Make a Difference in Children’s Lives

By Dr. Ann Rea Miller

Children’s vision has always been something I’ve actively participated in since graduating optometry school. Presenting RealEyes to children in schools and seeing babies 6-12 months through the InfantSEE program just seemed like something I needed to be involved in. It seemed natural to me that optometrists should focus on kids vision with our knowledge that 80% of what we learn is through our eyes. Having poor vision while children are in school can lead to poor grades, children who become disruptive because they can’t see what is being taught, get bored and may be unable to verbalize their problems. Kids may even be misdiagnosed with ADHD or unnecessary IEPs may be issued which could potentially cause unnecessary emotional turmoil for children and/or their families.

So many times after I examine a child and tell their parent(s) about the problem I’m finding with the child’s eyes, the parent(s) are shocked because their child did not tell them they were having problems. Parents feel guilty and beat themselves up about why they didn’t take their child to see me sooner. We all know that some people tolerate all kinds of blur without complaining, especially children who do not have expectations of what their vision should be. I love that we, as optometrists, are able to have a positive impact on these children’s lives and allow them clarity through contact lenses or glasses to function at a higher level.

I have done many RealEyes presentations since graduating. Some go better than others and just when you feel like the students may not have gotten the message as well as I was intending, I get clarity to my own perceptions of what the children really got out of my presentations.

Recently I presented to a school and really was concerned that the children may not have gotten the messages I was trying to teach them about their eyes, vision, and getting their eyes checked yearly to keep their eyes healthy. After my presentations that day, I really started to question whether I should have spent my time that day versus seeing patients and making money, or spending time with my son. My questioning was put to a halt when I received over 20 thank you letters from kids who wrote to me about what they enjoyed when I was in their classroom and the favorite thing they learned about their eyes…they really had paid attention! We need to remember that kids’ brains are like sponges and they soak in so much knowledge. We need to remember that kids are our future.

We need to take the time to educate them on the importance of their vision and eye health. It amazes me how often I have a child who comes into the office because they have told their parent(s) about what they learned through my presentation and the child was made aware of what blurry vision was and they realized they were experiencing it. Our goal should be to examine all young children and treat vision problems when needed, therefore allowing children the ability to learn more easily by having clear vision. I urge everyone to take the time to impact young kids’ lives through RealEyes and InfantSEE to provide the knowledge and expertise we are able to provide. As a bonus, remember that one day the children you impact (and the rest of their family) may become your patients in the process.

Pediatric Eye Care: Our Duty to Educate and Promote Available Programs

By: Kari R. Cardiff, O.D.

We all can agree that proper eye care is essential for infants and children. Why then are we still encountering a twelve-year-old child with refractive amblyopia who has never been examined and has never worn glasses or patched? I believe it is partly because the child’s family was never told to get their child’s eyes examined. Since the child has clear vision in one eye, the child never complained. Perhaps the child had a school screening but the good eye was tested first and the child memorized the letters? I feel that conversations about InfantSEE, RealEyes, and pediatric eye care in general should be a standard in our everyday lives as eye doctors. Whether the child is seven months old or twelve years old, normal visual development and clarity is essential for taking in all the world has to offer.

During the first several months of a typical child’s life, the brain is intensely attending to all new sights, sounds, tastes, and touches. When the brain is so accepting of new information and change, it can be easily transformed for the better or for the worse. For instance, any disruption in binocular vision in a young child can result in amblyopia. We are aware of the fact that a non-premature, developmentally classic baby should have their first eye exam between six months and twelve months old. When is the last time you told someone this or about the InfantSEE program and the importance of an eye exam before age 1? I take advantage of every opportunity to inform people about these things. Here are some examples of situations where I have had the opportunity to educate on InfantSEE: when examining an expecting parent (female or male); when examining older siblings of infants; and in conversations with friends and family. This is my usual statement: “Did you know I offer free eye examinations to babies 6-12 months old here? It is through a program called InfantSEE. We will assess the baby’s visual behavior, ocular health, glasses prescription, and eye alignment. This exam can be imperative for the baby’s vision development. A baby’s eye examination is quite different than an adult’s. Don’t worry, I won’t be asking them what is better, 1 or 2?” After the exam, I send a report to the patient’s family and pediatrician to keep everyone informed. Even if you do not participate in the InfantSEE program, I am sure the Ohio Optometric Association would be happy to connect you with someone who does.

As all of us were taught, 80% of learning occurs through vision. Typical school-aged children require clear and comfortable vision for effective learning. Most school nurse and pediatrician office screenings do a wonderful job of prioritizing patients and separating out the normal from abnormal; however, I feel that it is still important to remind parents, teachers, pediatricians, and school nurses that nothing replaces a complete and dilated eye examination with an eye doctor who is comfortable seeing children.

