Vision screenings are an important service provided by most schools and without question provide benefits. It is important to recognize however, that studies have demonstrated screenings are not as effective as comprehensive eye exams. In fact, The National Institutes of Health found that school screenings catch only 37% of children with poor vision or vision skills. With the limitations of vision screenings and the prevalence of vision disorders in K-12th graders, there is clearly a need for early detection through a comprehensive eye and vision examination performed by an eye doctor.
Comprehensive vision examinations can only be conducted by eye care professionals who have the proper training needed to make a definitive diagnosis and prescribe treatment. Specialized equipment and procedures which are not available as part of a vision screening program are needed to adequately evaluate a child’s eye and vision health.
Listed below are essential elements of a comprehensive eye examination used to insure that learning is maximized through good vision.
- Visual acuity is measured at several distances so that the child can comfortably and efficiently read, work on the computer or see the board.
- The refractive state of the visual system such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, or astigmatism is determined.
- Focusing or accommodation is an important skill that is tested. The eyes must be able to focus on the object at which they are aimed and easily shift focus from one object to another. This allows the child to move attention from a book or paper, to the chalkboard and back. Sustained focus affects the ability to read or write for long periods of time.
- The doctor evaluates visual alignment and ocular motility which means the muscles aiming each eye converge so that both eyes are aimed at the same object, which is required for depth perception.
- Binocular fusion (eye teaming) skills are assessed. These skills are critical to coordinate and align the eyes precisely so the brain can fuse the pictures it receives from each eye into a single image.
- Eye tracking skills are tested to determine if the child can track across a page accurately and efficiently while reading or copying material from the board to paper.
- Testing color vision prior to beginning school is part of a comprehensive examination because a large part of the early educational process involves the use of color identification and discrimination.
- Eye-hand coordination is critical for handwriting, throwing a ball or playing an instrument. Visual perception is used to interpret and understand visual information such as form, size, orientation, texture, and color perception. Both are important visual functions that are investigated during a comprehensive eye examination.
- Ocular health is determined by examining the external and internal structures of the eye.
There is clearly a difference between vision screenings and vision exams. Both are important however, exams will ultimately provide the most effective avenue to ensuring your child has every opportunity to be successful in school.
Please contact our office with questions regarding the difference between an eye health and vision exam vs. a vision screening. We can be contacted in Stillwater at 405-372-1715. We also invite you to visit our website at www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eye Care Center!