Children At Risk For Undetected Vision Problems

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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As children receive their report cards during the next few weeks, parents should be on the on the lookout for any changes in grades that could be attributable to undetected vision problems. While eighty percent of what children learn is visual, and approximately one out of every four children has a vision problem, a report from The Vision Council finds that as many as two-thirds of school-age children do not receive any type of vision assessment prior to entering school.

The Vision Council's Making the Grade? report provides a detailed analysis of state and federal efforts to prevent vision problems in children. Since the report was first issued in 2005, several states have enacted laws to enhance children's vision care and new federal legislation has been proposed to address this issue.

"While many states are recognizing the critical connection between vision and learning and are taking steps to ensure that children enter school ready to learn, more can be done," said Ed Greene, CEO of The Vision Council. "We hope this report will encourage states to take action to protect children's vision."

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Despite the trend towards better vision care, Making the Grade? finds that many states still do not adequately protect children's vision health. Twelve states were found to have no laws requiring vision care for children (i). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, undetected and untreated vision problems can impact a child's physical and emotional development. These children are at risk for developing reading difficulties, a short attention span, behavior problems in the classroom and diminished performance in school.

Of the 36 states that require a vision screening(ii), 26 do not require a follow-up eye exam for those who fail(iii). Neglecting to include such a provision greatly minimizes the impact of these well-intended laws. Follow-up care is arguably the most important aspect of a vision screening as early detection is key to preventing permanent vision loss for serious vision disorders, such as amblyopia (lazy eye).

"Vision is such an integral part of learning," said Greene. "We encourage all parents, regardless of their state laws, to make sure their children have an eye exam or at a minimum a thorough vision screening."

To ensure healthy vision, parents and teachers should look for the following signs of poor vision:

-- Squinting, closing or covering one eye
-- Constantly holding materials close to the face
-- Tilting the head to one side
-- Rubbing eyes repeatedly
-- One or both eyes turn in or out
-- Redness or tearing in eyes

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