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Q: Should my child have an eye exam before school starts?

Posted July 17, 2013 in Advice Column, Grimes

A: Almost 80 percent of what a child learns in school is presented visually. It stands to reason then, that good vision is essential to learning. Yet studies show only 31 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 16 have an annual eye exam, according to Dr. Matthew Howie, therapeutic optometrist. And 70 percent of children younger than 6, the age at which most vision problems can be treated before permanent damage occurs, have never had an eye exam.

“Some 20 million children will go back to school this year with a vision problem that may interfere with their ability to learn and contribute to disciplinary problems,” Dr. Howie said.

But what about “vision screenings” performed by a school nurse or a pediatrician? Won’t they detect vision problems? Only partially, according to Dr. Howie.

“According to a study by the National Institutes of Health, vision-screening methods detected only 40 – 65 percent of children with vision problems,” Dr. Howie said. “Every child should have a comprehensive eye health examination. Even if a child has passed a vision screening, a comprehensive exam can reveal problems that would go undetected in a screening. And if a vision problem is detected, your family eye doctor can begin treatment immediately.”

Information provided by Dr. Matthew Howie, O.D., Total Family Eye Care, 1451 S.E. Third St., Suite 400, Grimes, 986-1234.

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