As tens of thousands of Iowa children prepare to go back to school, a study finds one in four of them has a vision problem.
Urbandale optometrist Dr. Beth Triebel says kids may not be up-front about having a problem with their sight so parents need to be watchful for warning signs.
“A lot of times you’ll notice the kids squinting to see things,” Dr. Triebel says. “If they’re reading, they may turn their head funny, close an eye or rub their eyes a lot after reading. They may get very close to the reading material or move it really far away.”
Beginning this school year, all incoming kindergartners and 3rd graders in Iowa are required to have a vision screening or an eye exam. Triebel says there are simple vision tests that can be performed on children as young as infants which can spot potential problems very early.
“There’s a free program called InfantSEE that you can get your child in to get that very basic, preliminary exam to look for any red flags that could be a problem later,” Triebel says. “After that, I typically recommend an exam before kindergarten, between ages 3 and 5, and then after that, every couple of years is a good idea.”
Since 80% of all learning is visual, she says good vision is important in the classroom. A study finds 60% of students who are identified as “problem learners” have undetected vision problems.
“There could be some underlying vision problems that could either be the cause of it or certainly add to that type of behavior,” Triebel says. “It’s very important that if your child is having trouble in school or having trouble learning, that you get a comprehensive eye exam and make sure everything is working right.”
Triebel offers a few suggestions for things parents can do to protect their child’s vision, including:
- provide a well-lit, comfortable area for reading and homework
- a child watching TV should sit 6 to 8 feet away from the television set
- children should take frequent breaks to rest their eyes while reading, working on a computer or playing video games
- wear appropriate eye protection in activities where there is a risk of eye injury
- time away from school should allow for creative play time to help his or her vision develop properly