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Making Back to School Eye Exams a Priority


Published Aug 14, 2020 • by AHIP

Many health insurance providers cover comprehensive eye exams for kids.

A new school year is just around the corner, and parents across the nation will soon be shopping for supplies, scheduling physicals, and making preparations for their children. Unfortunately, one preparation that is often overlooked is a back-to-school eye exam.

We know this school year will be different from others as our country faces the challenges of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. But whether children will receive instruction in the classroom, online, or via a combination of both, an eye exam should be part of your back-to-school process.

According to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2015 American Eye-Q® survey, nearly 90% of parents believe that the vision screenings provided by schools alone are effective in detecting vision problems. However, experts agree these occasional screenings should not be relied upon solely to identify eye and health conditions in kids.

Vision and learning are intimately related. In fact, 1 in 4 children in the United States has an undetected vision problem that may affect their performance at school if left untreated. Often children with vision problems may appear to have a learning disability. However, learning-related vision problems are not learning disabilities. Additionally, children with learning disabilities may have their symptoms worsened by an uncorrected vision problem.

If a child is suspected of having challenges reading or learning difficulties, they should have a comprehensive eye exam to rule out the need for glasses.

The recommendations by the AOA are as follows:

  • Infants should have their first comprehensive eye exam at six months of age.
  • Children should have another eye exam at age 3, and before the first grade between the age of 5 or 6.
  • For school-aged children, the AOA recommends an eye exam every other year if no vision correction is required.
  • Children who need glasses or contact lenses should have an annual eye exam or as recommended by their optometrist or ophthalmologist.

The AOA recommends these eye health and safety tips to parents:

  1. Health insurance covers most pediatric eye exams: More than half of individuals surveyed did not know that the Affordable Care Act defines a comprehensive eye exam as an essential benefit and covers this expense, including glasses for children. Many health insurance providers cover comprehensive pediatric eye exams.
  2. Pay close attention to vision issues: Signs a child may be experiencing a vision problem include covering one eye, reading with materials too close to the face, a short attention span, and complaints of headaches or discomfort.
  3. Monitor the use of digital devices: Lengthy exposure to electronic devices can cause digital eye strain. Some symptoms may include burning or itchy eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and exhaustion. The AOA recommends taking breaks every 20 minutes and adjusting the computer screen to prevent glare.
  4. Wear appropriate eye protection: Ensure children use protective eyewear when playing sports and sunglasses that provide UV defense while outdoors.

The AOA encourages parents to begin the school year on a healthy note by making a comprehensive eye exam a priority. It may be one of the most important investments you make in your child’s health and education this year.