Are School Vision Screenings Good Enough?

30 12 2013

I often get asked by parents of children I am prescribing glasses for, “How come they passed the vision screening at school but still need glasses?”

While school nurses provide a valuable service that sometimes detect serious problems with children’s vision, school vision screenings are an incomplete check of a child’s visual status.

For one, a screening is just that – a screening.  Screenings are looking for a big problem in a large amount of people in a short period of time.  It might catch the big things but it leaves alot of little things hidden.   Kids are masters of manipulation too.  Some can fool the nurse that they can see well while some kids can fail that don’t need glasses.

Secondly, the criteria of what defines reduced vision is generally 20/30 vision or worse looking off into the distance.   For some kids, that is too blurry for their needs.  That is the minimum to get a Texas driver’s license and be able to see road signs adequately.  Most of the time, the near vision of school children is not even tested in a school vision screening.  But that is where they use their vision the most!

The biggest group I find need glasses that have passed a screening are farsighted.  Farsighted children generally can see at all places.  Often they can force their eyes to focus to make their eyes see 20/20 at distance and near.  They generally have headaches or eye strain, are slow readers and do poorly with reading comprehension, don’t do well with their grades, labeled incorrectly “dyslexic”, and get in trouble for not paying attention.

Also, the degree of focusing power or accommodation is not tested as well as eye coordination or how the eyes work as a team either.   The vision system of the eyes is very complex.  You are using two eyes that each have to have clear sight, keep things focused in and work in tandem as they move around.  Can you imagine holding two video cameras steady in each hand and trying to video something moving around and try to make a movie that takes both video feeds, in focus, and produces one single picture on the TV?

Lastly, the health of the child’s eye is not examined.  True, there are not a lot of eye diseases at young ages but they do happen.  Diabetes, blood disorders, genetic problems and most importantly tumors in the eye or brain are some things I have come across without much or any symptoms.

I have occasionally had a nurse that went the extra mile and did more than what the school district recommends and I commend them for that.  They perform a vital role that helps find the big problems sometimes.  But don’t rely on  just a school vision screening.  The future of your child depends so much on how well they do in school.  Why would you not want to ensure your child has a normal vision system and healthy eyes?   They can’t be replaced like teeth.  Don’t skimp on this critical need in your child’s development.  Have your children’s eyes tested by a reputable private practice optometrist and please don’t take them to them a mall doc or Bigmart type place.  There generally is a reason those eyedocs work in those type settings.  You don’t get your teeth or mammogram at Bigmart do you?  At any rate, don’t take any chances with your kids.  Make a point to have your children’s eyes regularly, every year,  in a professional setting.

Courtesy of Dumas Vision Source, PLLC and Dr Tory W. Moore, Optometric Glaucoma Specialist and Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry.    Serving the Dumas, Texas,  Moore County and upper Texas Panhandle area for 23 years.   Call (806) 935-2020 for appointment or visit our optical gallery without an appointment.  Visit our website for more information.  Like our Facebook business page:  Dumas Vision Source  and you can also connect on Twitter @eyedocdumas

Tory Moore, OD  – “A Hometown Eye Doctor You Know and Can Trust!”




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