Back to school – have you had your child’s eyes tested?

publication date: Aug 29, 2007
author/source: Anne Coates
The Eyecare Trust warns that one in five school-aged children has an undiagnosed vision problem that could interfere with their ability to learn.

Good vision during a child's primary school years is imperative as visual experience accounts for 80 per cent of the learning process.

“Some children are inaccurately labelled as slow learners, dyslexic or even troublemakers when in fact they have an undetected vision condition,” explains Iain Anderson, Chairman of the Eyecare Trust.

“There are a number of tell-tale signs that your child may be experiencing problems with their vision. If you recognise any of these symptoms, or your child hasn't seen an optometrist in the last two years we'd advise you to take him or her for an eye examination,” Iain added.

Signs that your school-age child could have a vision or eye-related problem include:

  • losing his place while reading;
  • having headaches and tending to rub eyes frequently;
  • making frequent reversals when reading or writing;
  • avoiding close work;
  • poor handwriting;
  • holding reading material close;
  • having red, sore or irritated eyes.

Children’s eyesight can be affected when they have a growth spurt – for instance a short-sighted child may need a stronger prescription. Parents should remember that a child won’t necessarily realise that other children can read the writing on the board from the back of the classroom, or have no problem with print in books. A child frustrated at their inability to learn at the same pace as their classmates can become distracted and disruptive.

It’s never too early to take your child for an eye examination – children don’t have to be able to read as several special tests can be carried out at a very early age. As the child develops and communication skills improve, more detailed tests are also possible.

The Eyecare Trust recommends that every child aged eight years or younger has an annual eye examination and children aged nine years plus (and adults) have an eye examination every two years unless otherwise advised by your optometrist.

An NHS eye examination is available free of charge for all children up to the age of 16, and up to the age of 19 if they are in full-time education.

Parents are entitled to a voucher towards the cost of any glasses or contact lenses prescribed for their child. The value of the voucher depends on the prescription needed.

For more information about caring for your child's eyes ask your optician for a copy of the Trust's Your Child's Eyesight leaflet or download a copy from the charity's website

The Eyecare Trust is a registered charity that exists to raise awareness of all aspects of eye health, the importance of regular eye care and the benefits of using quality eye wear.