Eye exams can help children succeed in the classroom


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As the new school year approaches, parents are ensuring their children are prepared with an annual physical, immunizations and back-to-school shopping. But an annual eye exam should also be part of a student's back-to-school routine, says the American Optometric Association's (AOA).

From ages 6 to 18, a child's vision can change frequently or unexpectedly, which can lead to behavioral and attention issues in school. The AOA is, therefore, encouraging parents to make comprehensive eye exams a priority.

Pediatric eye exams, the AOA points out, are most likely covered by most health insurance plans, including those sold in health insurance marketplaces. In fact, 54% of people were unaware that the Affordable Care Act now defines a comprehensive eye exam as an essential benefit and covers this expense, including glasses for children, annually according to the AOA's 2015 American Eye-Q survey.

The AOA also offers the following tips:

  • Look for indicators of vision and eye health issues: Common signals that your child may be experiencing a vision problem include covering one eye, holding reading materials close to the face, a short attention span and complaining of headaches or other discomfort.
  • Monitor their use of digital devices to prevent eye strain: Increased exposure to electronic devices in and out of the classroom can cause digital eye strain, including burning or itchy eyes, headaches, blurred vision and exhaustion. The AOA recommends following the 20-20-20 rule (taking a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away), blinking frequently and adjusting your child's computer screen to prevent glare can prevent discomfort.
  • Have them wear proper eye protection for sports and outdoor activities: Well-fitting, protective eye wear and quality sunglasses that offer UV protection are also critical to maintaining key visual skills for sports and preventing injuries.

"One in four children has an undiagnosed vision problem because changes in their eyesight go unrecognized by both the child and their parents or guardian," said Andrea Thau, OD, president of the AOA. "Making a comprehensive eye examination a priority this year is one of the single most important investments you can make in your child's education and overall health. While schools typically offer basic vision screenings, these often create a false sense of security by missing significant problems. A comprehensive eye exam is the only way to properly diagnose and treat vision and eye health issues."