I am a RealEyes presenter and the programs and curriculum are always fantastic and age-appropriate. But I strongly believe the most important part comes at the end of presentation when I hand out the worksheets and state, “Please go home and show this to your family. Tell them that you want to go to the eye doctor for an examination. Tell them about what you learned today. Even though you may think you see well, an eye doctor can make sure your eyes are healthy and are functioning at the best of their ability.”  Even if only 25% of the children go home and follow through, that is still 25% more children getting eye examinations. For ‘Sammy Safe-eyes,’ the pre-K and Kindergarten curriculum, I inform kids that when they sign their name at the bottom of the first page this acts as a promise that they will go home and share what they have learned with their family. Also, with each visit to the school, I am able to interact with school nurses and teachers. I always heighten their awareness regarding the importance of eye care. Some teachers do not know about VSP school vouchers for students with suspected poor vision and limited resources for eye care. I always give out my business cards to teachers and school nurses.  I make it a point of letting them know that they should not hesitate to call me with questions or concerns about their students. Additionally, I also often ask friends and family who are teachers in Ohio if RealEyes is presented at their school. If it is not, I take whatever steps I can to further the prospects of these schools having the program.

We should all strive to take every opportunity to educate parents, teachers, nurses, pediatricians, and friends about the importance and significance of appropriate vision care for all of the infants and children we encounter. A definite here is that we all love eye care.  Who doesn’t love kids? No eye doctor can deny their love of talking about eye balls! I believe that more consistent discussions and proactive education in regards to InfantSEE, RealEyes, and general pediatric eye care can make a priceless difference in countless numbers of children’s lives.  Please do your part.

Realeyes Starts Off Strong in 2014

Realeyes Westside Academy Jan 2014Realeyes staff and volunteer eye doctors have presented to more than 4,300 students in 38 Ohio schools so far in 2014.

In January, during presentations to pre-kindergarten, first, third and sixth grade classes at Edon Northwest Elementary School (Williams County), a third-grade student claimed the presentation was “better than recess!”

A week later, at multiple presentations at Westside Academy, Columbus (Franklin County), kindergarten students sang the tunes of “Sammy Safe-Eyes,” first-grade students participated in the penlight activity portion of “The Adventures of Rhet & Tina,” and third-grade students helped solve “The Case of Vinny Vision.”

Realeyes teaches students about the importance of vision health and eye safety and is presented at no charge by doctors in the community to pre-school through eighth-grade classes. Realeyes is funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Health’s Save Our Sight Fund. Contact the Ohio Optometric Association for additional information at 800-874-9111; email:

Top Realeyes Presenters


Half-way through this school year, Realeyes presenters are scheduled to visit schools in 70 of 88 Ohio counties.

Realeyes is presented by Ohio optometrists in pre-school through eighth-grade classrooms in their communities to teach students about the importance of vision health and eye safety. Since its start in 2000, Realeyes has been presented to more than 700,000 students.


The top five Realeyes presenters so far this year (2013-14) are:

Dr Rambeau cropped


Dr. Renee Rambeau – 930 students in 36 presentations in Miami County




Dr Kristen Thompson


Dr. Kristen Thompson – 700 students in 17 presentations in Clark County



Dr. Stephen Sasala


Dr. Stephen Sasala – 620 students in 17 presentations in Cuyahoga County




Dr Brooke Bader cropped


Dr. Brooke Bader – 600 students in 11 presentations in Lorain County



Dr Susan Truitt


Dr. Susan Truitt – 500 students in 15 presentations in Union County



Realeyes is presented by Ohio optometrists in pre-school through eighth-grade classrooms in their communities to teach students about the importance of vision health and eye safety. Since its start in 2000, Realeyes has been presented to more than 700,000 students.

Realeyes is funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Health’s Save Our Sight Fund. Contact the Ohio Optometric Association for additional information at 800-874-9111; email:

Vision and Students on Individualized Education Programs

Imagine strugglgirl new glassesing to determine the numbers on a clock, distinguish letters on a sign or see the number on a school bus. Imagine getting a headache when reading, doing homework or viewing the board in the classroom. For a student to be able to learn, he or she must be able to see. For students referred to an Individualized Education Program (IEP), this is even more important because vision is critical to improving performance in school.

Ohio law requires that students referred to an IEP must receive an eye exam from an eye doctor. Senator Randy Gardner of Bowling Green said, “Through my family’s experience, I know how important good vision is to the learning process. Correcting vision problems early on can help improve a child’s performance in school.”

