SURVEY REVEALS PARENTS’ CONFUSION ABOUT WHEN AND HOW OFTEN KIDS SHOULD VISIT THE EYE DOCTOR FOR A COMPREHENSIVE EYE EXAM
As much as 80 percent of your child’s learning is visual, with children spending most of the school day reading, looking at a blackboard, and using their laptops and tablets. Come back-to-school season, parents often overlook one of the most critical learning tools – their child’s eyes. Half of parents in the US do not bring their school-age children for a back-to-school eye exam, according to a recent study.
Although three out of four respondents (76%) felt that sight was their most important sense. But their attitudes don’t match their actions for themselves or their kids. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), kids should have their first comprehensive vision assessment at six months of age to ensure the eyes are working together and to detect any vision problems early, followed by a comprehensive eye exam at age three, age five, and every year thereafter throughout the school years. However, one in five parents did not take their kids to the eye doctor for the first time until they were school age. Additionally, one in 10 has never taken their child to see an eye doctor.
“It may seem strange, but kids who don’t even read or even speak can still have a comprehensive eye exam. The connection between eyes and the brain starts early. As an optometrist, I encourage parents to put back-to-school eye exams at the top of their list,” said Dr. David Bosak, OD. “Kids don’t know what’s normal and what’s not when it comes to what they see. When vision problems aren’t found early, your child will be at a disadvantage before they even start school.”
Parents incorrectly assume school or pediatric vision screenings are the same as a comprehensive eye exam.
More than one-third of moms state their child didn’t need a comprehensive eye exam because their kids already have their eyes checked in school. Vision screenings only test for distance vision and visual sharpness and can miss up to 80% of vision problems, including serious conditions like amblyopia (lazy eye), which can lead to vision loss if not treated.
A child can easily pass a vision screening, but not be able to see well enough to read a book. During a comprehensive eye exam, optometrists look at things a school vision screening will not, such as the overall health of the eyes, how the eyes work together, and their ability to focus. Additionally, your annual eye exam looks at more than just eyesight. Optometrists can detect other health problems including diabetes and hypertension.
Parents are delaying eye exams until kids start school.
One in four parents surveyed didn’t take their children to the eye doctor until they were at least five years old. Even though many common vision problems are detectable from infancy, most parents won’t take their child for a comprehensive eye exam until they reach school age. Findings show almost half of the kids have had an eye exam by the age of six, compared to only 10% for those from birth to age five. This is very unfortunate considering that 90 percent of brain development occurs between birth and age five.
Long before most kids step foot into a classroom, the foundation is being laid for a lifetime of learning, and without proper vision, that foundation is weaker than it should be.
“You don’t have to wait for back-to-school season to get your child an eye exam. But if your kids haven’t had their annual eye exam this year, or at all, now is a great time to do so,” said Dr. Bosak. “Kids use their vision throughout the school day, while doing homework and during sports and games. Optometrists are here to partner with parents, teachers and school nurses to stay on top of vision changes and make sure kids have the resources they need to do their best in school.”
How Parents ‘See’ Eye Health, by the Numbers
Three in four parents (76 percent) said sight is the most important sense but only 50 percent take their kids for an annual eye exam. By comparison, nearly 75 percent of parents take their children to the dentist and primary care doctor before school begins each year
Less than 10 percent of parents know the recommended age for a child’s first comprehensive vision assessment (six months)
One in five parents (21 percent) did not take their kids to the eye doctor for the first time until they were school age (at least five years old)
One in 10 parents (13 percent) has never taken their kids to the eye doctor
Among parents who do not bring their children to the eye doctor annually, 72 percent of moms and 48 percent of dads said they would be motivated to do so if their child complains of discomfort or changes in vision
More than one-third (37 percent) of moms said they don’t take their kids to the eye doctor because they already get a school vision screening; even though 50 percent said the eye doctor exam is more comprehensive