Studies find 80% of learning comes through vision, which is part of the reason why it’s so important kids have their eyes tested before they start school.
West Des Moines optometrist Dr. Beth Triebel says just because a child doesn’t complain doesn’t mean there’s not a problem — which may be easily remedied.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as we find a need for glasses because maybe the board is blurry, but a lot of times, vision can impact how long they can sit still and read and look at things,” Dr. Triebel says. “It might get blurry, they might be getting headaches, the print might even look like it’s moving and jumping and running around on them, which can make learning all the letters and reading really difficult.”
Some school districts in Iowa require vision screenings before a child starts school, but she says those tests don’t always reveal all potential problem areas.
“Screenings pick up some things but if you want to really be sure your child is ready, nothing beats a comprehensive eye exam,” Triebel says. “We recommend that before school, anytime between the ages of 3 and 5, and as they’re getting older, their eyes can change also. So, every couple of years, it’s a good idea to get a good exam.”
A recent study found 60% of students who were identified as problem learners had undetected vision problems, while one in four children has a vision problem.
Statewide, she says. there is no requirement that Iowa kids’ eyes be tested.
“There’s no mandatory vision exam,” Triebel says. “There was something that just passed this last year about screenings. They wanted to try to get screenings for children before they start school but it’s still being worked out in the fine details. There could be something coming down the road with that.”
Most vision skills are developed to adult levels by just six months of age, so she recommends getting an initial exam between 6 and 12 months of age to make sure everything is healthy and on track.