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Is Eye Exam on Your Back-to-School List?

Kids should have first vision screening at 6 months of age, optometrists say

MONDAY, Aug. 31 (HealthDay News) -- Parents should add an eye exam to their children's back-to-school list, experts say.

Studies show that 86 percent of children start school without ever having an eye examination, even though youngsters can't learn if they can't see properly.

According to the American Optometric Association's 2009 survey, which assesses the knowledge and understanding of issues related to eye and visual health, 88 percent of respondents were unaware that one in four students has a visual impairment.

"Because a child's vision may change frequently, regular eye and vision care is crucial to a student's classroom success," said Dr. Michael Earley, optometrist and the AOA's vision and learning specialist, in an association news release. "Unfortunately, most parents are not including eye exams as part of their child's back-to-school health check-up."

According to the survey, 58 percent of parents did not take their child for an eye exam before age 3. The AOA recommends that the first eye assessment takes place at 6 months of age, followed by comprehensive eye exams starting at age 3, and then repeat exams every two years, unless directed otherwise by an optometrist.

Previous studies have found that 60 percent of children labeled as "problem learners" may actually have undetected vision problems and are sometimes incorrectly diagnosed as having attention-deficit disorder or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the association noted.

Treatment is more likely to be successful if vision problems are detected and treated early, according to the news release.

In between visits to the eye doctor, parents and teachers should watch for signs of eye problems. Schedule an eye exam if you notice that your child:

  • Loses their place while reading
  • Avoids close work
  • Has a tendency to rub their eyes
  • Complains of frequent headaches
  • Turns or tilts their head when looking at something
  • Makes frequent reversals when reading or writing
  • Uses a finger to keep their place when reading
  • Confuses or omits simple words when reading
  • Seems to consistently perform below potential
  • Struggles to finish their homework
  • Squints while reading or watching television
  • Experiences behavioral problems
  • Holds reading material too close to their face

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more on children's eye exams.

--Dennis Thompson

SOURCE: American Optometric Association, news release, Aug. 24, 2009

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