Your child has recently complained about her vision being fuzzy, or you notice your son is struggling to read comfortably, holding books close to his face and squinting. You think about taking your child to the eye doctor, then remember that the elementary school sometimes does some sort of eye exam. Some research on the internet pulls up various eye charts and self-diagnosis exercises for vision. You perform the exercises with your child and see the school nurse, who has your child look at an eye chart from a certain distance. Yes, your child needs some reading glasses, but you are fairly certain you can find a pair at your local big-box store that will work well.
This may be a fictitious scenario, but some parents may believe that saving a little money and looking for substitutes for a comprehensive eye exam for their child is good enough, at least in the short term. Are there any acceptable substitutes?
Children’s Comprehensive Eye Exams
A comprehensive eye exam, recommended for children each year before school starts by the American Optometric Association, is the only vision examination that can diagnose vision problems before symptoms become obvious. It is the only vision examination that can provide concrete answers to negative visual symptoms. And it is a stepping stone to getting help for vision-related problems, such as dyslexia, difficulty with reading or math, and even symptoms that present themselves closer to ADHD than visual problems.
Why is a school vision screening not enough? It only measures visual acuity (how well you can see over a certain distance). Vision is much more complex than just acuity, and there is a wide range of skills that your child’s eyes and brain must learn in order to see (and process sight) well. Acuity may be perfect in a child, but his or her visual system may still have issues that will contribute to problems learning. A comprehensive vision exam done by an optometrist measures skills beyond acuity, provides a diagnosis if there are problems, and sets a path in place for overcoming those problems through glasses, vision therapy, and even surgery, if necessary. And a comprehensive exam is recommended each year before school starts because of the fast-paced physical development that a child goes through. Also, if the exam is completed before school starts, there is a better chance that any visual problems can be fixed or at least helped before they turn into classroom problems.
If your child has not yet had a comprehensive eye exam this school year, contact us to set one up. And remember, a perfect score on the school vision screening does not indicate whether your child’s visual system is functioning normally, only that your child can see well over a distance.