Eye exam required for children entering public school for first time

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Parents will soon be busy making their back-to-school lists. School supplies and new clothes may be at the top of those lists, but an eye exam should be included as well.

State law requires that children ages 3 through 6 who are entering a public school or preschool program for the first time have a vision exam.

“Studies show that vision problems are a major factor in limiting children’s abilities to learn and succeed,” said Dr. Tonia Batts, an optometrist in Mayfield, Ky. “Having children’s eyes examined is one of the most important things parents can do to support their children’s education and good health.”

 Up to 13 percent of children age 5 and younger have some type of vision condition. After age 5, that number increases to 25 percent.

“We encourage all parents to have their children’s eyes examined because many problems may not be obvious to them or their children’s teachers,” Batts said. “Young children don’t realize that the way they see the world may not be the way it should be.  Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent loss of sight from amblyopia, which is commonly called lazy eye. Unfortunately, one-half of all cases of amblyopia are not diagnosed until after age 5, when it is difficult to correct.”

Amblyopia is the leading cause of vision loss in people under age 40 -- more than injuries or any other disease. However, it is almost 100 percent treatable if detected early.

Batts also said an eye examination is particularly important if your child exhibits any of these signs of possible eye problems:

•Loses place while reading, holds the book closer than normal or uses his finger to maintain his place while reading.

•Avoids close work.

•Tends to rub her eyes.

•Complains of frequent headaches.

•Turns or tilts his head, or squints, to use only one eye.

•Omits or confuses small words when reading aloud.

•Consistently performs below academic potential.

 Many private insurance plans, Medicaid and KCHIP cover these services. Private programs also are available to help families meet these expenses, such as the Kentucky Vision Project, which is sponsored by the Kentucky Optometric Association and has donated millions of dollars in vision care. Sight for Students and the Lion’s Club are other programs that can help.