As tens of thousands of Iowa children start kindergarten, many will be taking basic vision screening tests.
Dr. Beth Triebel, an optometrist in Urbandale, says there’s a clear tie between vision and learning. “It’s amazing how many parents don’t get their children routine vision care,” Dr. Triebel says.
“Eighty-percent of learning is conducted through the vision system so it’s really important these children get checked out to be sure everything is on the level they need for school.” A national study finds 60% of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision problems.
Triebel says those vision screenings done in school are not enough and kids need to have a comprehensive vision exam performed. Triebel says: “The screenings usually just check for distance vision and acuity, but we need to look for other skills for school, such as how do the eyes track together? How do they focus up close? Do they have good depth perception? A lot of those just aren’t checked in screenings. You might feel a false sense of confidence that your child is okay because they passed the screening, but there could be some other issues there.”
Triebel says every child should have a comprehensive eye exam before starting school and every one to two years afterwards, depending on the findings. She says parents should be on the lookout for certain warning signs that may indicate their child has a vision problem.
“The most common things would be avoidance of wanting to read or look at things up close for long periods of time,” Triebel says. “Their eyes may water. You might see them rubbing their eyes frequently, closing an eye when they’re reading, holding things really close or excessively far away — those are things that parents can look for.” She says parents can help to protect their child’s vision, too.
“One of the big things is watching where the child is reading,” Triebel says. “A lot of times kids will lie on the floor, on their stomach, the book will be too close or they won’t have good lighting in the room. Make sure they are able to sit up appropriately to have a good working distance. Having good lighting is also really important as well.”
Other tips: a child watching TV should sit six-to-eight feet away from the television set; children should take periodic breaks to rest their eyes when reading, working on the computer, or playing video games; kids should wear appropriate eye protection in school activities where there is a risk of eye injuries.