PHOENIX – Only about one in four Arizona children younger than age 6 gets regular vision screenings, according to the Children’s National Health Survey, but parents could take the initiative to change that this summer.
A vision checkup can be part of a child’s annual wellness exam, and studies have shown that 80 percent of learning is visual. Karen Woodhouse, director of Eyes on Learning, an initiative funded by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, said young children may not realize their eyesight is impaired or may not have the words to explain it. She therefore urged parents to make sure their pediatrician is following best practices and checking kids’ vision.
Woodhouse listed some of the symptoms to watch for: “Are a child’s eyes looking differently? Are they cross-eyed? Do they go to one side or the other? Are the child’s eyes red? Does the child complain of headaches, or are they constantly rubbing their eyes? Do they sit close to things?”
Woodhouse noted that many vision problems are silent and only can be discovered during a screening with a pediatrician or an eye exam with an optometrist or ophthalmologist. She said she’s encouraged that 75 percent of Arizona’s school-age kids do get vision screenings, because many schools offer them alongside hearing checks, which are required by law.
“A lot of schools voluntarily do vision screenings, for especially the early grades and then, maybe some of the grades as the kids get a little bit older,” she said, “but there’s no requirement that schools do that, so that’s not really something that we can count on.”
A bill to require vision screenings, House Bill 2065, sponsored by state Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, failed in the 2016 Arizona Legislature. Details of the bill are online at trackbill.com.