Governor Phil Bryant recently signed House Bill 1322, also known as the Children’s Vision Bill, into law. This law, which goes into effect July 1, calls for a face-to-face comprehensive vision examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist for any child who fails a school vision screening.
The Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA) and the Mississippi Vision Foundation (MVF) support the bill.
The Children’s Vision Bill is designed to benefit students like Jaylen Lenoir of Columbus, whose amblyopia (lazy eye) and astigmatism was discovered during a comprehensive eye exam by Dr. Stacie Moore, OD. It is very likely that a school vision screening would not have caught Jaylen’s condition. Therapy and corrective lenses opened a whole new world for Jaylen who has excelled in academics and athletics.
“Our hope is to prevent any child’s vision from being a hindrance to their learning and education,” said MOA President Dr. Amy Crigler, OD. “Eighty percent of a student’s learning in a classroom is visual so good eyesight and visual skills are crucial.”
Although existing screening programs offered by many schools are helpful and can uncover some vision problems, they are not the same as an eye exam. Many screenings test only for distance. While this is important, it does not test how well the eyes focus up close or work together. Vision screenings are also limited by the lack of equipment needed to fully assess a child’s overall eye health.
When young Sloane Montgomery said she saw “two daddies and two mommies” and her parents noticed her eye had suddenly turned in they feared the worst. Rather than going to the emergency room, they contacted their local optometrist, Dr. James Bearden, OD, who met them at his office and conducted a thorough exam and tests. Sloane and her parents were immediately relieved when they found her condition, accommodative esotropia, could easily be remedied with glasses.
Sloane’s case is another example of why a comprehensive, face-to-face eye exam, using specialized equipment and conducted by an optometrist or ophthalmologist, is needed to fully evaluate a child’s visual skills that are essential for optimal learning. Most comprehensive eye exams will:
- Assess the sharpness of a child’s vision using the Snellen or “Big E” chart;
- Determine a child’s possible blind spots or peripheral vision issues;
- Check eye alignment and how eyes work as a pair;
- Approximate and then fine-tune a child’s eyeglass prescription;
- Detect common eye diseases and assess its health; and
- Examine the optic nerve, retina, and blood vessels.
Eye exams for young children are important because vision problems can negatively affect your child’s performance in school long before you are aware of the issue. The American Optometric Association reports that 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers and 25 percent of school-age children are diagnosed with vision problems once they receive proper eye care. The earlier vision issues are diagnosed and corrected the better for a child’s academic success.
“Comprehensive, yearly eye exams are one of the most important, preventive ways to preserve vision, and the only way to accurately assess eye health, diagnose an eye disorder or disease, and determine if your child needs corrective lenses,” Crigler said.
For more information on children’s eye health, or to locate a family eye doctor, visit mseyes.com.