Parents need to be informed of this requirement so they can schedule an appointment with an optometrist or ophthalmologist, and then ask the doctor to send a copy of the exam form to the school. Parents should schedule the appointment with the eye doctor within 90 days after the student is initially identified with learning disabilities. If the student had an eye exam during the previous nine months, the requirement is already met. Be sure to inform your school’s IEP coordinator about this state law.

Why is an eye exam required for students referred to special education programs?

Since 80 percent of learning is through vision, a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor—optometrist or ophthalmologist—can detect and correct vision problems, which could improve the child’s performance in school. Although one in four school-aged children have a vision disorder, about 70 percent of students on an IEP have an undiagnosed vision disorder. Eliminating or correcting vision problems is the first step to helping these students.

If the eye exam is not done within 90 days of identification for IEP, can the student attend school?

The goal is to help students. Students will not be kept out of school if the eye exam requirement is not met.

Why is an eye exam needed?

While school nurses may detect a vision problem through a vision screening, vision screenings never diagnose or treat a vision disorder. A comprehensive eye exam is a detailed assessment of the overall eye and vision health including measuring for distance vision, eye alignment, focusing, eye shape, depth perception, and more. Eye doctors are trained to make a definitive diagnosis and prescribe treatment such as glasses, contact lenses and medication.

One aspect of learning preparation that is often overlooked is good vision, which is essential for a child to learn. A trip to an eye doctor can help students. Teachers are in a unique position to help students and parents understand the importance of regular eye exams.

“Healthy eyes and clear vision can make all the difference in how a child learns and preforms in the classroom,” said Karla Zadnik, OD, PhD, Associate Dean at The Ohio State University College of Optometry and medical director of Realeyes. “Poor vision makes a child work harder in the classroom, which can result in lower grades. A comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor is the best way to ensure vision is not holding a child back.”

Realeyes at Health Fairs

OOA staff presented the Realeyes exhibit at 10 to 15 health fairs and conferences throughout the summer months. In order to attract students to the booth so they can learn about the value of taking care of their eyes, games and prizes dealing with vision are offered.

cornholeFirst, they are engaged in an activity such as cornhole or the football toss game while wearing glasses that simulate vision conditions followed up by a discussion about the importance of seeing as good as you can see and visiting the eye doctor who can diagnose and treat vision disorders.994837_166695736843608_458002876_n

Second, they visit a table where they are asked to name ways to protect their eyes (swimming goggles, protective batting helmets, eating foods that can help prevent eye diseases).



Third, they play Plinko to win “protection for their eyes” (UV sunglasses/hats/foods that prevent eye diseases).

table setupFourth, they receive take-home handouts that provide information about eye and vision care.

If you would like to help Realeyes at a future health fair, please send an email to

Realeyes in Brown County

IMG_2181Realeyes presented all four curricula – Sammy Safe-Eyes, Rhet & Tina, Vinny Vision, and What Your EYE-Q – to over 400 students at Fayetteville-Perry Local Schools (Brown County) May 28.

Kindergarten students played games and sang songs during Sammy Safe-Eyes. Puppets Rhet and Tina starred in the presentation to 1st and 2nd grade students. Optical illusions were used to solve a mystery about Vinny Vision for 3rd and 4th grade students. The 6th grade students participated in lab activities during What’s Your EYE-Q.

Zelda Weaver Searls, program coordinator for Ohio Department of Health Save Our Sight which funds Realeyes, was a special guest.

Please contact the OOA to schedule a presentation.

Why Realeyes Is Important

During the past 12 school years, the Realeyes curriculum has been presented by over 550 optometrists and staff to more than 650,000 students in 18,000 classrooms in Ohio. The goal is to educate students (and along the way, parents, teachers, school officials and others) about the importance of vision care and eye safety. Through thousands of returned pre- and post-tests, student participants in Realeyes reveal that their knowledge of eye and vision health has grown. Through 9,500 teacher evaluations that have been collected, the average rating for the Realeyes presentations is 4.8 out of 5.0. Stories are told of students receiving vision correction, understanding the importance vision to learning, taking better care of their eyes, and wearing their glasses as a result of the Realeyes presentation. Realeyes is a powerful advocacy message about vision, and everything needed for a Realeyes presentation is provided by the OOA.

Realeyes is funded by a grant from the Ohio Department of Health through donations raised from $1 contributions by Ohioans at the time they renew their license plates.realeyes image copy

School Nurse Eye Kits

IMG_2021Thank you to Alcon for providing the solutions that are in the emergency eye kits Realeyes distributes to school nurses.  The kits include EYE-STREAM®, OPTI-FREE® PureMoist® MPDS contact lens solution, contact lens cases, penlight, eyeglass repair kit and an eye emergency instruction sheet.  School nurses from more than 2,000 schools have requested the popular kits supplied by the Ohio Optometric Association.