When you start thinking about all the ways you can get your child back to school, you also need to think about your child’s vision – even if you haven’t noticed any problems. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), up to 80% of a child’s learning takes place through the eyes.
Why eye examinations should be done on time
Between seeing the board, reading, writing, working on the computer, and playing soccer at recess, your child’s vision is constantly working in and out of the classroom. And vision is more than the ability to see clearly, it is the ability to understand and respond to what is seen.
Elias Traboulsi, MD, MEd, chief of pediatric ophthalmology at the Cleveland Clinic, emphasizes that an eye exam isn’t just a way to find out if your child needs glasses. Like regular checkups at the pediatrician, eye exams are about preventative care.2 Comprehensive eye exams can help detect eye conditions such as nearsightedness early.
Myopia, or myopia, is one of the most common causes of vision impairment. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, 40 percent of children in the United States are myopic, compared to just 20 percent three decades ago.3 Without intervention outside of glasses, myopia can progress, often leading to high myopia that has long-term effects.
So how often your child have an eye exam?
Dr. The Trabouls, along with the American Optometric Association and the American Academy of Ophthalmology, recommend a comprehensive eye exam by an eye specialist by age one, which should be repeated before kindergarten for children without obvious eye problems.
Expressing the importance of early eye exams, the New Jersey State Assembly passed a law in May 2019 that requires children age six and younger entering public preschool, public school, or a Head Start program to have a comprehensive eye exam by June 1. January of the first year of the child’s enrollment in the school or program.
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These tests become much more important in children who:
- Having a sibling or parent with a major eye problem
- There is a 25% chance that a child will develop nearsightedness if one parent is nearsighted. This number jumps to 50% if both are myopic.5
- Have an eye problem diagnosed by your pediatrician
- The parents suspect an eye problem
“Even if there are no obvious symptoms, your child may still have a vision problem,” says Dr. Trabouls.
More from the American Optometric Association: kids need more than school vision screenings
Because vision can often change during the school year, regular eye and vision care is important. The most common vision problem is nearsightedness or myopia. In addition, the presence of ocular focusing, eye tracking, and eye coordination problems can affect school and sports performance.
Your child should have an eye exam every year, or more often if there are specific problems or risk factors, or if your eye doctor recommends it. Unfortunately, parents and educators often wrongly assume that if a child passes the school screening, then they do not have a vision problem. However, many school vision screenings only test distance visual acuity.
A child who sees 20/20 may still have a vision problem. In reality, the visual skills required for successful reading and learning are much more complex.