In August, most children are getting ready for a new school year, whether in person or virtually - they gather their school supplies, get new clothes and may get a physical or required immunizations, but rarely do they add vision screenings to their "back-to-school" list. However, healthy and corrected vision is critical to a successful academic year. As a child grows, an untreated eye disease or condition becomes more difficult to correct. These can worsen and lead to other serious problems such as reading ability, focus, behavior, personality and social adjustment in school.
The National Optometric Association (NOA) has declared August as Children’s Eye Health and Safety Awareness Month. The Lighthouse for the Blind of the Palm Beaches and community partners such as the Caridad Center, South Florida Science Museum and Head Start, typically conduct back-to-school vision screenings on children this time of year, but due to COVID-19, these public activities have been postponed until it is safe to do so. Through the screenings, the Lighthouse and its partners educate parents and caregivers on the steps that should be taken to ensure that their children are provided with the best opportunity to have a successful school year through healthy vision.
“By diagnosing and treating vision problems early, it actually helps prevent vision loss later in life,” said Mary Allen, Director of Vision Services at Lighthouse for the Blind. “Vision is so instrumental in how a child develops. A child may be at higher risk of developing a vision problem if he or she was born prematurely (less than 32 weeks completed gestation); has a family history of vision disorders or has had an eye injury.”
Vision disorders can affect a babies’ ability to bond with their parent/caregiver, their ability to explore the world by reaching and grasping, and also impede development of fine and gross motor skills. One in every 4 school-age children have some form of vision problem requiring treatment, 24% of teens with correctable vision have the wrong prescription and 80% of all blindness and vision impairment is either preventable or treatable.