School Screenings - Just the Beginning
Most public schools in the United States are required to test children's vision and hearing during the school year. While such screenings can be helpful in identifying potential issues, relying on school vision screenings is not enough to fully evaluate a child's vision or health.
Screenings vs. Eye Exams
Vision screenings are designed to assess a child's ability to see far away, and may also check for color blindness. Comprehensive eye exams evaluate the entire structure of the eye and also allow the doctor to view nerves and blood vessels, providing a glimpse into a child's overall health. Eye doctors will also check for farsightedness, which is more common in younger children.
Ineffectiveness of Screenings
While screenings can help "fill in the gap" for the 2/3 of school-age children who have not received a vision assessment (according to the Centers for Disease Control), in-school screenings are not cure-alls. In fact, most screenings are conducted by school or volunteer staff rather than by eye care professionals. And the limited scope of the screenings means between 30% and 60% of problems are missed, according to the journal Ophthalmology.
Lack of Follow-Up Care
Sadly, most children who do not pass a vision screening never receive follow-up exams with an eye care professional. A study by the New York City Health Department in 2004 showed that up to 80% of first graders and kindergarteners who failed a school screening never saw an eye doctor. The journal Ophthalmology supports that with their findings that between 40% and 67% of children who fail a vision screening do not receive follow-up care.
Parents Can Make a Difference
As a parent or guardian, you can make the most out of your child's vision screening by scheduling appropriate follow-up care upon notification from the school. It's also important to have your child's visual health evaluated by an eye care professional before he or she starts school and annually (or at the frequency recommended by your eye doctor). Eighty percent of a child's learning comes through their sight*; addressing vision problems early can help kids have happier, more productive childhoods.
*Source: American Optometric Association