NEW YORK—Every month should be an opportune time to consider children’s eye health and safety, of course, but August works really well because of its connection with back to school. While the back-to-school learning environment may look a little different this year and take a little getting used to, there are no doubts that children’s vision should still be a top priority of parents.
Children’s vision, unfortunately, is an often-overlooked and under-appreciated element of education.
According to Think About Your Eyes, 24 percent of parents wait for their children to display the symptoms of a vision problem before taking them to an eyecare provider. This can be problematic, in part, because many kids don't understand what “normal” vision really means. So, according to the experts, “now” is really the right time to teach children how to establish healthy eyecare habits that last a lifetime.
This holds true even for younger children who may not be enrolled in school yet. Reports show that one of 20 children ages 3 to 5 has a vision problem that could result in permanent vision issues if left untreated. Yet, 80 percent of preschoolers do not receive an eye screening.
[Note that Prevent Blindness has partnered with the National Optometric Association (NOA) on a new “A.C.H.I.E.V.E: All Children’s Health Initiative for Eye and Vision Excellence” program. The program seeks to raise awareness, specifically among minority parents, for the importance of healthy vision and its connection to learning, as well as encourage parents to have their children’s eyes examined. As part of the A.C.H.I.E.V.E. campaign, free educational webinars will be conducted, and shareable social media images and communications will be available in English and Spanish to promote the importance of healthy vision, especially in minority communities. The materials will be available to download for free at: nationalcenter.preventblindness.org/achieve.]
In addition, as part of August’s Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, The National Center for Children’s Vision and Eye Health at Prevent Blindness (NCCVEH) has released an updated version of its 2016 report titled “Children’s Vision and Eye Health: A Snapshot of Current National Issues 2nd Edition.” The updated report is available here.According to The Vision Council, children suffering from vision problems or eye conditions are often easy to identify. Here are some warning signs and behaviors that may signal that a child is experiencing vision problems, according to The Vision Council’s kids’ vision page.
• 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
• Premature birth
• Developmental delays
• Family history of lazy eye or “thick glasses”
As most of us are well aware, Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month was designed as a way to help us encourage parents to learn how to protect their child’s eyesight and to be able to identify vision-threatening conditions through regular eye exams.
Children should have an eye exam at 6 months, and this must be repeated at age 3. Once they start school, eye exams must be done regularly. About 80 percent of what children learn in school is taught visually, which means if a child has undetected and uncorrected vision problem, it will affect the child’s development and performances in school.
This is certainly a factor in why August is dedicated to preventing eye injuries and vision loss and saving children’s eyesight. Do your part and encourage parents to schedule an eye exam.