No Child Should Struggle with Poor Vision

Last month, my life changed forever through the arrival of my first grandchild. This tiny little boy entered the world without a care – whisked away by doctors and nurses who attended to his every need and ensured that he had a perfect start at life.  Moments after his birth, he experienced numerous physical evaluations – including an assessment of his eyes.

Only 15 short years before that moment, his father received his first pair of eyeglasses. At age seven, my son was experiencing headaches, motion sickness, and dizziness unrelated to any kind of illness. Numerous doctor visits and tests had proven he was a perfectly healthy child – but he was suffering from an unseen issue. I was an educated parent who did “everything right” for my children – they felt loved, nourished and protected, and received quality medical and dental care.

Soon after receiving a clean bill of health from my son’s pediatrician, I began my career in the vision industry, and I was challenged to rethink his overall health care. In fact, my child was one of the millions of children in schools in the United States receiving vision screenings at the pediatrician and in his school. He passed every assessment perfectly.

But, when I learned that a school screening wasn’t enough – that it didn’t check the wellness of my son’s eyes and typically focused only on his visual acuity – I took him to the eye doctor for further testing. A simple astigmatism was the culprit, and an even simpler prescription that both corrected his vision and protected his eyes against UV and sun damage was the answer. He no longer had headaches or motion sickness or dizziness.

At the Vision Impact Institute (VII), we are dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of good vision. In the United States, we actively advocate for eye exams for children entering school for the first time. Research suggests that millions of children receiving screenings each year never get the follow-up care they need. According to the American Optometric Association, up to 61 percent who fail the test never go to the eye doctor for further diagnosis or correction. In fact, studies also show that even two months after a failed school vision screening, 50% of parents didn’t know their children had failed. We can, and should, do better.

Globally, one in three children has a vision problem that could be corrected with a simple pair of eyeglasses. In the U.S., that number is one in four – meaning that approximately 12.1 million children in the U.S. need vision correction to be their most productive selves. Uncorrected vision may lead to low school performance, long-term physical health issues such as vision loss, and impaired emotional and social development.

This month, we are focused on advocates for children’s vision: parents, teachers and eye doctors.  Separately, and as a group, these individuals can have a strong impact when it comes to ensuring children see well. Teachers are often the first to notice a child struggling to see in the classroom, and parents may notice a vision problem at home. When the child enters school, the collective relationship becomes even more important, especially when a teacher suspects a problem, communicates that to a parent and the parent makes an appointment to take the child to an eye doctor.

As a parent, I learned that I was my children’s best advocate. In fact, one eye exam led to three eye exams, as all three of my sons saw the eye doctor that year. I learned that just because I had perfect vision growing up did not ensure my children would. I had to take the first step for my children and for their future.

At the VII, we are giving a voice to vision. Please join us in raising that voice for the cause of our children’s eyesight today and for years to come.

 

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