While most parents are pretty consistent when it comes to taking their children to the pediatrician for the scheduled wellness exams, research shows that they are less vigilant about their child’s vision. According to the Better Vision Institute, only 14 percent of children have had a comprehensive vision exam before they enter first grade.
This belies the American Optometric Association’s guidelines that all children should have had three exams by this time: one at six months, one at age three, and one again before entering school. The reason? One in 10 children (10 percent) is at risk for an undiagnosed vision issue.
While many schools do perform vision screenings on site, studies show that these basic screenings (such as the Snellen eye chart) only detect 20-30 percent of vision problems in schools. Meaning that nearly 80 percent of children with a vision issue is getting lost in the shuffle, often being wrongly labeled as having a learning issue. This was seen in one study, where researchers discovered that 95 percent of nonreaders in first grade had significant vision problems. In fact, they had nearly 2.5 times more visual problems than first grade high achievers.
This makes sense on many levels, especially when you consider that UCLA doctors found that 80 percent of learning in the classroom is visual. Therefore, when children cannot see, they likely cannot learn as well either. This was proven out when teachers reported that glasses help students become more engaged in the classroom.
When kids were better able to see a classroom board and read the words in a book, they were not only more confident about participating in class, but the class as a whole experience fewer disruptions.
This was also seen in the California juvenile detention system. Researchers found that 35 percent of adolescents in juvenile detention centers had uncorrected refractive errors, as compared to 22 percent in the public school system. Even more telling is that when the children in the system received on-site optometric vision therapy, recidivism (repeat offenders) reduced from 45 percent to just 16 percent.
Clearly eye exams do more than just check your ability to read or see distances. They give you an inside look into your health, reduce your risk for chronic disease, and may even help keep our children in the classroom, achieving their dreams.