Frequently Asked Questions
1) Why should a child have a comprehensive eye exam prior to heading back to school?
One of the most important things parents can do to help a child succeed in school is to take them for a comprehensive eye exam. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), vision screenings are not diagnostic. Therefore, they typically identify only a small portion of the common vision problems in children. Comprehensive eye exams are necessary to detect problems that a simple screening can miss, such as as amblyopia (lazy eye), myopia (nearsightedness) and hyperopia (farsightedness) To find out more about having an eye exam, see the section: Eye Exam Information.
2) What are the risks facing a child who does not receive an eye exam before starting school?
Millions of children will start school this year with a vision problem that may inhibit their ability to learn.
When vision problems have an adverse effect on learning, they are referred to as learning-related vision problems. Learning-related vision problems can affect comprehension performance in reading, writing and concentration. According to one study, approximately 60% of students identified as "problem learners" have undetected vision problems.
One of the most important things parents can do to help ensure their children's ability to learn is to take them for a comprehensive eye exam before sending them back to school.
3) What are some warning signs that a child might have a vision problem?
Parents can help identify vision problems by being aware of their child's vision ABC's; Appearance, Behavior, and Complaints. Examples of appearance-related concerns include but are not limited to: crossed eyes, red-rimmed or watery eyes and swollen eyelids. Examples of behavior-related concerns are: rubbing eyes excessively, the inability to see distant things clearly and tilting one's head forward to see. Complaints can include: itching or burning eyes, dizziness after close-up work, and burred vision. For more information on warning signs, see ABC's of Possible Eye Trouble in Children.
If parents notice any of the listed symptoms, they should schedule an appointment to see an eye doctor.
4) How are behavioral problems an indication that a child's vision may be impaired?
According to the American Eye-Q™ survey, 39% of parents don't realize that behavioral problems can be an indication that a child's vision is impaired. A child with undetected vision problems may get frustrated or bored in school because he or she can't see the board, the teacher or read a book easily. Therefore, students with problems seeing sometimes act out in school. See: Learning Disabilities Related to Vision.
5) Many children already receive vision screenings before they enter school. Why is a comprehensive eye exam necessary as well?
Most vision screenings only check to determine how well a person can see at a distance. Comprehensive vision exams, however, are significantly more thorough. A comprehensive eye exam includes tests to determine myopia, hyperopia, astigmatism, eye coordination and eye muscle function, eye focusing abilities and an overall eye health exam, which in most cases involves dilation.
Vision screenings do not measure color vision or visual perception among other important visual abilities. Screenings may indicate a need for further evaluation, but often miss many children with vision problems. According to the AOA's Vision in Preschoolers study, screenings, even when performed by the most highly trained screeners, miss more 1/3 of children who should be referred for a comprehensive eye examination.
Eye exams are integral to diagnosing diseases and disorders in children, as well as diagnosing and treating eye and vision problems that, if left untreated, can lead to vision loss and other issues significant to a person's quality of life.
6) What specific things are tested during a comprehensive eye exam?
There are several essential elements an eye doctor will check during a comprehensive eye examination to help ensure learning is maximized through good vision.
- Visual acuity is measured at several distances so students can comfortably and efficiently read, work on the computer or see the chalkboard.
- Accommodation is an important skill that is tested. Eyes must be able to focus on a specific object, and easily shift focus from one object to another. This allows a child to move attention from a book to the chalkboard and back.
- Visual alignment and ocular motility is evaluated. Ideally, the muscles that aim each eye converge so that both eyes are aimed at the same object, refining depth perception.
- Eye teaming skills are assessed. These skills are critical to coordinating and aligning both eyes precisely so the brain can fuse the pictures it receives from each eye into a single image.
- Eye tracking skills are tested to determine whether the child can track across a page accurately and efficiently while reading, and can copy material quickly and easily from the chalkboard or another piece of paper.
- Testing preschoolers' color vision is important because a large part of the early educational process involves the use of color identification.
- Eye-hand-body coordination, critical for handwriting, throwing a ball or playing an instrument, and visual perception, used to interpret and understand visual information like form, size, orientation, texture and color perception, is another important visual function that is tested.
- Overall eye health is determined by examining the structures of the eye.
7) How often should children receive a comprehensive eye exam?
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that a child's first eye exam take place at 6 months of age. Unless problems are detected, the next exam should be at age 3, again before entering school and then every two years thereafter.
For more information on the frequency of children's eye exams, see: Eye Exam Information.
8) How many children have undetected vision problems?
According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), 1 in 4 children have a vision problem, many of which go undetected by parents and teachers. 87% of Eye-Q™ survey respondents didn't know how many children have undetected vision problems.
9) Where can I find an eye doctor in my area?
One way to find an eye doctor and set an appointment is by accessing the Find An Eye Doctor link.