Bad vision affecting student learning

HAMPTON — Doctors say eye health can be crucial to a child’s education. For that reason, one local eye doctor is giving parents the opportunity to schedule an eye exam before school is back in session.

Dr. Crystal Gardner with Advance Family Eyecare in Hampton said, “The back-to-school season is an ideal time” for parents to take their children to an eye doctor for a comprehensive exam.

“Proper vision detection and correction in young children may affect much more than their ability to see clearly,” said Gardner. “Without a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, many children have vision problems that can go undiagnosed, and may even be misdiagnosed as a learning disability.”

According to a study by the American Optometric Association (AOA), undetected vision problems may affect a student’s ability to learn. The study suggests that more than 10 million children in the United States suffer from undetected vision problems; even eye exams offered at public schools are often inadequate.

“While helpful, a school vision test or pediatrician’s screening is not a substitute for a thorough eye exam,” said Gardner.

She said the AOA recommends for parents to have their child receive a comprehensive eye exams at 6 months old, 3 years of age and every one to two years thereafter.

Children who are entering preschool or kindergarten benefit the most from comprehensive eye exams, though they rarely receive them enough, said Gardner. Currently, 14 percent of children under the age of 6 have received a comprehensive eye exam, according to the U.S. Center of Health Statistics.

“An early comprehensive eye exam evaluates a child’s vision, eye-teaming skills and tracking skills as well as health,” said Gardner. “It’s the best way to avoid problems down the road.”

She said vision impairments in children at least 6 years of age that can be detected through an eye exam are usually easy to correct.

Some common vision problems are nearsightedness, farsightedness, and amblyopia, known as the lazy eye she said.

“Children may not recognize that they have a vision problem,” said Gardner. “Particularly children who are too young to know the alphabet or even speak.”