than your eyes? Is being able to chew more important than being able to see? Both are equally important and require regular, comprehensive exams by qualified doctors that specialize in the fields of dentistry and vision.

All too often I am told by parents that their child had an eye exam. When I ask who performed the exam, they state one of two things:

  • the school nurse checked their vision during a routine screening at school, or
  • the pediatrician evaluated vision at the child’s well visit

Interesting! Going back to the dental concept, if the school nurse checked your child’s teeth, does that count as a dental exam? Does a peek in your child’s mouth by the pediatrician who states that everything looks good cause you to cancel the bi-annual dental visit?

A Valuable Screener – the School Nurse

I am not discrediting the value and expertise of school nurses and pediatricians. I love school nurses! Nurses are a front runner in the provision of a vision screening.  “School nurses often engage in health screenings that include vision, hearing, or other screening procedures often based on local and state regulations.  The school nurse can provide families with referral information along with available community resources” to improve access to comprehensive eye exams. (1)

A Worthy Screener – the Pediatrician

I love our pediatrician! She has seen us through many minor and some very serious illnesses over the years. The American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement shares “Early detection and prompt treatment of ocular disorders in children is important to avoid life-long visual impairment. Examination of the eyes should be performed beginning in the newborn period and at all well-child visits. All children who are found to have an ocular abnormality or who fail vision assessment should be referred to an eye care specialist appropriately trained to treat pediatric patients.” (2) Often times, during a routine physical examination, the pediatrician will ask, “When was your child’s last visit to the eye doctor?”

Caution – Parental Assumptions

Within their scope of practice, the school nurse and the pediatrician are not saying their screenings are substitutes for comprehensive eye exams because in fact, they are screenings not comprehensive examinations.  However, many times the parents are assuming that these screenings are substitution for a comprehensive vision evaluation.

School screenings and well visits at the pediatrician are mainly checking to make sure that the child can see 20/20 on the eye chart. As I have written about before, there is so much more to vision than just being able to see the 20/20 line.

A developmental optometrist who has completed extra training in children’s vision and how it can impact school performance is an excellent choice when determining which eye doctor to see (pun intended). An exceptional resource for finding an eye doctor in your area is, covd.org.

As a new school year approaches and annual physicals are scheduled, make sure to include a visit to an eye care professional, such as a developmental optometrist, for your child’s preventative care.

For those of us that treat children’s vision related learning issues and for the children with undetected vision isms – it would be a dream come true.

References

1) “Role of the School Nurse (Revised 2011).” Role of the School Nurse (Revised 2011). National Association of School Nurses, n.d. Web. 05 July 2015.

2) Committee On Practice And Ambulatory Medicine And Section On Ophthalmology. “Eye Examination in Infants, Children, and Young Adults by Pediatricians.AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS (2003): n. pag. Web. 5 July 2015.