Good vision: key to school success

Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology

It’s back-to-school time and parents are prepared with their children’s enrollment forms, orientation schedules and immunizations — but what about their eyes?

Most children have healthy eyes. But because there are conditions that can threaten good vision, the Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology reminds parents that good vision and eye health are key to students’ ability to do well in the classroom.

Vision screening by a school nurse, pediatrician or other qualified health provider is the best way to ensure healthy vision in children. Eyes should be examined during regular pediatric appointments and vision testing should be conducted around age three. If there are issues, they’ll be referred to a pediatric ophthalmologist for a comprehensive eye exam.

Parents should be aware of signs that may indicate their child has vision problems, including:
• wandering or crossed eyes
• a family history of childhood vision problems
• disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects
• squinting or turning the head in an unusual manner while watching television

Nearly 25 percent of school-aged children have vision problems. Of children ages 3 to 5, close to one in 20 has a problem that could result in permanent vision loss if left untreated. Parents should talk to their children’s pediatrician if they suspect any of the following eye problems:

• amblyopia (lazy eye)
• strabismus (crossed eyes)
• ptosis (drooping of the eyelid)
• color deficiency (color blindness)
• refractive errors (nearsightedness, farsightedness and astigmatism)

It is also important for parents to know how vision does — and does not — play a role for children with learning disabilities. Learning disabilities result from the brain’s misinterpretation of images received and relayed by the eyes, rather than from structural or functional eye problems. Learning disabilities are not treatable by eye exercises or vision therapy. If learning disabilities are suspected, students may need testing, neurological exams, and treatment.
For more information on children’s vision and eye health and safety, visit www.geteyesmart.org

— The Minnesota Academy of Ophthalmology is the state association of eye physicians and surgeons.

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