Eyes are windows for learning, and when children can’t see well, their education can suffer.
Benita Loy, health services coordinator for the Washington Elementary School District, says the earlier a sight problem is detected, the better.
But only about 27 percent of Arizona children ages five and under receive vision screenings, which is the lowest figure in the nation.
Loy contends there should be a statewide mandate for vision screenings in schools, just like there is for hearing.
“To where they actually are making people accountable for their care, both from physicians reporting the results all the way to the school screeners,” she stresses. “If they have to report to an organization, then things get done.”
The state recommends but doesn’t require vision screenings for children every year through fourth grade, and then every other year, beginning in fifth grade, and for new students and children who receive special education services.
It’s estimated that 5 percent of Arizona preschoolers and 1 in 4 school-aged children have problems with their vision.
Loy says school is the ideal place for eyesight screenings since that’s where children spend most of their day.
But when a problem is detected, she notes there are barriers that can prevent a child from receiving a follow-up exam from an eye doctor.
“Lack of transportation, lack of being able to afford the glasses,” she explains. “The other thing could be that the parent doesn’t have time to take off work, because they’re afraid of losing their job. There’s a lot of issues surrounding why children do not receive glasses.”
Loy explains education vouchers sponsored by private businesses and organizations can help relieve some of the financial barriers for families and ensure that children are able to see clearly.
Her district has had a sharp increase recently in children receiving eye exams, with more than 700 vouchers awarded to families from Visionworks.
by Mary Kuhlman
Public News Service
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