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Letters to the Editor - Aug. 13, 2008

Are you certain your child can see clearly?

To the editor:

It's back-to-school time once again. Like many conscientious parents, you have equipped your child for school with all the appropriate supplies, like sharpened pencils, notebook paper, composition books, and glue sticks. But is your child fully prepared for optimal learning?

Since about 80 percent of learning in a child's first 12 years comes through the eyes, it is very important to ensure that Georgia's school-aged children can see properly. Prevent Blindness Georgia recommends that vision screenings and professional eye examinations are part of a continuum of vision care for children with vision checks at infancy, six months, three years, five years, and follow-ups as needed.

In Georgia and across the nation, five percent of preschool children have significant visual impairment. Many of these children will develop amblyopia or "lazy eye" blindness if their eye conditions are not diagnosed and treated early. Data shows that sight can be saved in 98 percent of children, if treatment is begun by age four. At age six, only 20 percent of children's sight can be saved, and if treatment is delayed until age ten, these children may be blind in one eye for a lifetime. Amblyopia is responsible for more vision loss in people aged 45 and younger than all other eye diseases and trauma combined.

Childhood vision issues are not always apparent as children learn to compensate for vision loss as they develop. Many pediatricians delay vision screening until the child's fifth- or sixth-year checkups when permanent vision loss may have already resulted.

Vision issues in young children can be detected by such simple tools as a Lea Symbols Chart and a test using 3-D glasses. Many pediatricians' offices are now using these tools which have been endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Prevent Blindness America as the best evidenced-based method of detecting vision issues in young children.

Youngsters should not be screened with vision acuity machines as they are not age-appropriate and may not be effective in detecting amblyopia.

Prevent Blindness Georgia is now training pediatric offices to screen young children using these standards properly. For the sake of your child, make sure that he or she can see properly and that your child's doctor is screening children appropriately and at an early age.

For more information about this important topic, please contact Prevent Blindness Georgia at (404) 266-2020, or e-mail info@pbga.org, or visit www.pbga.org.

JENNY POMEROY, CEO

Prevent Blindness Georgia