By Dr. Ann Morrison, Binocular Vision and Pediatrics Advanced Practice Fellow at Ohio State College of Optometry.
As school starts back up in the next couple of weeks, you should be advocating the importance of regular back to school eye examinations to your patients. It has been estimated that up to 80% of learning is visual. This should be a statistic that you promote to your patients, as it is a true testament to the importance of having good vision in the classroom.
As we all know, having good vision is more than reading 20/20 on an acuity chart. According to the Center for Disease Control, vision disabilities are one of the most prevalent disabling conditions among children. Many studies have linked poor academic performance with ocular problems [1-3].
Parents are always amazed at the responses their children will give me when I ask them questions about their eyes during an examination. Some of the questions I might ask a child are: “Do you ever see the words on the page split in to two? Do they get fuzzy sometimes? Do they ever look like they are swimming?”. When a child responds “yes” to any of these types of questions, the parents quickly justify that their child never complained of those things to them. I reassure them that they are not bad parents and that children often assume that everyone else sees the way they do. I explain that unless someone explicitly tells them that these types of symptoms are not normal, a child typically will not complain.
When I have a discussion with my patients about the importance of comprehensive eye exams, I cannot begin to count how many of them think that the vision screening administered at their child’s school or at their pediatrician well-visit is counted as a comprehensive eye examination. While screenings are a great public health implementation, it is important to spend the time educating your patients on the value of a comprehensive dilated eye examination and explain that many disorders including far-sightedness, eye teaming and focusing problems are often missed in screenings that take place in the school or at their pediatrician’s office. These types of disorders can impede a child’s ability to focus and keep up with the rest of their peers.
These conversations are a great segue into discussing the Infant-See program, explaining that comprehensive eye care should start by the time a baby is one year old. This topic also sheds light on the importance of the Realeyes program, as it educates children about their eyes and the importance of visiting an eye doctor. Make sure you are making your patients aware of these programs!
I’ll leave you with a link to fantastic video put together by the One Sight program who has set up a full service optical center and exam lane inside the Oyler School in Cincinnati. What they are doing in this school is a testament to how powerful a single pair of glasses can be for a child in need.
- Narayanasamy, S., et al., Impact of Simulated Hyperopia on Academic-Related Performance in Children. Optom Vis Sci, 2014.
- Quaid, P. and T. Simpson, Association between reading speed, cycloplegic refractive error, and oculomotor function in reading disabled children versus controls. Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol, 2013. 251(1): p. 169-87.
- Rosner, J. and J. Rosner, The relationship between moderate hyperopia and academic achievement: how much plus is enough? J Am Optom Assoc, 1997. 68(10): p. 648-50.