Most American school children today receive a free, annual vision assessment at some point during the school year. While this is a positive measure, too many parents wrongly assume that simple school eye exams like this are equivalent to optometrist-conducted eye exams. They are not.
School vision assessments are helpful, but the fact is, you shouldn’t rely on them alone for your child’s eye health needs. There are many situations where they can prove quite insufficient. Here’s why.
1. Limitations On What Is Tested
A school vision assessment is not nearly as comprehensive as a full eye exam. School eye tests are generally good at catching the most obvious vision problems. They can be helpful in catching moderate amounts of nearsightedness (poor distance vision), but farsightedness (weak vision up close) can be missed. Children could be focusing hard to overcome their farsightedness and not even realize they are doing it. While it is possible to pass the test, children could be working hard all day or simply avoiding near work as a result.
Also, school vision screenings will have little to no testing for eye coordination, eye focus, and eye alignment. Due to the volume and resources available, most of these screenings aim to detect significant vision issues. Smaller problems can go undetected.
2. More Limited Equipment & Personnel
While well intended and good in their place, school eye assessments are often conducted by school administrators, volunteers, or school nurses using the most basic testing equipment. The tools for testing more in-depth and comprehensively simply is not practical in most school settings.
3. Timing Is Crucial In Detecting Kids’ Vision Problems
The eyes and visual pathways in the brain are not full formed at birth. It takes years for the complex system to reach maturity. If children are trying to compensate for undetected eye problems, it could affect the quality of vision the rest of their lives. Correcting refractive error, imbalance or eye alignment issues will help promote normal development.
4. Assessments Are Intended For Referrals
In reality, school assessments were never meant to replace full eye exams. In fact, they are largely designed to catch common eye problems so kids can be referred to an optometrist for further evaluation and treatment. Around 25% of school children have some kind of vision problem, and this puts them at disadvantage academically as well as developmentally. To learn more about what is included in a comprehensive eye exam, or to schedule a back to school eye exam for your child, contact Advanced Eye Care in the Amarillo Area today!