Why an eye examination should make the back to school checklist

The Association of Optometrists (AOP) is urging parents to add an eye test to their back to school checklist. More common ‘to do’s’ such as a new uniform, pencil case, haircut, school shoes may seem enough but an eye test is one vital, but often overlooked, check that can make a lasting impact.  

More than one in 10 children, in every classroom, are estimated to have an undiagnosed common vision problem that affects their learning and development. Yet a quarter (24%) of 4-16-year-olds have never been taken for an eye examination by their parents. With 27% admitting that they waited for their child to show certain behaviours, such as sitting too close to the television, before taking them.  

Children’s eye health – the facts

  • Over 3.4million 4-16-year-olds in the UK have been diagnosed with a sight problem
  • 13% of children have an undiagnosed common vision problem that impacts their learning and development
  • One in ten (11%) parents believe children don’t need eye tests unless they start showing symptoms, like straining to see something
  • One in five teenagers in the UK are short-sighted
  • One in 50 children will develop amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye. Amblyopia can become more difficult to treat as a child grows older so it’s important to get their vision checked early

Many parents are unaware that regular eye tests can make sure that issues are detected and treated earlier – helping a child to achieve their best at school and socially.        

In a recent survey by the AOP, nearly three quarters (74%) of optometrists had seen children in the past year who had vision problems that could have been treated more successfully if they had been diagnosed at an earlier age. With those children often presenting with common conditions such as myopia (short-sightedness) and amblyopia, or lazy eye.  

While it may be hard to spot some eye conditions, signs that parents can look out for, which could show that there is a problem, include:

  • An eye appearing to drift inwards or outwards
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Behavioural problems
  • Headaches
  • Sitting too close to the television
  • Frequent eye rubbing

The AOP recommends that parents take their children for an NHS-funded eye test, at their local opticians, every two years, or more often if their optometrist recommends it.

The AOP’s children’s eye health campaign, A B See, is an ongoing awareness campaign to remind care givers that sight is an essential part of every child’s development. A B See reminds parents that good vision helps their child achieve their full potential – in turn, encouraging them to make eye examinations part of their routine, like any other health check.

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Lynda Hamilton Parker is a Scottish PR expert and independent publisher

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